Share & Connect
On several occasions, during the initial development period of the upcoming drama ‘Being Flynn’, screenwriter and director Paul Weitz accompanied Nick Flynn, author of the memoir behind the movie, to meet with Jonathan Flynn, Nick’s father, who had maintained contact with his son and was living in Massachusetts. Their relationship is the turning point of the upcoming movie, set to premier on March 2.
Nick reveals, “The first time that Paul and I met with my father, we sat in this tiny apartment for seven hours. There were books everywhere, his writings everywhere, piles of things everywhere. I introduced Paul to him, saying ‘He’s going to be making a movie of the book that I wrote,’ which my father had read.
“My father was somewhat impressed, but he doesn’t get impressed too much – except with himself.” Nick feels that the journeys back, especially the meetings with the elder Flynn, made an indelible impression on Weitz, positively impacting the script. Nick says, “There are several moments from our visits with my father that ended up in the movie.
Reading the book is one thing, but I’m not sure that Paul would’ve gotten the intensity of my father – how he can say things that line up with a higher truth, how he shows he’s a tough guy by wielding weapons – if they hadn’t met, face to face. These things were very familiar to me from my times with him, but for Paul I think they were invaluable to his making the picture.”
As the father/son relationship has evolved, “we’ve had many years of knowing each other,” Nick points out. “Since Paul has met my father several times, he’s witnessed many things between us. Knowing the relationship that my father and I now have, he wanted to transfer some of that energy into specific scenes.”
After years of rewrites and polishes, Weitz would ultimately rework the script to be closer to the first draft that he had initially showed Nick when the process began. There had been, all concerned realized, a solid foundation which should be reaffirmed.
After that epiphany, the response to the final draft of Being Flynn was overwhelming. “The essence of what’s in the book was in every draft, but with this particular draft everything just clicked into place for both script and cast,” notes producer Andrew Miano. Four-time Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore joined the cast as Nick’s mother, Jody Flynn. She comments, “I’d been wanting to work with Paul for a while. He sent me this script and said, ‘This is a teeny part for you, but it’s lovely.’ I found it to be a quite touching piece, since Paul’s writing has literary sense and there is a lightness to the movies he makes.
“Paul’s screenplay of Nick’s story is a journey that takes you from childhood to adulthood. Nick experienced hardship and difficulty, and almost succumbed to it. Through Paul, we see how Nick found a way out of that by writing about it, and by talking about it, eloquently.”
Olivia Thirlby, cast as Denise, a worker at the shelter who is emotionally direct with Nick, marvels, “Paul Weitz captured the essence of the book so beautifully. He was able to distill a nonlinear 300-page memoir, an amazing life story, into a great screenplay. Reading it – before I had read the book – I could tell that Paul was passionate about the material and had a deep connection to the subject matter.
“A child making sense of what their parents made is a universal theme; we all have to see our parents as not just our parents but as individuals, and come to terms with that.”
Two-time Academy Award winner Robert De Niro had come aboard the project ahead of the other actors, with his Tribeca Productions producing. Weitz and De Niro had first collaborated on the acclaimed 2002 film ‘About a Boy’, which De Niro produced and which Weitz adapted and directed with his brother; and had teamed as director and star of the hit 2010 movie ‘Little Fockers.’
Miano offers, “Paul and Bob have now known each other for a long time, and their relationship has solidified. There is a trust between them. When it came time to finally make this movie, they had a ready shorthand. Their already being on the same page strengthened the creative process for everyone newly joining the project.”
Nick Flynn had quickly warmed to the idea of an iconic actor portraying his father. Nick muses, “My father possesses levels of self-confidence, lunacy, and menace while also evincing compassion and a certain nobility. The idea of Mr. De Niro playing the part was the best possible news, since all those qualities are evident in his movie work.”
Lili Taylor, Nick’s wife, adds, “When I heard that he was going to play Nick’s father, I breathed a sigh of relief because I know Jonathan and he is complicated. He’s also someone very easy for an actor to not play well; there are a lot of pitfalls and traps. If you go for the too-muchness, poignancy is lost.
“With Robert De Niro, you knew there was going to be an honesty; the role would come first, not the actor.” De Niro met extensively with the author. The actor also visited Boston and retraced many of the same steps that Weitz had made with Nick. He was able to walk through the shelter where Nick worked in anonymity, observing guests and staff alike.
Nick remarks, “Bob noticed many things, and saw something that I hadn’t; guests of the shelter walking about confidently. When he pointed it out to me, it rang true. Part of it is, they don’t want to look vulnerable and be a mark – maybe not inside the shelter but outside – and also, this shelter is a home for them, where they can be safe and equal and be themselves.”