Most authors dont agree to adapt their own work. Why did you, and was it an easy decision to make?
Ive written for a lot of movies and television so Im very comfortable doing it. But when the option was bought I did, in fact, query whether I should be the person who adapts it. I was concerned about two things: the first was tampering with a book I really like and not wanting to do what has to do be done. And secondly, I thought maybe a fresh pair of eyes, someone new coming in, would bring something new to the party. But the producer Marc Samuelson was pretty adamant that it should be me, and persuaded me to do it. Im very glad I did because its a very straight-forward adaptation. Sometimes with adaptations you go round and round in circles and you end up biting your own tail. This was just very, very pleasant and easy moving forward.
How difficult was it to decide what to keep and what to cut out of the screenplay?
I was getting notes from The Weinstein Corporation. I was getting notes from Capitol Films. I was getting notes from Entertainment Films in London, from the Samuelson Company. I was getting notes from about five or six different areas. You have to listen to what the money is saying and youre mad if you dont, but at the same time you have to trust your own judgment and fight the fights you want to win.
Not everything went into the movie exactly where I wanted but at the same time, theres nothing in the movie that makes me unhappy. Thats how you end up with a compromise. You do things that people ask you to do. The whole last reel of the movie got changed quite late in the day. After about five or six drafts, we suddenly realized that the last reel was not a big enough climax after everything that happened before, so we cut out the last 16-odd pages and rewrote them totally. Now thats different than the book, but I think it works pretty well on the screen.
How much did keeping the fans of the book satisfied weigh on your mind?
That was my biggest worry, my biggest fear in all this particularly since I am the adaptor now - was that I would disappoint or upset the fans who are very passionate about how things should be. But all that I can say is that what hasnt changed is the tone of the movie. What hasnt changed is the character of Alex and kids who have so far seen it have all said how happy they were that it was so close to the book. They havent noticed the changes too much. That is the biggest success. That is the thing that makes me happiest. What I think would have really upset them would have been if we made Alex older or more whatever, you know? You have to be true to the spirit, if not to the actual letter, of the book.
Were you asked to do many rewrites once filming began?
Well, there werent that many rewrites done during the course of the filming. We did about 14 drafts and the script was then locked up. Obviously there were some changes. I mean Mickey Rourke did some extraordinary ad-libbing and Stephen Fry added a line or two. You know, things change as you shoot. But by and large, they were pretty faithful to the script that they had in front of them.
[Director] Geoff Sax and I had a very, very close working relationship. I loved working with him. He was enormous fun. It seemed every movie that I loved, he loved. Its one of those things were you sit on the sofa and you say, Did you ever see ? And were both immediately there. Hed come up with new ideas and new jokes, which Id happily work into the script. I was on the set quite a bit. I was there on the Isle of Man, in Pinewood, and in London, and kept pretty close contact. They would ring me if there was anything to do and I wasnt actually around.