When some critics reject the film which is about your life

Matthew Teague is a journalist who traveled to distant corners of the world for stories. He covered CIA operatives in Pakistan, famine in Somalia, double agent in Northern Ireland. But his biggest task may be Essay he wrote in 2015 For Esquire magazine, titled “friend.” Teague devoted some 6,000 words over the two years spent under the care of his wife, Nicole, who learned that she had terminal cancer at the age of 34.

The essay told the story of his downfall and death through the spectacles of his friendship with Dan Fortuke, a cruel soul who came to visit the Teague family for Thanksgiving and to care for the couple and their two young daughters. I ended up staying for two years. In addition to winning the National Magazine Award, the essay connected Teabag to readers in ways that never happened during his dramatic reporting from Afghanistan or Sri Lanka. He shared his painful stories with such tremendous force, he was often “dumb” by the response. To this day, he receives soulless, heart-breaking letters.

Hollywood, too, quickly got the call.

And Teague, now 44, knew the drill. His last two pieces were chosen by various producers, but no film was ever made. He said that this time things will be different.

The thing for which he did not make a film is how cruel Hollywood can be when a film comes together, an experience he is still coming up with.

First he tried his hand at writing the screenplay. When he did not work (“I realized that I am very close to it,” he said) he signed on as an executive producer and worked closely with writer Brad Engelsby ()“the way back”) To produce a film in which both depict the realities of death and celebrate the life that came before.

A cadre of soon-to-be-known actors (Casey Affleck, Dakota Johnson, Jason Segel) to portray Teagates and Foucheaux in Fairhope, Ala. Landed on Gabriella Cowperthwaite directed the actors in scenes shot at the hospital where Nicole was treated and in a house just three doors down from the Teagate residence. (The family still lives in the same house. Teague has remarried and now has a 3-month-old son named Wilder.)

Tug of war between the past and the present, the script evokes both the severity of cancer and the horrors of marital life, portraying a family that is completely recognizable and horrifyingly unique. Young women should not die of cancer in their home, while their young children are in the next room.

But the intense reaction to his essays and his career as a journalist, led Teague to authenticity.

“Regarding this, I want to pay great respect to my wife’s legacy and memory. I did not want to misrepresent it. “And I have a mission to tell the truth about that time and everything that comes from it.”

There are parts of Teague’s original essay that make it straight to the screen: the doctor’s words when he reveals Nicole’s diagnosis (“It’s everywhere. Like someone dipped a paintbrush in cancer and made it flow around their stomachs” Done “), the friendship between Teague and Foucheux. , And wish Nicole dead (jumping into a city fountain with her family and friends, becoming the grand marshal in her city’s Mardi Gras parade). “Whether he lacked the length of his life, it made up for the height,” Teague wrote in Esquire.

The more visceral the part consists of, the essay was made so memorable: especially the physical art of wound-packing and Teague’s role in the physical horrors that accompany it.

“There are things I can write in print, and people can absorb and be honest,” he said. “Still, if you watch it onscreen, people are going to throw away their popcorn and run away from the theater.”

Nevertheless, despite his meticulous work, success in Hollywood is never guaranteed.

The 2019 Toronto Film Festival accepted the film and gave it a prestigious opening-weekend slot.

Sitting inside the Princess of Wales Theater, Teague was a rage of nerves that would only be put together and with the help of a friend and fellow journalist, Tom Junod, who was also the subject of a Hollywood film. “A beautiful day in the neighborhood, About his unlikely relationship with Fred Rogers.

“It amazes me how emotional I felt when I saw it,” Teague recalled. “But what really surprised me was how emotional the audience got,” he said. Many people were feeling a lot of things. So I felt like I did Nicole right. “

Actress Kristen Stewart was sitting behind him, and upon hearing her sniffing there was additional confirmation that everything was going to be alright. There was an audible crowd of listeners, a standing ovation and a visit to the stage, where the cast gave a raucous response to the questions. “There was nothing but love from that audience” Teague said.

But when he returned to his hotel room later that night, the initial reviews of the trade publications flew like a panic. The Hollywood Reporter called it “Beyond reach With a lot of emotion it tries to emerge clearly. “Variety” Took issue Turned his “disastrous essay” into an “inspirational group hug”. In that review, critic Peter DeBarz praised the actors’ performance, but wrote, “A lot of obnoxiousness has been erased from the picture, as long as whatever it is is just the kind of dishonesty that helped no one , The version of the TV-film Death That Inspired Teague to be set straight in the record.

Today Teagate still emphasizes this criticism. Despite spending years in the newsroom and understanding the role of critics, this is particularly critically inappropriate.

“I just came from a room full of people who had never read an essay, knew nothing about the essay and just took the film on their own terms and were able to move it a lot.” “So to use my own story my own story was really painful.”

Cowperwhite felt anger, saying that the initial reviews “just blew the air out of me.” But the director, who has made four films including a BAFTA-nominated documentary “Blackfish, “There has been more experience handling criticism.” This is just one. That’s true behind our industry, “she said.” It never hurt, but I think now you’re in this creative world and you’re Learn to ease pain quickly. “

For Teague, critics felt inappropriate, but more important were concerns about their impact on the fate of the film. Films such as “The Friend” enter festivals with hopes of garnering a hefty distribution deal, and early trade reviews boost imports when studios and streamers determine what to buy. Will the film find a home with the initial critical response that is so important?

“I was in a panic because I didn’t know what was going to happen to this thing that is so precious to me,” Teague said. Are we drowned? Are people going to get a chance to see it? “

Review improved. At Vanity Fair, Katie Rich wrote The film “finds a more thoughtful path through the type of storytelling that often feels rotted onscreen, no matter how devastating it is in real life.” Rotten tomatoes Score About 80 percent is now hovering fresh. And producer-financier Teddy Schwarzman said the film left the festivities with four offers, although the official deal was not announced in January.

Delayed due to pandemic, the film, now titled “Our friends, “Will now debut in theaters and on demand on Friday.

Teague is using the experience as a growth opportunity in his career as a journalist. “The blinding of public criticism has helped to make the subject of the story feel horrifying and helpless,” he said in an email. “It is easy to forget even for a sympathetic writer. Sometimes a brief story – or a hastily written review – can break one’s heart for a long, long time. “

Still, he has not given up in Hollywood. The author recently made a comeback to the scriptwriting game and adapted his 2003 GQ article about the over-the-top war game in North Carolina into a mini-series called “Pineland”, now shopping around Is going

“It’s not a soft industry,” he said. “But this is nothing but journalism – my first love – for Hard Knock.”

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