Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, a Boston native, hasn't had particularly positive experiences with movies.
A Pulitzer Prize winner (for Rabbit Hole), Lindsay-Abaire was the writer of record on a couple of films (the animated Robots, the less-animated Inkheart) -- and the less said about either, the better, as far as he's concerned.
So when Nicole Kidman and her producing partners came to him with the offer to make a film of Rabbit Hole, perhaps his most personal play, Lindsay-Abaire says, "I thought, I don't need to turn this thing I love deeply into something else. I don't need a bad version of it on film; I've got the play."
Kidman, however, assured him that he would not only write the script but be part of the process of making it, along with director John Cameron Mitchell. The result is Rabbit Hole, one of 2010's most affecting and well-wrought films, the story of a couple (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) trying to regain their footing eight months after the death of their four-year-old son in an accident.
Lindsay-Abaire, 41, sat down to talk about it before speaking at a recent screening.
Q: Where did this play come from?
A: It came from a couple of places. When I was a student at Julliard, my teacher Marsha Norma told us, "Write about the thing that frightens you the most." I was in my 20s and didn't know what scared me. Then I got married and had a son. And when he was three, I heard about friends of friends who had children die suddenly. And I understood fear in a profound way. And Marsha's words came back to me. And that became the seed of the play.
Q: It seems like a departure from your earlier plays, like Fuddy Meers and Kimberly Akimbo.
A: All of my plays up until then had been absurdist and farcical. I wanted to try a more naturalistic play. But I was waiting for the right story.
Q: What was it like to deal with a story about a couple whose child has died?
A: My son was four when I was writing it and the child that dies in the play is four. So I kept it a secret from my wife while I was writing it. It was so creepy -- writing about the death of a four year old. That part was difficult. I had to access scary emotions and feelings. It was very immediate.