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Print to Projector: When You Are Engulfed In Flames

By  · Published on October 10th, 2010

As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to.

This week, Print to Projector presents the tales of a slightly cranky writer discussing people, his time abroad as he quits smoking, and the joys of living near a French sex offender.


There is something always inherently pompous about memoirs. Even the short ones. Right up front, the author is saying that his or her life is somehow interesting enough to place on the pages of a big important book that’s going to sell millions of copies. As you read it, even if you aren’t a writer yourself, there’s a tiny voice that screams out, “What makes this melon farmer so damned special?”

With a blend of self-deprecation and earnestly earned laughs, David Sedaris seems to transcend that pitfall completely. He skirts right by it trying to catch up to his boyfriend on a city street somewhere in Paris.

That’s the other thing. What other writer could tell stories about living in France and Japan without making it all seem snooty and ostentatious? “What is the deal with the in flight meal, massage and movie on the trans-Atlantic to Charles de Gaulle?” Fuck you. That’s what the deal is.

Yet, again, Sedaris writes with such empathy (and such apathy for the “importance” of his exotic locales) that none of that seems to matter. He gets at the heart of things while discussing his hardships in his endeavor to quit smoking, his impossible failures at the Japanese language, and the general insanity of the people he meets or watches on public transit.

Potential Problems

Since the book is a collection of short essays, there would be a trick to weaving them together properly, but Sedaris as a character is the link between all of them. Plus, the longest story revolves around his months-long venture into becoming a non-smoker which could be used as the anchor for everything else.

The Pitch

Writing: Sedaris is a talented writer and This American Life contributor, but he doesn’t have much experience in film writing. He worked briefly on a comedy show back in the mid-90s with his sister Amy Sedaris (where you can see Stephen Colbert kiss a man a lot) called Exit 57. He’d have to be a part of the writing process, but who to pair him with? His sister Amy. She’s hilarious, sharp as a tack, and I’d be willing to bet that she has a sort of intimacy to David’s life that any other writing partner would need to play catch up to earn.

Directing: I’m not the biggest fan of Woody Allen’s work, especially not his modern flicks. Even icons like Annie Hall seem to lose their way going into the third act, and his schtick wears thin on me after only an hour or so. That makes it all the stranger that I can think of no director I’d rather have on this project. There’s the potential that he might bring a neurosis overload to an already fragile balance, but the beautiful language of the book could be brought to life and shoved into the mouths of actors best by Allen. Sadly, he’ll just have to get over the shocking lack of young attractive women in the picture.


Tim Blake Nelson as David Sedaris: I have no idea if Nelson can pull off the trademark voice, or if anyone can for that matter, but he’s a phenomenal actor that happens to look a decent bit like Sedaris.

John Krasinski as Hugh: Again, without knowing much about Sedaris’s boyfriend, it’s tough to cast, but Krasinski sort of looks like him, and he’s tall so I imagine he walks pretty fast.

Who Owns It:

There hasn’t been any public talk about turning the book of essays into a film, so the best guess is that film rights reside with Sedaris.

The Projection:

It has the potential to be a smart comedy, to introduce the movie going public to a new character icon, and to give Woody Allen some material to work with that’s not completely self-gratifying. In a way, it’s the closest Hollywood might ever get to a Confederacy of Dunces movie except the lead happens to be insanely likeable. With the right touch, it could be the kind of character profile that lends itself to public appeal and to awards.

If you want to bide your time waiting for it to be made (some distant day), feel free to watch the aforementioned clip of Colbert repeatedly kissing a man:

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