Director: Spike Lee; Cast: Spike Lee, Rosie Perez, Danny Aiello, Bill Nunn, Giancarlo Esposito, John Turturro, Steve Park, Joie Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Reggie Miller and Frankie Faison
Ever since Little, Brown published J.D. Salinger’s first novel The Catcher in the Rye, in 1951, die-hard fans have wavered over whether to root for its film adaptation.
Opponents say the novel is too cerebral, that Holden’s imagination can never be represented accurately on the big screen. Advocates argue the story transcends genre and that an adaptation of any sort will rival Citizen Kane as one of the great filmic achievements of our time.
At the turn of the millennium, the opponents held a commanding lead. Their loudest voice came, of course, from the author himself, who famously and vehemently refused to sell the movie rights. Many believe Salinger enlisted the help of his rakish main character, Holden Caulfield, to close the book on the issue as early as Chapter 1: “If there’s one thing I hate,” Holden says, “it’s the movies. Don’t even mention them to me.”
The issue took a turn, however, upon Salinger’s death, in 2010, when a close friend of the author’s, Jan Ashford, was given access to Salinger’s home office in Cornish, New Hampshire.
Instead of unearthing the literary windfall that so many expected, Ashford gathered a mere few fun facts about the recluse: he lifted twenty-pound dumbbells in his free time. He smoked Pall Mall cigarettes. He napped. He snacked on Triscuits. He owned the movie Legally Blonde. And he developed a late obsession with the early work of Spike Lee.