Editor’s Note: Deadline’s Read the Screenplay series makes its debut and celebrates the movie scripts that will be factors in this year’s movie prize race.
Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan (The dead) admits that after agreeing to adapt author JR Moehringer’s memoir in the feature film The tender bar a wave of apprehension hit him, he says, âbecause it’s such a popular book – a lot of people, it’s their favorite book. And I found out after I said yes, so you get a little nervous about it. “
But Monahan quickly found his own way in the material: how gifted writer JR (played by Daniel Ranieri as a child and Tye Sheridan as a child) is raised by his single – and determined – mother, Dorothy (Lily Rabe), determined that his son would go to Harvard, with the help of his brother Charlie (Ben Affleck), a cultured bartender, and the rest of his family, even as JR grapples with his father’s constant absence (Max Martini ), a disc jockey with a silky voice but irresponsible and alcoholic.
The screenwriter recognized the qualities that struck a chord with so many readers. âThe lost father. The special loneliness of being the only child of a single mother. The search for substitutes. The terror of being in an Ivy League college – any college, really – and feeling that you don’t belong, academically or socially or both, âMonahan said.
âIt’s the story of an unprivileged child who decides to do the impossible,â he explains. âBut under the ordinary world, it’s kind of an epic. This is the very rare first book by a writer who doesn’t throw family and friends under the bus after chewing them for material. He said of the family: ‘I am them and they are me.’ “
Monahan also found a personal connection to the material. “In the 1970s a door was supposed to be open for women, but when they walked through it there was really nothing on the other side,” he explained in a recent session. of questions and answers after the screening. “My own mother was one of the people who walked through that door and then nothing came togetherâ¦ And it really resonated with me.”
Director George Clooney appreciated Monahan’s ease in adapting the material from the page to the screen. âThey are two completely different animals,â he said. âA book will tell you what someone is thinking, and a movie will show you that. But we think we’ve stuck to the essence of the book. The tender bar is always about class, being raised in a bar and family intimacy.
âFamily matters and love is actually the answer,â Monahan agreed. âIf someone hurts you or doesn’t like you, you don’t need them. Wherever you start in life, you can do anything in the world if you try. These things are all in the picture. I took them to heart in the writing, and when I saw the movie I thought “Maybe others will too”.
Click below to read the storyline for the photo, which Amazon opened in theaters on December 17. The film will be available worldwide to stream on January 7 via Prime Video.