Exclusive: Chuck Klosterman Updates on Film Adaptations of His Books Fargo Rock City and Killing Yourself to Live
Posted on Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 by Hunter Stephenson
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing author and renown pop culture critic, Chuck Klosterman, for /Film on subjects ranging from whether or not Avatar will be the cinematic equivalent of Chinese Democracy to the abstract theory that our society is unconsciously working for Don Draper. I’ll be posting the results shortly, but for the time being, here is what Klosterman had to say regarding the film adaptations in development of his books Killing Yourself to Live and Fargo Rock City, the latter of which we reported on back in October. Interview excerpt after the jump…
/Film: Let’s talk about your film projects. For a second, Killing Yourself to Live was listed on IMDB as being in post-production, but that wasn’t right, or…
Chuck Klosterman: No, it’s definitely not in post-production. We’re in the very early stages. Early steps have been taken. And I know you’re going to want to know the answer to this, but I can’t tell you. There’s an actor who’s attached to it right now who would be the main character, but to be totally honest, I’m not anticipating that it will become a movie. [laughs]
Is it a well known actor?
Chuck Klosterman: Ahhhh. It’s a guy who is slightly younger than me. [laughs]
It’s not [Jesse] Eisenberg, right? [laughs] You guys didn’t discuss the film in Jamaica or anything? (As mentioned in his new book of essays Eating the Dinosaur)
Chuck Klosterman: No. [laughs] He’s older than that.
Obviously, Fargo Rock City with [writers] Craig Finn and Tom Ruprecht looks like it’s going to happen…
Chuck Klosterman: Yeah, you know, I actually just read the script for that for the first time last night. It’s really good. [laughs] But I don’t know if it will become a movie…I do not. [laughs] It seems more likely in a way, because I’ve signed the deal. I’ve sold that movie to Craig and Tom and weirdly [the story in the trades] just kinda came out. And I was pretty…surprised by how much interest there was in it. You know. And the movie they’re making is totally unlike the book in a lot of ways. It basically takes four or five specific anecdotes, like memoir anecdotes from the book, and makes a whole new, totally different narrative. But, the script is pretty funny. It’s so hard to tell when you read something on the page. It’s not like literature where you can really judge it, because you need to hear the actors saying it.
But I think there is the significant amount of interest you mentioned, because the film might have the potential to be a new Dazed and Confused, but set in a new era, the ’80s. And you contributed to the Criterion liner notes for Dazed and Confused, so that adds to the comparison..
Chuck Klosterman: Well, yeah. I mean, I’m not going to lie, that would be the best case scenario. If they end up making a movie that is like the ’80s version of Dazed and Confused, I would fucking love that. There…this film is a little more plot driven than Dazed and Confused, I think. And a lot of this would depend on getting the rights to very specific ’80s metal songs. Which I do think would work, because I have to believe it’s easier to get the rights to [Mötley Crüe's] “Too Fast For Love” than it is to get the rights that Linklater was using, which were classic rock songs. I’m just really interested in letting [Craig and Tom] make the movie that they want to make.
I think that people somehow assumed when this movie got bought that I would write it because I’m a writer, but I think their idea is more different than what I would have come up with. It involves a totally made up character, who I guess is a stand-in for me in some ways but isn’t really like me. I think that the character may be…I can’t prove this, but I get the sense that the character has more in common with Craig Finn. Not in terms of what his interests were when he was a kid, but as far as his perspective on the world. [The character's] comedic sense is more like Finn’s than mine. I hope it works. And it’s still set in Wyndmere, North Dakota, which is cool, because that’s my hometown. So, that would be cool to see my hometown of 500 people as the setting of a film.
Chuck Klosterman: Ummm. I don’t think it will be very heavy on nostalgia, because you have to remember that having nostalgia for the ’80s is very different from having nostalgia for the ’70s. The music that these kids are into in the film and the culture they are obsessed with—over time, it’s become a darker, less romantic thing. It’s pretty rare outside of filming my books I guess [laughs] that when people talk about Ratt that they are talking about it in a nostalgic way. [laughs] Unless, they are making fun of themselves, like a girl talks about how much hairspray she was using at the time. Like, when you watch Dazed and Confused, you find yourself thinking, “God, I wished I lived in the ’70s.” I don’t know if this movie would make someone say, “Man, I wish I had been a teenager in the ’80s.” I think it would be more like, “The ’80s were a very weird and specific time.” [laughs]
But I thought Adventureland was great, and it was extremely well acted; I thought particularly Ryan Reynolds played the kind of person that everyone in their life has met but that you don’t often see in movies. He was the good looking guy who is a good guy but the fact that he’s a bad guy and that he’s a liar—but you don’t mind that he’s a liar because he’s got charm. It was a very specific but universal type of person. That’s an interesting thing. So, I’d be happy if they made a movie like Adventureland. But I will say, and this is a cliche thing to say, but as I was reading the script it didn’t immediately remind me of another movie.
Do you think it’s an R-rated movie or a PG-13?
Chuck Klosterman: Well. [pause] It could go either way I guess. I mean, the language is probably PG-13 or a soft R. It’s not like a Kevin Smith film or anything. There is sex and stuff in it, and it wouldn’t necessarily have to be on screen, so I don’t know. I guess this is the first time I’ve thought of it. But it’s a rock movie with young people, so as a fan I’d rather see it be R, but most of those movies are PG-13. We’ll see.
If you’re unfamiliar with Klosterman’s work, both of these books are non-fiction (note the Gonzo-ish subtitle in the above pic), and are unusual choices for movies, albeit for different reasons. Here is the plot synopsis we ran for Live back when news of an adaptation was first announced in Fall of 2008…
“For 6,557 miles, Chuck Klosterman thought about dying. He drove a rental car from New York to Rhode Island to Georgia to Mississippi to Iowa to Minneapolis to Fargo to Seattle, and he chased death and rock ‘n’ roll all the way. Within the span of twenty-one days, Chuck had three relationships end — one by choice, one by chance, and one by exhaustion. He snorted cocaine in a graveyard. He walked a half-mile through a bean field. A man in Dickinson, North Dakota, explained to him why we have fewer windmills than we used to. He listened to the KISS solo albums and the Rod Stewart box set. At one point, poisonous snakes became involved. The road is hard. From the Chelsea Hotel to the swampland where Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane went down to the site where Kurt Cobain blew his head off, Chuck explored every brand of rock star demise. He wanted to know why the greatest career move any musician can make is to stop breathing…and what this means for the rest of us.”
On the surface, Live would seem better suited to a documentary, but upon closer inspection the idea of Klosterman revisiting the premature death sites of notable rock musicians would defeat the book’s introspective purpose. Of the two projects, I’d rather see this one come to fruition first, because it lends itself to a commentary on how rock icons and America’s landscape, musical and otherwise, have changed irreversibly since the incoming of the digital age.
One reason for the buzz around Fargo Rock City amongst fans of music, movies, and Klosterman alike is the aforementioned involvement of Craig Finn, who is the frontman and songwriter of the rather polarizing—especially in their habitat of Brooklyn—insider-rock group The Hold Steady. I’ve seen a few readers draw indifferent and quick parallels to the similarly titled, mostly maligned teens-love-KISS film Detroit Rock City, but the combination of Klosterman and Finn’s Midwest backgrounds lends itself to a fresh setting and informed premise. Here’s how Finn described its potential to the trades…
“Seventeen or eighteen is the perfect age for characters in a movie like this, because it’s at that age that you have drivers licenses and a certain amount of independence, but you’re still young enough that you can totally make terrible decisions. And you’re still young enough that you can have a two-hour argument over whether Motley Crue would beat Guns ‘N Roses in a fight.”
Much of the book, Fargo Rock City, is made up of Klosterman’s opinions and writings on glam and ’80s metal, so the creative license is not a surprise. Stay tuned for my interview with Klosterman, split into parts. Therein he shares a pretty incredible if hypothetical idea for a third movie, this one a “duel biopic” about the infamous last days of two unrelated, long-haired guys as discussed in Eating the Dinosaur.