April 24, 2014

“We do not consider it an homage”: David Foster Wallace’s family isn’t happy about The End of the Tour


Not Jason Segel

Not Jason Segel

Exactly one month ago, our own Alex Shephard reported on a remarkable Instagram photo taken from the set of The End of the Tour, a biopic based on David Lipsky’s bestseller Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace. It could have been a trick of the light, or perhaps just ill-timed eructation. Maybe it was the distress of seeing something familiar turned suddenly strange. In any case, Shephard’s description was apt: Jason Segel playing David Foster Wallace looked “really, really silly.”

Members of Wallace’s family probably don’t follow Melville House on Twitter (even though we published a book on him), and they probably didn’t see this specific post, but the fact of the matter is that they are not happy with this film adaption. The Los Angeles Times relayed a statement from the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust on Monday, which reads:

The David Foster Wallace Literary Trust, David’s family, and David’s longtime publisher Little, Brown and Company wish to make it clear that they have no connection with, and neither endorse nor support ‘The End of the Tour.’ This motion picture is loosely based on transcripts from an interview David consented to eighteen years ago for a magazine article about the publication of his novel, ‘Infinite Jest.’ That article was never published and David would never have agreed that those saved transcripts could later be repurposed as the basis of a movie. The Trust was given no advance notice that this production was underway and, in fact, first heard of it when it was publicly announced. For the avoidance of doubt, there is no circumstance under which the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust would have consented to the adaptation of this interview into a motion picture, and we do not consider it an homage.

The statement goes on to threaten legal action against the film, and to say that Wallace should be remembered for his writing, not for this movie. The Literary Trust would, however, be willing to work with people who would make “respectful adaptions” of Wallace’s work. Presumably, this means people who would be willing to work closely with them.

Since the Literary Trust can’t stop the movie from happening, perhaps they should start a dialog through dueling movies, à la Infamous and Capote, or Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. At the very least, this would further Wallace’s reputation as an author we just can’t stop talking about.

The End of the Tour was written by Donald Margulies, and is currently in production with director James Ponsoldt.