Author Jonathan Franzen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Corrections was met with wide acclaim when it hit bookstores back in 2001. Given the book’s popularity, it’s a bit surprising that a film or television adaptation hasn’t come to fruition until now. That said, I don’t think there’s a better way to adapt the book to the visual medium than through an ambitious HBO series. Franzen and director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) teamed up on the TV adaptation, and they’ve assembled an incredible cast for the show: Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rhys Ifans, Dianne Wiest, Chris Cooper, and Greta Gerwig.
Steve got the chance to sit down with McGregor to talk about the upcoming dramedy Salmon Fishing in the Yemen earlier today, and the actor spoke quite a bit about his first foray into television. In addition to confirming the show’s impressive filming plan (four seasons of 10 episodes each), McGregor revealed that he recently wrapped the pilot and should HBO pick it up to series, they’ll start shooting the first season this June in New York. Furthermore, the actor talked about his initial hesitation about diving into television, the creative team involved in The Corrections, and more. Hit the jump to see what he had to say.
McGregor revealed that he recently got back from filming the pilot for The Corrections in New York with Noah Baumbach directing. The shoot took 15 days, and he confirmed that if HBO takes a liking to the pilot, they’ll be back in New York soon to shoot the rest of the season:
“It’s lovely writing, Noah and Jonathan Franzen wrote the scripts together, so it’s really good quality stuff. I enjoyed it very much, so if it goes, we’ll go back in June and shoot the series for four months in New York.”
With such talented involved both in front of and behind the camera, I can’t imagine the pilot not being up to snuff for HBO execs. Given that the series will be a pretty big time commitment for McGregor, he admits he had a moment of hesitation before signing on:
“I did have a one week of kind of ‘Oh my God it’s TV, should I do TV?’ After I went over to meet the director and Jonathan Franzen and Scott Rudin, the producer, I was totally in.”
One of the biggest draws for McGregor was the opportunity to play one character over an extended amount of time:
“I just think it’s a quality piece of work and having the opportunity to play a character at that length will be really interesting. Over four years, four months of each year I’ll be exploring this guy Chip in that story, so it’ll be great.”
We previously learned that, should HBO commit to a full series, Baumbach and Franzen’s plan is to have four seasons made up of 10 episodes each, and McGregor appears to confirm this calendar. Four months out of every year is quite a long time, so the actor may have to cut back on film projects a bit. However, he admits that the kind of storytelling he’s normally drawn to isn’t exactly commonplace at the cineplex these days:
“It just seems in the last three or four years that it’s harder to find that kind of drama, if you like, where I’ve always worked. My area of filmmaking, which is sort of in the mid bracket—films about people in real situations—it’s the one that’s taking the biggest kicking after the financial crisis. So you find the big budget films are about superheroes or fairy tales or kids films, branding that we already know. I’m always interested in original stuff.”
He found a great deal of that dramatic material in Baumbach and Franzen’s vision for the series, and I have to say I’m very eager to watch the story play out over four seasons. The book centers on a Midwestern couple with three adult children and shifts back and forth in time throughout the late 20th century, showing the mistakes and personal growth of each family member over the past few decades. McGregor plays the middle child of the family described as, “a Marxist academic who lost his tenure-track position over an affair with a student and now works for a Lithuanian crime boss defrauding American investors.”
Given that McGregor said Baumbach and Franzen wrote the scripts, I’m interested to see if the two will pen each and every episode. As the series is based on a book, they have a pretty clear-cut beginning, middle, and end so they could essentially continue writing the entire series while production of season one commences. You can watch the portion of Steve’s interview with McGregor regarding The Corrections below, and be sure to look out for the full interview later this week.