You’d think being a lawyer with the federal government would be work enough for one man, but Vancouverite David Scearce found that he wanted to do more writing than was needed in his research-based practice.
Watch the trailer for A Single Man.
“I had tried my hand at some short stories,” the bespectacled scribbler tells the Georgia Straight one morning at a Kitsilano café, “and I didn’t like them very much. I think very cinematically, so I thought I might as well give writing a screenplay a shot.”
For his trial run, he chose a favourite novel, Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 book A Single Man, which takes place during one day in the life of a stuffy English expat living in Los Angeles. Working evenings and weekends, Scearce turned the book’s interior monologue into terse, real-time vignettes alternating with vivid flashbacks that illustrate what the stiff-upper-lip college professor lost in the car crash that claimed his long-time lover.
Luckily, the budding writer knew Don Bachardy, Isherwood’s own surviving companion (as detailed in last year’s documentary Chris & Don. A Love Story), and sent him the finished script.
“Don had read lots of other adaptations,” Scearce recalls, “and told me this was the first one he liked. I didn’t know that he had said no many times before. That meant a lot.”
What it really meant was that the Ontario-born Vancouverite’s script was then attached to the tale’s rights, as controlled by Bachardy, when fashion designer Tom Ford went looking for a first feature to direct.
“Tom asked for a meeting and basically said that if he was behind it, the movie would actually get made. Often people option your stuff in Hollywood and that’s the end of it. Or, worse, a film comes very close to getting made and then things fall apart.”
Ford was able to secure Colin Firth as the lead, with Julianne Moore in a juicy supporting role, and financing fell into place.
“In fact, that could have happened to this one too. They had a very narrow window to shoot, because Colin is a very busy man—actually, they had delayed the project already because he was doing something else—and were set to shoot last November, just when the market crashed. Their private financing fell apart, but Tom decided that he wasn’t going to let that happen and he came up with the money himself. How many filmmakers can do that?”
Scearce’s job is mainly related to Native-rights issues, and he has also put considerable time into running an animal shelter. So he’s not likely to skip off to Cali in search of a directing career, simply because his first screenwriting effort, now in super-stylish visual form, hits town this Friday (December 25).
“I don’t know that I would like to direct. My limited experience on-set tells me that there are very long days with a lot of waiting. On the other hand, I know about the experience of so many other screenwriters, that they just get tired of getting rewritten all the time, or they get dissatisfied with seeing someone else’s take on their material. So maybe that will happen to me. But for now, I’m still learning how to write.”