The Glass Castle Exclusive Interview: Destin Daniel Cretton
I am not someone who sugarcoats things. I loved Short Term 12 and promoted that film harder than the marketing team that was hired to promote that film. It connected with me on so many layers and made me fall in love with Brie Larson as an actress. I was so freaking excited to see The Glass Castle because not only because the film looked so emotionally powerful with terrific performances all around but because it reunited Brie Larson with Short Term 12 writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton.
During the SXSW premiere of Short Term 12 back in 2013, I was given the opportunity to interview a lot of the actors involved with the film including Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr, Rami Malek, and Lakeith Stanfield, however, for some odd reason, I was not asked to interview Cretton. Needless to say, I was delighted to finally sit down with Cretton to not only share my love of Short Term 12 with him but also to discuss his latest film.
Scott Menzel: Congratulations on this film.
Destin Cretton: Thank you.
Scott Menzel: I have been anxiously waiting for the next film from you since Short Term 12. As I was telling you earlier, I got to meet everyone from that cast at South by Southwest except for you. Short Term 12 really moved me and spoke to me on such a deep level. I was so interested in seeing you reunite with Brie for this movie. Can you talk a little bit about what made you want to do this movie because just like Short Term 12, The Glass Castle felt very personal?
Destin Cretton: Yeah, it’s strange to read a memoir about somebody else’s life and feel like it’s your own. Even though there are so many things in this story that I have never experienced, it still felt so familiar to me and it really did feel like I was telling a very personal story, especially after meeting Jeannette and meeting her family. I not only felt the responsibility to make them happy, I felt kind of this responsibility to tell a story that I also connected to and it was a really wonderful process to go through.
Scott Menzel: There are some differences in the book vs the movie, as always, but I feel like the book, I mean the movie itself actually is better than the book and it actually flows better, so could you talk a little bit about the changes that you made towards the material to make it better suited for the movie?
Destin Cretton: That’s very nice of you. I would rarely, I would never say that our movie is better than the book but that’s nice. I do think that a huge part of that is because we did work very closely with Jeannette and her voice was such a huge part of every part of this process, including trying to figure out what the core of the story was that could fit into 120 page screenplay. Out of conversations with her came out the idea of purely flowing the relationship between Jeannette and her dad and tracking that very complicated love story and all of the other scenes in the book, the battle of little Hobart Street, some of these other stories that I wanted so bad to be a part of this movie were not a part of that core story line and they fell away.
Scott Menzel: In terms of the actual story, was it your decision to make it kind of go back and forth between the generations instead of just focusing on three little vignettes like it was in the book? Like how you went from past to present and stuff like that?
Destin Cretton: Yeah, the book, I mean we kind of followed it similar to how the book begins, the book begins in the present so you do get the context of who Jeannette is as a 25/26 year old woman and in the book that’s where you start so you get that perspective and then you go into the past so you never leave it until it catches up. In our movie we followed the same idea but we keep coming back into the present so we’re constantly reminded that we’re not just watching the past, we’re watching a woman redefine and understand herself through her past. That was a, I feel like that was a very important part of the book and we just kind of shifted it a little bit in order to bring that out in the movie.
Scott Menzel: Was Brie always the first choice for Jeannette?
Destin Cretton: Yeah, Brie is always the first choice for anything that I do.
Scott Menzel: I agree, I agree.
Destin Cretton: I think Brie’s power as a performer is similar to Jeannette’s power as a person and it is this beautiful incredible balance between strength and vulnerability and Brie was just really able to get that part of Jeannette, that her super power is her ability to turn vulnerability into strength.
Scott Menzel: How do you feel personally knowing that your first movie, you know, Short Term 12 really kind of launched the careers of so many of these actors? I mean, they were doing work before but like that movie was kind of what put them into the spotlight. You have Lakeith, Brie, Rami, Kaitlyn Dever….
Destin Cretton: Stephanie Beatriz.
Scott Menzel: Yeah, exactly. And all these people are now in a lot of films and I feel like you were a big reason for a lot of their success. How does that make you feel?
Destin Cretton: Well they were a big inspiration for me, so I feel mutual about it. I mean, I think we, I think all of us together are very proud of that movie and I’m obviously so happy anytime a friend of mine is successful and being able to do what they love. I couldn’t be happier for all of them.
Scott Menzel: I have to ask you about the difficult subject matters in this movie. I mean, there’s a lot of things that it touches upon such as molestation and the film draws a very fine line because on one hand, you have “the family is everything” and I understand that especially coming from a complicated background too with my family but there’s also these times where the parents literally put the kids at risk over and over again. How were you able to perfectly walk that line?
Destin Cretton: I’m glad that you think it’s a perfect balance because it is a very difficult thing to figure out what that balance is and how far to push certain scenes and certain emotions and a lot of that is working with Matt, my editor, Joel P. West, my composer and finding out like what the final tone of this movie should feel like. I one hundred percent believe that shit is real and beauty is also real and both can simultaneously exist. That’s just how my life experience has been and that’s what I connected to with this book. It’s like a messed up family who knows how to laugh and love at the same time that they’re going through pain. I think that’s what’s beautiful about this story.
Scott Menzel: My last question for you is what would you personally like to do? What’s a project that you would like to take on? Is there a certain genre you would like to do that you haven’t already tackled?
Destin Cretton: Right now I’m adapting another book that is just another one that just floored me and I feel like it’s a subject matter that is so important to me and the conversation right now. It’s a book called Just Mercy that I highly recommend anybody reading.
Scott Menzel: Thank you very much. It was a real pleasure being able to talk to you finally.
Destin Cretton: It’s been my pleasure.
Scott Menzel: Thank you so much.
Destin Cretton: So great to meet you.
Scott Menzel: Nice to meet you as well and I hope we can talk again soon.
The Glass Castle opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, August 11, 2017.