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Lehane is Not “That Guy” By Richard Crouse zoomermag.com June 3, 2010

QUIZ_Dennis-Lehane_4956Given the Hollywood success novelist Dennis Lehane has had in recent years you’d expect him to live in the 90210 area code. No dice, says the blunt speaking author of Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone and Shutter Island (which comes to DVD and Blu Ray June 8).

“If you live in LA you’re suddenly that guy,” he says on the line from his home in Boston. “You get lost in it. Everywhere you turn everyone is a writer. Where I live now I’m it, at least for a couple of blocks there’s no other writers.”

Certainly there are no other authors in his area with a tinsel town track record like his. The film adaptations of his novels have put him on a first name basis with legendary filmmakers like Clint and Marty and have earned seven Oscars nominations. But don’t look to him to take all the credit for the success of the movies.

“There are only two things I can take credit for and I’m not being falsely disingenuous or anything,” he says, “I’m just being honest. I seem to write characters that actors are attracted to. I invest a lot in my characters, so my characters tend to have multiple dimensions. OK, there I go. I just pumped myself up.

“Other than that I will only get in business with the absolute crème de la crème talent wise and taste wise. Just look at my behind-the-credits people. Look at my producers; they are people that if you look at the CVs are extremely impressive. That spreads out to other talented people. Who are talented people going to pick to write your screenplays? They are going to pick talented writers. Who are they going to pick to do the director’s job? They are going to pick talented directors. Who are the directors going to pick? They’re going to pick talented actors and so on. That’s really what’s been going on.”

Talented though he may be, he’s never adapted one of his own novels for the screen.

“I’m not particularly interested in adapting my own work. It is just not something that I can do. I’m just not competent. I’m the last person you should trust. I don’t know how to cut. I just spent two or three years of my life trying to get a book to 401 pages. Not 402 and not 399 and then you are going to turn around and say that’s the guy I want to trust to cut it to 135?”
Shutter Island, Lehane’s ominous thriller turned Martin Scorsese film about a U.S. Marshal (Leonardo DiCaprio) investigating a disappearance at the remote Shutter Island hospital for the criminally insane, sprung from two separate incidents.

“When I was a little kid my uncle took me out to one of the harbor islands and pointed out where a mental institution—the skeletal remains were still there—and it just stuck in my head. Many, many years later I had a crazy dream one night. I wrote it all down and woke up the next morning and looked at my notes and those notes are pretty much what Shutter Island is.”

Watching Scorsese work, he says was “mind boggling,” but true to form he didn’t spend much time on the set.

“Sets are so unbelievably boring if you don’t have a purpose on them,” he says. “A caterer is far more important on a film set than a novelist. A caterer, hey man, they give you the food; a novelist is just standing there saying, ‘I thought this up.’”

He’d rather be at home, in Boston. “It continually fuels me plus Bostonians are just funny sons-of-bitches. How else would I get to hear great lines all the time?”

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