Way back in 2003, screenwriter Cami Delavigne told us about the mission to drum up attention and cash for a little-known screenplay she'd co-written. A mere seven-and-a-half years later, "Blue Valentine" has opened to rave reviews. Cami is back to talk about the very long road to Blue Valentine.
You Always Hurt The One You Love
Artist: by Ryan Gosling
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This is On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. In 2003, we aired a story about a nearly impossible feat, trying to get an unknown screenplay by a nearly unknown screenwriter made into an actual movie. Everyone’s got a screenplay, right? Very, very few end up on the big screen. Still, screenwriter Cami Delavigne and director Derek Cianfrance set out for the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah that year, hoping for a deal. They came back with no money and no deal, but with a glimmer of hope. Here’s Derek Cianfrance talking to his mom:
DEREK CIANFRANCE: I won the award, and then I'm flat broke. That's why I'm signing with a agent now, Mom. He's thrilled. Jack thinks it's just what we needed to, you know, jumpstart Blue Valentine, and I said, okay, well I just want to know if, if Radical is gonna put Blue Valentine on the front burner now. And he says yes. What did he say, Cam?
CAMI DELAVIGNE: He said yes.
DEREK CIANFRANCE: He said yes.
CAMI DELAVIGNE: The big movie deal didn't happen for us at Park City, but it didn't mean it was never gonna happen. On the bus ride to the airport, Derek said:
DEREK CIANFRANCE: This is the dream, so I'm gonna go and live it.
CAMI DELAVIGNE: We knew that we were going back to New York playing a whole new ballgame.
BOB GARFIELD: Seven-and-a-half years later, Derek and Cami now are living the dream. Blue Valentine, with Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, opened recently to rave reviews. So we asked Cami to come back to talk about the very long road to the silver screen. She says coming home from Sundance was a reality check.
CAMI DELAVIGNE: We came back expecting that the phones were going to start ringin’ off the hook, and it didn't happen. And you wait and you hustle, and you rewrite and rewrite. I think that the count for the number of drafts that we had of Blue Valentine, it stands at about 66.
BOB GARFIELD: Is the – is the film that was shot more or less what your last draft looked like?
CAMI DELAVIGNE: It was always the intention in the writing that it was gonna be a blueprint. And the director improv’d a lot of the scenes with Ryan and Michelle, who I have to say took the skeleton of what we wrote and gave it the real meat and bones and did an amazing job.
BOB GARFIELD: At, at any point, as you were viewing the edited film for the first time, were you going, no, no, no, no, you completely missed the whole idea I was getting at? Oh, you -
CAMI DELAVIGNE: If they did miss the whole idea, I would have done that, but they didn't. They got exactly what this movie was intended to be. And there’s only one – oh, it’s so small – but my dad used to cheer me up when I was a kid by telling me he was gonna eat my toes, and in the opening scene, Dean, Ryan Gosling’s character, he tells his little girl who’s sad, he’s like, oh, he’s like I want to eat your hand.
LITTLE GIRL: Mm-hmm.
RYAN GOSLING AS DEAN: You know, I'm so hungry I could just eat your hand.
LITTLE GIRL: I – ee – aagh, aagh, aagh, aagh!
RYAN GOSLING AS DEAN: Yeah, hold on. Just let me have a bite of your hand, okay? Just one bite?
[LITTLE GIRL LAUGHS] [END CLIP]
CAMI DELAVIGNE: That was the only time that I was like, why didn't he just say “toes” 'cause - that’s what my dad used to say. But that’s -
BOB GARFIELD: Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s obviously perverse. I mean, who eats a kid’s hand?
CAMI DELAVIGNE: I know.
BOB GARFIELD: You eat piggies.
CAMI DELAVIGNE: They – [LAUGHS]
BOB GARFIELD: You gobble piggies.
CAMI DELAVIGNE: [LAUGHS]
BOB GARFIELD: Next project?
CAMI DELAVIGNE: I have just completed a TV pilot called Whip Smart, about a kindergarten teacher by day, dominatrix by night, which is very, very fun.
[BOB LAUGHING] I'm also working on a comedy about a - kind of a luckless talent agent out of Queens.
BOB GARFIELD: This conversation is going to send many, many, many people back into their desk drawers for the screenplays, so that they can enjoy the spectacular success that you have with Blue Valentine.
CAMI DELAVIGNE: Mm-hmm.
BOB GARFIELD: Have you any advice for those, what do you call it, suckers! [LAUGHS]
CAMI DELAVIGNE: [LAUGHING] People who like tell me, oh, I want to be a screenwriter, and I say, I'm sorry.
[BOB LAUGHS] Don't do it!
[BOB LAUGHING] You know, it’s kind of like graduating from college. You graduate from college and you think that the world is waiting for you. Getting into the film world, you think that there are all of these people with money out there that are just waiting for you. And they're not. And you have to make everything happen. And, for the director’s part, he has believed in this project and hustled for it for 13 years. And when you talk to everybody you can about the film, and eventually somebody will hear and somebody will make the first initial investment or it'll get into the hands of the right actor. And they'll say yes. And then that’s the whole new ballgame.
BOB GARFIELD: Well, Cami, it’s so great to catch up with you, and I w - you know, wish you all the best with Blue Valentine. It seems like you’re off to a very good start, reviews, fantastic!
CAMI DELAVIGNE: Thank you so much for having me back.
BOB GARFIELD: Cami Delavigne is the co-writer of the movie Blue Valentine. It has opened in New York and L.A. To hear how the odyssey began nearly eight years ago, check out the link to Cami’s piece on our site, onthemedia.org. [RYAN GOSLING SINGS YOU ALWAYS HURT THE ONES YOU LOVE/SONG UP AND UNDER]