Author Jean Hegland's 'Into the Forest' hits the big screen
Healdsburg author Jean Hegland concedes that the opening of a film based on her novel “Into the Forest” is gratifying, but she contends it really hasn’t changed her life much.
The chilling story about two sisters living in the woods and trying to survive the collapse of civilization, starring Ellen Page of “Juno,” has been opening in scattered U.S. cities over the past couple of weeks, and makes its Sonoma County debut today at the Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol.
Hegland will appear at the theater for question-and-answer sessions after the 7:10 p.m. showing Saturday and the 1:15 p.m. screening Sunday. She will also sign books after Sunday’s discussion.
These are Hegland’s first public appearances in connection with the film, except for a screening at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2015, her first face-to-face encounter with Page and the film’s screenwriter/director, Patricia Rozema.
“It was like Christmas morning,” Hegland said.
“I was opening all my presents at once. I met Ellen, Patricia and other actors and producers. Then we all sat in the theater and watched the movie together for the first time.”
Aside from that brief taste of the movie world, Hegland continues her quiet life, teaching writing classes at Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University, and writing novels at her hillside home outside Healdsburg.
Her fourth book, “Still Time,” was published last year.
“Into the Forest,” originally published in 1996, had been optioned twice for a film adaptation, but both options had lapsed when Page read the book on the recommendation of a bookseller in her hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“Here’s a really great book, and I think it would make a good movie,” the salesperson had told the actress.
Page thought so, too, and in 2010, she called Hegland about putting the story on the screen.
“I had a really good conversation with her on the phone. I felt she had a deep understanding of the story and a profound appreciation ... So I decided to go ahead,” Hegland said.
Once the process of adapting and filming the novel began, Hegland stepped back and had no hand in casting, writing the screenplay or the actual filming.
“I think that was appropriate,” she said.
“I’m a writer. I love how words work. I write books. I’m not a filmmaker. I was never on the set, and my involvement was very limited. I think that was a mutual agreement. I was busy with other things,” including caring for her 97-year-old mother, who suffers from dementia.
Despite inevitable changes in the story during the translation from printed page to movie screen, Hegland said she’s pleased with the finished film.
“Lots get left out, lots of plot points and pieces of action. Patricia (the screenwriter and director) said novels are just too big to make movies out of. But the heart of the story is really the same,” she said.
“People are reaching out to me on my author Facebook page and saying they like the movie.
“The feedback I’m getting is more, ‘Oh, I just read your book.’ I’d like to think that’s because they saw the movie and decided they needed to read the book.”
You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or email@example.com. On Twitter at @danarts.
Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat
Do you take fun seriously? I know I do. Tell me what you want to know about arts and entertainment in the North Bay to make the best use of your leisure time and money. As a longtime local arts journalist, I have learned where to look and who to ask.