Philip Noyce Moving Forward with American Pastoral, Starring Ewan McGregor


Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1997 novel American Pastoral has taken a long journey to get from the page to the screen and few may realize that it’s a movie that filmmaker Philip Noyce (Salt, Clear and Present Danger) has been trying to get made for 11 years.

Granted, it’s probably a difficult novel to translate onto the screen, similar to previous Roth adaptations The Human Stain and Elegy, but in 2012, The Huffington Post spoke to the project’s producer, Lakeshore Entertainment’s Tom Rothenberg and then director Fisher Stevens about progress on the project which was shooting for a release in the fall of 2013.

Before that, Paul Bettany and his wife Jennifer Connelly were attached to star in a movie version of Roth’s novel, which Connelly denied when asked on a set visit in 2010:

“That movie is just like an IMDb relic. That was a movie that Paul and I discussed doing like so many years ago, ten years ago. You can’t believe anything you read on the internet, mostly.”

Well, in this case, you can, because spoke to Noyce earlier today about his upcoming sci-fi drama The Giver, based on the novel by Lois Lowry and starring Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. He confirmed to us that American Pastoral will be his next project as a director with Ewan McGregor starring in the lead role. (Apparently, an Australian site called got this scoop three-and-a-half months ago but buried the news in a profile on the filmmaker.)

McGregor will play Seymour “Swede” Levov, a blonde Jewish businessman living in Newark, New Jersey, whose conventional life is disturbed by the political upheaval of the ’60s under the Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. Noyce said that finding the right actor for the lead role was what has been delaying production, but he confirmed that he planned on filming the movie in early 2015 based on the existing script by John Romero (The Lincoln Lawyer.)

While we had him on the phone, we asked Noyce about some of the other projects he’d been developing including Dirt Music, which was originally going to star the late Heath Ledger, but Russell Crowe attached himself to the project following his country mate’s untimely death.

“I could never get a script that I thought captured the poetry of the novel,” Noyce told us. “There’s the problem. A poetic novel is difficult to translate into a movie, but it’s a project I’ll come back to in the future.”

We also asked him why he was never interested in directing a sequel to one of his biggest hits Salt, starring Angelina Jolie–it grossed nearly $300 million worlwide–with the sequel being announced three years ago.

“I decided to not become part of a sequel. I said, ‘Look you, guys can get on with it, but I can’t see how we can follow up on this.’ They’ve had a lot of trouble all agreeing on what that story could be,” which he followed by semi-joking, “I guess I’ve got a lot of friends in Russia. Any follow-up would just alienate more and more of my Russian friends. The bad guys are the Ruskies and it was hard enough with ‘Salt’ and I also wanted to move onto other things and catch-up with projects like ‘American Pastoral,’ which I’d been trying to make for years and not repeat myself.”

When we asked about him stepping down from directing remakes of the Jean Claude Van-Damme revenge thriller Bloodsport and the pirate movie Captain Blood–now being directed by James McTeigue (V For Vendetta) and the Spierig Brothers (Daywalkers), respectively–he told us:

“I couldn’t get the scripts to where I wanted them. You feel after four, five or six years that you’ve made the movie, and you’re still not confident that the document you’re looking at every day is going to work, but you’ve sort of made the film in your mind because you’ve seen it over and over again.”

Look for our full interview with Mr. Noyce closer to the release of The Giver on August 15 or possibly even sooner.