Tell us about your experience on the film set, watching the words that you wrote coming to life in front of you.
It’s definitely a strange feeling, because you’ve spent, in my case, a good ten years living the book within yourself (both in the writing and everything that happens beyond it). The characters are all inside you.
The buildings, the interiors, everything is how you sketch and paint it in your mind – and then you suddenly see it from the outside in. To see Sophie Nélisse (Liesel) and Nico Liersch (Rudy) running around on Himmel Street was a moment I won’t forget in a hurry.
Although all of the casting looks fantastic, when I watch the promotional material featuring Nico Liersch, it is as if Rudy has just walked off the page. Is there a particular casting choice that gives you a reaction like that?
Rudy was always my favourite character when I was writing the novel (and still is, all these years later), so I can agree with you on that feeling with him for sure. I could also single out any of the other main characters as well, but the one who’s coming to me right now is Emily Watson.
In many ways it’s almost too easy to look at Geoffrey Rush playing the likable Hans Hubermann as the obvious anchor of the film. But Emily’s portrayal of Rosa is really something special, I think. She wasn’t afraid to make her own adjustments to the character, to make her fully her own.
I love the fact that she can represent that foul-mouthed yet big-hearted woman with just one passing stare, or the wringing of her hands. She barely has to say a word.
Your book seems to inspire a kind of fervour amongst its readers (this one included). Does the dedication of your fans add any extra pressure to the success of the movie for you?
I do feel a responsibility in some ways (and thanks for your kind note), but I also feel a bit free of the pressure as well, given that it’s in someone else’s hands now. As it is, I think Brian Percival went to many great lengths to take the heart of the book and place it as seamlessly as he could into the film – but on his own terms, which again, is something I love.
Also, I’ve come to realize that no matter what happens with the film or a theatre production or anything else that might arise, the book will always remain the same. The words in those pages are the ones I have to stand behind, just as Brian and the producers get to stand behind the film.
You are currently busy promoting the film, but what’s next for you as a writer?
I’m still working on the elusive book I’ve been chasing for many years now. It’s an idea I’ve had since I was about nineteen (that’s half my life, which is scary), and the time has finally come to finish it. It’s about a bridge builder who wants to make one perfect thing, and it was always the idea I was pinning many of my writing hopes on, until The Book Thief came along and took me by surprise.
At the end of the day, even with the excitement that has come with the release of film, I remind myself that this is the real job – to get back to that nice aloneness, where it’s just you and the quiet, and the words.
The Book Thief premieres in the United States on November 15, 2013. It will be released internationally in 2014.
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