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Suzanne Allain, screenwriter of Mr. Malcolm's List

Bleecker Street releases Mr. Malcolm's List only in theaters July 1st, 2022.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What was the process like for you to decide what to omit from the novel while writing the screenplay?  

Suzanne Allain: I was basically thinking, "Which scenes in the novel moved the story forward the most?" and "Which would be pivotal moments in the relationship?", "What would be the funniest?", and "What would be the most cinematic?", so that's kind of how I went about that.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How would you define the term "cinematic"?

SA: When I think about that word, I might think about something more visual, but, for me, dialogue is such an important part of a movie. So, "cinematic" could also mean something that is interesting not just from a visual perspective, but is well-written, snappy dialogue and not on-the-nose. Obviously, you do want scenes that are exciting visually, but also that bring us through the characters' arcs, show us moments in their journey, and uncover details about them, so that's part of it as well.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Which of the following elements of a fictional character is most challenging to capture as a writer: their heart, mind or soul?

SA: I would say their heart. I feel like I have a gut feeling about their soul and then their mind, of course, is somewhat readable. But with their heart and deep-down, secret motivations and what has shaped them, you have to think a lot about, "What is their background like?" and "How does this affect them as an adult?". I'd say that they're all pretty hard, but, probably, their heart is the most challenging to capture if I had to pick one.  

NYC MOVIE GURU: Which of the characters in Mr. Malcolm's List was the most challenging for you to capture their heart, mind and soul?

SA: I think that, probably, Mr. Malcolm was a little difficult just because he was written to be a little detached and hiding his true feelings. It's difficult to strike that balance between being aloof and arrogant or seemingly arrogant yet still having this softer side and that being a little bit of a facade. That was a little difficult because you also have this dynamic where the female characters are at odds with him, especially Julia Thistlewaite, so you don't want the audience, also, to dislike him; you want him to be likable. But you have to set up that conflict, so, yes, that was a bit of a challenge.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How would Mr. Malcolm's list of requirements for an ideal bride be any different if he were looking for a good friend instead? How do you see the difference between a good friend and a good lover?

SA: I feel like a lover has to be a good friend before he can be a lover, but I don't know if Mr. Malcolm would've seen it that way. I think that you're right: the list would've been different. One thing that's not necessarily on his list of requirements for a bride, which I feel would be very important for his list for a friend, would be loyalty. I feel like that's the kind of dynamic that you have between him and Lord Cassidy. Lord Cassidy is very loyal to him in his own way. So, I think that loyalty would be a big requirement along with honesty which is on his list of requirements for a bride. Especially if you have someone in a situation where people might be kowtowing to him or not really telling him the truth because he's a rich and famous person, it's important to have a person who you could trust who could really be honest with you.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Would Mr. Malcolm's List still work if it were set in modern times? Why did you set it in historical times?

SA: I originally wrote this as a short story set in modern times. I guess that I felt like it would work better in a historical era because in modern times, marriage is kind of different. In historical times, when there was not the option of divorce, you had to get an act of Congress, literally, so there were far fewer divorces. Women didn't really have career choices necessarily, there were a few authors like Jane Austen, but it was very difficult, so marriage was just such an important decision that had so many consequences on your every day life, even more so than today.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think that Mr. Malcolm's List would work as a play?

SA: Yes, I would love to get into playwriting. I do think that it would work as a play. I've even spoken to some of the producers about a musical because some of the producers of Mr. Malcolm's List are, like me, fans of musical theater. So, yeah, I could see it as either.  

NYC MOVIE GURU: Are there any films and/or plays that you think would pair well with Mr. Malcolm's List in a double feature?

SA: There are two plays that immediately come to mind for me because they're two of my favorites: Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest and George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. There's a little bit of both of those that kind of served as an inspiration for my book and my script. I'd have to think more about if there's any modern ones that I could see pairing well. I'm a fan of slightly older modern romcoms like Notting Hill. So, maybe something like that because it's got all of those quirky characters. So, if you wanted a film as well, that would be a film that would pair well with Mr. Malcolm's List.

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