Matthew Teague is a journalist who has traveled to remote parts of the world for stories. He covered CIA agents in Pakistan, famine in Somalia, and double agents in Northern Ireland. But it may be his greatest work The article he wrote in 2015 Esquire magazine titled “the friend.” Teague dedicated about 6,000 words to the arduous two years he spent caring for his wife, Nicole, who learned she had cancer at the age of 34.
The article recounted the story of her decline and death through the prism of their friendship with Dane Faucheux, a rudderless spirit who came to visit the Teague family for Thanksgiving and ended up staying for two years to look after the couple and their two young daughters. Besides winning the National Magazine Award, the article connected Tej with readers in ways that his dramatic reports from Afghanistan or Sri Lanka did not. They shared their painful stories with such overwhelming strength that he was often “shocked” by the response, and to this day, he receives heartbreaking emotional messages.
Hollywood, too, soon came calling.
Teague, 44, knew the training. Two of his earlier works were chosen by several producers, but no films were ever made. He pledged that this time things would be different.
What he didn’t count was just how cruel Hollywood got when the movie gets together, an experience he still has to deal with.
He first tried to write the script himself. When that didn’t work (“I realized I was very close to this,” he said) signed as executive producer and worked closely with writer Brad Engelsby (“The way back”) To craft a movie that depicts the facts of death and celebrates life that came before.
Soon, a cadre of well-known actors (Casey Affleck, Dakota Johnson, and Jason Siegel) soon descended on Fairhope, Ala. , To photograph Teagues and Faucheux. Gabriella Copperthwait directed the actors in scenes filmed at the hospital where Nicole was treated and in a house just three doors away from Teague’s residence. (The family still lives in the same house. Tig married and now has a three-month-old son named Wilder.)
Switching between the past and the present, the script jumps upside down in both the ugliness of Cancer and the banalities of marital life, presenting an image of a family that is completely identifiable and terrifyingly unique. Young women are not supposed to die of cancer in their home while their young children are in the next room.
But driven by a deep reaction to his article and his career as a journalist, Teague has been sticking to authenticity.
“The essence of that is that I wanted my wife’s legacy and memory to be of immense respect. He said,“ I don’t want to abuse her. ”And I have a mission to tell the truth about that time and everything that came from it.”
There are parts of the original TIG article that came directly onto the screen: the doctor’s words when he revealed Nicole’s diagnosis (“He’s everywhere. Like someone dipping a paintbrush into cancer and flicking it around her stomach”), the friendship between Tig and Fuchio, and Nicole’s dying wishes (“jumping in.” Downtown Fountain with all her family and friends, becoming the Grand Marshal of the Mardi Gras Parade in her town). Tig writes in Esquire: “What her life missed in terms of height, it made up for in height.”
The deeper parts are omitted which, in part, made the article unforgettable: specifically Tege’s role in the grotesque art of wound-filling and the physical horrors that accompanied it.
He said, “There are things that I can write about in publications that people can understand and find their truthfulness.” “However, if you saw it on screen, people would throw popcorn and run away from the stage.”
However, despite his carefully calibrated work, success in Hollywood is never a guarantee.
Before the Toronto Film Festival 2019 film and give it the coveted weekend opening slot.
Teague was sitting inside the theater of the Princess of Wales, and he was a wave of nerves, held only by sheer will and the help of a friend and fellow journalist, Tom Junod, who was also the subject of a Hollywood movie,Nice day aroundAbout his unexpected relationship with Fred Rogers.
“He surprised me how emotional I felt when I saw him,” Teg recalls. “But what really surprised me was the extent of the audience’s emotion. There were so many people feeling a lot of things. So it felt like I had done it right by Nicole.”
Actress Kristen Stewart was sitting behind him, and hearing her sniffing was an extra confirmation that everything would be fine. There were audible sighs from the audience, warm applause and a trip to the stage, as the actors answered a series of serious questions. “There was nothing but love from that audience,” Tej said.
But when he returned to his hotel room later that night, early reviews from trade publications landed like a gut punch. The Hollywood Reporter called it “Far from touch With the same feelings that she is desperately trying to conjure. ”Variety He took up the case By turning his “devastating essay” into “an inspiring group embrace.” In this review, critic Peter Debruge praised the actors’ performances but wrote: “Much loaths have been removed from the picture, so that what remains is exactly the kind of dishonest and sterile TV movie without anyone’s help. The version of death inspired Tege to fix things in the first place.” “.
Today Tage is still intimidated by this criticism. Despite spending years in newsrooms and understanding the role of the critics, this particular criticism is considered unfair.
He said, “I just came from a room full of people who never read the article. I knew nothing about the article. I took the film on his own terms and found it very touching.” “So using my own story to overcome my own story was really painful.”
Cowperthwaite was furious as well, saying early reviews had “gotten the wind out of me.” But the director who directed four films, including the BAFTA nominated documentary.Black fish“He has more experience with criticism. She said,“ It’s just one of the cliched facts behind our industry. ”“ It never hurts, but I think the longer you stay in this creative world you learn how to metabolize pain more quickly. ”
For Teague, the criticism felt unfair, but more importantly, he was concerned about its impact on the film’s fate. Movies like “The Friend” enter festivals hoping to land a huge distribution bargain, and early commercial reviews make a huge import as studios and streaming companies decide what to buy. Will the movie find a home with a very tepid initial critical response?
“I was in a panic because I didn’t know what was going to happen to this thing that was so precious to me,” Tej said. “Have you sunk Will people get a chance to see it? “
Reviews improved. In Vanity Fair, Katie Rich Wrote That the film “finds a way of thinking more through the kind of story that often appears on screen by heart, regardless of how devastating it may be in real life.” Rotten Tomatoes Score It now hovers around 80% fresh. Financier and producer Teddy Schwarzman said the film left the festival with four screenings, although no official deal was announced until January.
Delayed due to the epidemic, the movie is titled “Our friendHe will now appear on Friday in theaters and on demand.
Tej uses the experience as an opportunity to grow in his career as a journalist. “The glow of public criticism has helped me become more aware of how fearful and vulnerable the subject of the story can feel,” he said in an email follow-up. It’s easy to forget, even for a writer who values compassion. Sometimes, even a short story – or a hurriedly written review – can break someone’s heart for too long. ”
However, he also did not give in to Hollywood. The writer recently returned to the screenwriting game and modified his 2003 GQ article about the most popular war games in North Carolina into a mini-series called “Pineland” that is now being marketed.
“It’s not a nice industry,” he said. “But it’s nothing to do with journalism – my first love – to swipes.”