Judy Blume Talks Screenwriting and Adapting ‘Tiger Eyes’ to the Silver Screen

In Tiger Eyes, Judy Blume’s new movie based on her 1981 novel – check that, her first movie – the best-selling author collaborated with her son and filmmaker, Lawrence Blume, to bring it to the silver screen.

After a recent screening concluded in Manhattan, she explained to the audience, “We always said if we were going to work together on a project, it would be Tiger Eyes. It was Larry’s favorite.”

There were some concerns, however, about translating one of her books onto the screen. She revealed, “It just needs to be emotionally true to the story and the characters and we didn’t want to make a schmaltzy movie.”

There were challenges, too. For instance, he mentioned remaining steadfast to the goal of doing “something about real kids having real life problems and trying to make it as genuine as we could do it.” Plus, the book was written in the first person and “turning that inner emotional stuff into behavior that you can film was complex.” Next, the director put it into a three-act structure and added, “And then I wrote some stuff and Judy fixed it.”

And then fear set in. He confessed, “I like to work in a fearless way but I was afraid of people who read and loved the book saying I can’t believe they ruined it. So I was operating in a little fear of not straying too much away from the book. We tried really hard to keep as much as we could as possible while making it a movie.”

To which point, she quipped, “Did I not say to you all along, Larry, if he doesn’t feed her fruit in the canyon, we’re going to hear about it?”

As for the screenwriting process, the best-selling author explained, “Well, I’m not a screenwriter, this was screenwriting 101. I’ve written other screenplays but I don’t think the way a screenwriter does though I’m learning, but Larry does. Larry knows structure and he comes at it from an editorial, he’s been a film editor so he guided me to do the structure. He guided the structure of the film and I do people and dialogue.”

Above all, it sounded like a positive experience for the mother-son writing team. She dished:

“I wrote the book a long time ago but I never imagined what they would look like. I don’t do that really and we made Davey older. Willa [the actress] was 19, we made Davey 17. In my mind, Wolf’s a post-doc instead of an undergraduate at Cal Tech. He was just so centered when we found him and Russell Means who plays Mr. Ortiz is the real life father of Tatanka Means.

They’re playing father and son in this very emotional moment and Russell got sick a few months later and died right when we were showing the movie to the cast and crew in Santa Fe but Russell was fabulous [starts getting choked up]….Here’s father and son playing father and son and although Larry and I don’t do the mother-son thing when we’re working together, we’re Judy and Larry, but there’s mother and son working on this and father and son acting on this project.

Everything about this was special. Not the writing of the screenplay but the filming of it because I loved casting it and being on the set, I loved the transportation guys, I loved the location. I loved having a grungy office right there with everybody else and everything in chaos and yet it all somehow comes together.”

Tiger Eyes opens in theaters today and simultaneously on iTunes, DirecTV and On-Demand.