It took a stroke of luck in the form of unexpected financing from a British supermarket giant, but author Judy Blume and her film director son, Larry Blume, have finally made a big-screen movie together.
This weekend, Tiger Eyes, based on her 1981 book of the same name, opened for a limited national engagement in theaters including the artsy Tropic Cinema in Key West, where she lives part time.
“I am excited — beyond words,” Blume said from New York, where she also lives.
For decades, mother and son had talked about adapting one of her bestselling books into a feature film, but there was no big push to make it happen. Then, a few years ago, she told him bluntly: “I am not getting any younger. … I do not want to die and have someone else make movies of my books and ruin them. I’d like to make one myself.”
Judy Blume, 75, and a cancer survivor, has written 28 books, beginning with The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo in 1969. Her young-adult novels have guided generations of readers through adolescence, stirring controversy with their frank treatment of teen sexuality and other touchy topics and selling more than 82 million copies in 41 countries.
Her books did make it to the small screen. There was a 1978 CBS movie based on Forever; a 1991 ABC weekend special, made by mother and son, based on Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great and a series inspired by her Fudge books ran for two seasons in the mid ’90s.
But Blume books are not the ready-made film franchises with fanciful settings and bigger-than-life story lines that light up dollar signs in the eyes of Hollywood producers. There are no wizards or vampires. Her books are filled with real people with real problems.
“Over the years, I’ve been wistful and wishful. ‘Why not mine?’ ” she said. “I love movies. Love movies.”
Both Blumes thought her best movie material was either Summer Sisters, an adult novel with lesbian themes, or Tiger Eyes, about a teenage girl dealing with a tragic loss in a desolate place where she feels she doesn’t belong.
When financing became available in 2009, the decision was easy. Tiger Eyes could be made with the super-low budget of just over $2 million, and Summer Sisters could not. Besides, Larry had just spent time scouting locations in New Mexico for a film that fell through.
“I went back to New York with my tail between my legs,” said Blume, 49. “That’s when I was introduced to producers from London who asked if I was interested in doing a book-to-film adaptation.”
British supermarket giant Tesco had decided to dabble in moviemaking business. (“Like Wal-Mart, they are a large seller of DVDs,” he said.) But by the time the Blumes had written the script — Judy in Key West, Larry in New York — Tesco had begun a hasty retreat.
The good news: they had total creative control.
“I never talked to a Tesco executive once,” Larry said. “To me, they were like the Wizard of Oz — the guys behind the curtains who just wrote the checks. Good luck. Godspeed. See you in a year.”
The bad news, which they didn’t learn until the film was finished: They would get no support promoting and distributing it.