“This was the first film in my career,” he added, “where I checked into hotels under a fake name.”
There have been reasons all along to value secrecy. The Salinger crew worried that early publicity would make some interview subjects reluctant to talk. They also cited the example of the Michael Moore documentary Sicko, which leaked online in advance of its release. For Salinger, emails were often sent under fake headers and online correspondence in general was minimized. Whether working on the book with Shields, or recruiting associates for the film, Salerno preferred handling business in person.
“When Shane first called to hire me, he did not tell me the subject matter of the film. He just said ‘If I get you a plane ticket, will you come to Los Angeles to talk with me about a film project?“’ Squires said. “After I arrived in Los Angeles and signed a phone book size confidentiality agreement, Shane revealed to me that he was underway with a film about J.D. Salinger.”
“For years I couldn’t tell anyone what I was working on,” Doe said. “It wasn’t just friends. My own family didn’t know!”
Access was restricted even for the movie’s soundtrack composer, Lorne Balfe, who won a Grammy for his score for The Dark Knight. In liner notes he wrote for the Salinger soundtrack CD, Balfe recalled that his job was “very complicated” in part because he had to score many scenes he was not permitted to see.
Once press screenings begin for Salinger, and copies of the books are shipped to stores, keeping all the secrets could prove highly challenging, especially in the age of Twitter. Weinstein publicity head Dani Weinstein (no relation to company founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein) said journalists seeing the movie will be asked to sign an embargo agreement. Jonathan Karp, who heads Simon & Schuster’s flagship imprint, said the publisher was taking “extraordinary measures” to ensure early copies were not sold or obtained. No advance editions will be sent to the media and stores will be required to sign agreements not to sell the book before its Sept. 3 release date.
But publishing embargos have rarely held, even for such highly restricted releases as the final Harry Potter book and Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, a Simon & Schuster release. Karp acknowledged that he had doubts over how long the Salinger book would remain unseen, saying that it could well become public a few days early.
“I’m not saying it’s ideal,” Karp said. “But we have been able to keep books locked up pretty close to the publication date.”