Emma Donoghue on filming Room her award winning novel (interview)

Brie Larson and Jack Tremblay in the movie adaptation of Room.
Brie Larson and Jack Tremblay in the movie adaptation of Room.

Irish born playwright and literary historian Emma Donoghue’s novel Room is now a movie.

And she had the rare opportunity to write the screenplay for the highly anticipated film version.

The story of a woman and her son held captive in a basement for 11 years, escaping and dealing with the aftermath won Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Irish Book Award was shortlisted for Canada’s the 2010 Governor General’s Awards the Man Booker Prize.

The film stars Brie Larson, Joan Allen and eight year old Jacob Tremblay and Donoghue who now lives in Ontario, was onset as the film shot in locations across the province.

We spoke at the Toronto International Film Festival where the Room won the Grolsch Peoples’ Choice Award.

Response to the film has been incredibly good. It’s not often that a novelist gets to write the screenplay for her own novel and it’s your first.
I think it should be allowed more often. It’s often assumed we novelists will protect our work and have this grudging attitude but many of us love cinema and when in fact many of us are keen to tell the story again using the strengths of a different art form.

In cinema you have to think a different, visual way.
Yes, for instance, in the book the first 20 – 30 page of Room readers are deducing what is happening and in film you have the things Jack mentions and you know exactly what the set-up is.

In cinema you can simply turn the camera in a circle during the credit sequence and there you are, so the plot moves on much more quickly.

It has totally different advantages. It gives them a body which is harder to achieve in a book, the way Jacob moves is so magnetic, which isn’t in the book.

He is solid gold.

He really enjoys acting and he never had to be bullied into it. He worked long, long days sometimes rolled up in a rug or shut up in a wardrobe and you’d hear his merry little voice coming out “Another take? Okay! I’m ready!” He is extraordinary.

His character Jack was born and grew up in Room and knows nothing else. We’re anticipating so much when he is freed.
We filmed it almost entirely in sequence, which is more expensive and complicated to do it that way but it was for his benefit.

They felt it was crucial for the child to understand where his character was in the journey from moment to moment.

He didn’t need to know the plot’s grimmer points at all; he just needed to know what was going on for Jack. The adult actors really enjoyed it too.

I remember Joan Allen told me “it’s such a treat to move through the story that way so we know where we are and what we’re doing”. And we couldn’t work really long days because of the child and everyone liked that too.

It’s nice to go home and have evenings. Many parts of the production were quite civilised for having a child star.

And you were fortunate enough to be onset, another score for a screenwriter.
We shot in Pinewood Studios and Etobicoke and Mississauga and Ridgepoint Health hospital near the Don Jail.

It was such a pleasure to do it in Toronto. I was nervous they’d shoot in America in some place that I couldn’t get to, but it was near enough for me to come up from London, Ontario on the train on weekends.

But it was hard not to binge; the food on the set was so good! They’d come around with chocolate dipped pomegranate seeds. I’m new to the world of film so it’s all new to me, sets and pomegranate seeds.

ROOM opens this month in the US and Canada, The UK and Ireland in January and the worldwide.

It won the People’s Choice Award at Toronto International Film Festival. Donoghue’s next novel The Wonder is set in 1850s Ireland and concerns an eleven-year-old girl who seems to live without eating. And English nurse is sent to discover whether she’s a fraud.

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