Jennifer Lee Shares Her Vision for Her Version of A Wrinkle In Time
You probably know Jennifer Lee’s name from her work on Frozen, the Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature. Lee started working on her script for A Wrinkle In Time in 2014 shortly after winning the award. She’s the first female director of a feature film that earned more than a billion dollars in gross box office revenue. So it was surprising to us when she mentioned that she actually got into her scriptwriting career later in her life.
When we asked her about her choice to take such a classic and adapt it for the film she was quick to share, it wasn’t her intent to redo the book, she knew that doing the book would be a failure.
I wasn’t trying to do the book, adapting it for the film, it was very much clear that like, I don’t want to try to be the book. If we try to be the book we’ll fail. But showing our love for the book, showing how much inspiration there is in the book. And how strong the journey is in the book. I could stay true to that, then we might have a chance of finally getting it made. ‘Cause it’s been years of trying. So when Ava joined, that was the final magic piece of the puzzle.
When talking to her about the process of making a movie like A Wrinkle In Time she shared that it took her about a year and a half to write the script since she only writes in the mornings. During that process, she worked closely with Jim Whittaker and Catherine Hand along with the studio getting notes. When she got to the point of choosing a director she said she knew she could easily pick someone who was known for their work in sci-fi but she wanted someone who was evocative and Ava was the person that came to mind.
What you really need is someone who can be very evocative. And make you feel something that you never felt before. Do it in such a way that is so grounded in truth. And when they brought her in, I was shocked and couldn’t have been more thrilled.
So then we go to the next phase, which when it becomes her film, it has to be. And she didn’t even have to keep me on, she could have rewritten it herself. She’s an amazing writer. But luckily she wanted to keep me around. We talked deeper and deeper of the characters. She wanted to get her head around the physics, I love physics. We would do all that. A fun thing for Ava and I was the, the bully, Veronica is actually a matchup of her biggest bully and my biggest bully.
We talked about her favorite lines from the film since so many people are familiar with the book, we were curious which lines she kept from the book that would be exciting to people. ‘Wild nights are my glory’ was the first line she mentioned.
‘I give you your flaws.’ There’s so many that we would take like a whole paragraph and have to reduce it to a sentence. So there are things where I think are in the book. And then I look back and I go, Oh no, the book is like a page on the subject. And like Mrs. Which says to Meg at one point, and I thought this was in the book, where she says, “Do you know all of the events that had to occur in the universe to create you exactly as you are?” And I was like, oh, that’s not in the book, that’s just what the book gave me.
We switched gears up a bit and talked to Lee about her daughter, being a working mother and a woman working in such a male-dominated industry. We wanted to know what she hoped her daughter would learn from a film like A Wrinkle In Time.
Well, I think the biggest thing for me, I grew up a kid who didn’t think much of herself. I had very little self esteem. And spent a lot of time criticizing myself. And a lot of time thinking that I wasn’t good enough to do things. I would look at others and think, this is what you have to be or that. And all of that preoccupation with all I could have been doing. If I’d just gotten to go, you are fine as you are, just focus on what you’d want to do and how you want to participate in the world. And I have a daughter now who is a teenager. She’s 14 and a half.
And five foot eight, and looks down on me. But she has a confidence I didn’t have. And she doesn’t have a blind confidence. She has a confidence where she could take criticism, where she can look and say, that’s not my strength but I’m inspired to do this. And if films like FROZEN and WRINKLE continue to help her do that. Like they say she’s a participant. She has no problem just going for something and with no expectation of success. She just wants to be a part of it.
We finished up our interview talking to Lee about the three Mrs. we wanted to know if she made changes to the script once the three ladies were cast, or if they were chosen because of who they were and what they would bring to the movie. We had already discussed some of this before with Ava during her interview so we already knew some of the processes.
All of them came to this wanting to be these women. They were inspired by the book, by the script. They really came to it. So that was such a beautiful thing. And we were overwhelmed by that. But then at the same time, Reese, she’s hilarious. So there’s fun things you could do. And then with Oprah, it’s with Mrs. Which being the most wisest being, there were just some things where you have to go, god, I just want to hear her say that.
It would mean the world. So you would say – and just even the way she would say ‘Be a Warrior.’ Like no one can say that like her. And then Mindy was amazing. ‘Cause she had to wrangle these quotes. And the way she was able to humanize them and do each one of them differently. She blew me away. So it was great.
ABOUT A WRINKLE IN TIME
From visionary director Ava DuVernay comes Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic which takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and, ultimately, the triumph of love. Through one girl’s transformative journey led by three celestial guides, we discover that strength comes from embracing one’s individuality and that the best way to triumph over fear is to travel by one’s own light.
Meg Murry is a typical middle school student struggling with issues of self-worth who just wants to fit in. The daughter of two world-renowned physicists, she is intelligent and uniquely gifted, as is Meg’s younger brother, Charles Wallace, but she has yet to realize it for herself. Complicating matters is the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Murry, which has left Meg devastated and her mother broken-hearted. Charles Wallace introduces Meg and her fellow classmate Calvin to three celestial beings (Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who) who have journeyed to Earth to help search for their father, and together they embark on their formidable quest. Traveling via a wrinkling of time and space known as tessering, they are transported to worlds beyond their imagination where they must confront a powerful evil force. To make it back home to Earth, Meg must face the darkness within herself in order to harness the strength necessary to defeat the darkness rapidly enveloping the Universe.