"The Descendants" author Kaui Hart Hemmings wants you to know she was just being silly when she tweeted about “The Artist” cast and crew at the Academy Awards, a tweet the Huffington Post dramatized as an “insult.”
Hemmings is currently promoting the Blu-ray/DVD release of “The Descendants,” the Academy Award-winning movie starring George Clooney and cowritten and directed by Alexander Payne. We talked to her on the phone last week, and aside from the Twitter gossip, Hemmings discussed her involvement during the making of the film, why it was important to have this story told from a male perspective and what people should take from her first novel.
When you were writing the book, when did you know it was finished?
You know, I don’t ever think I knew it was finished. I guess it’s like that with anything, you sort of feel it. I gave it to my husband and my agent and they thought it was in good shape, so that was that. At some point you just need to declare it the end because you can always look back and see a different change or little edits here and there.
I find that it interesting that you wrote “The Descendants” from a male perspective. Will you elaborate on what made you want to go that route?
It made the most sense for him to tell the story. I didn’t want to do it from a child’s perspective or a teenager’s. He was a character who I thought had most at stake in this situation and had the most to lose. He just seemed like the most interesting person to tell the story.
With it being your first novel, obviously it’s like your baby. It must have taken a lot of trust to put it in the hands of someone else to make it into a feature film. What was it about [screenwriters] Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who got your blessing to write the film into a feature?
I actually didn’t work with them. By the time I was involved with it in any way, it was Alexander Payne [who] wrote it — he started from scratch. Anything he did I automatically trusted because it’s Alexander Payne. I never really thought of the book as my baby, it’s just a book. I was happy to hand [the book] over to him and help him if he needed it. I was curious and excited to see what he would do.
I read that you had a lot of input on the making of the film. How much were you involved, and what part of the process did you spend most of your time on?
I was involved whenever they wanted me to be there. They wanted to see Hawaii, and so I showed them locations. They asked what a certain person would wear, and I would give them some ideas on that. They asked about music, they asked about casting and the homes and what would be in those homes. Every single detail I was consulted on … it was a huge range.
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So after someone reads the book or sees the film, is there something specific you’d like for them to take away from it?
You know, no. [laughs] I guess I never wrote for someone to take something specific away. I think people will take different things from it … and that is satisfying to me. I think this film speaks to such a variety of people, from young to old, rich to poor. Each person [should] define their own way into it, and upon leaving, bring their own things out.
I read an article in the Huffington Post regarding your infamous Oscar tweet about “The Artist” [which read, “The Artist people were in line in front of me and now I smell like cigarettes and entitlement”]. I’d love to hear your side of the story, because I’m pretty sure you were just goofing around.
That’s funny, yeah. There is no side of the story — it was a tweet. [laughs] Twitter is like, you sort of take on a persona. It was pure joke, pure one-liner punchline, and I happened to be behind the people in “The Artist” as they were getting into their limo and they were all smoking. It could have been a completely different joke if the cast of, I don’t know, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” were in front of me. It was just a funny tweet.