Page last updated at 09:00 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

Talking Shop: Nick Hornby

An Education
An Education's star Carey Mulligan (l) is described as an 'exceptional new talent' by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby is the acclaimed author of novels such as High Fidelity, Fever Pitch and About A Boy, to name a few, all of which have been made into films.

For his latest project he has turned his hand to screenwriting, adapting Lynn Barber's memoir An Education for the big screen.

An Education is a coming-of-age drama based on Barber's growing up in 1960s suburban London.

It tells the story of Jenny, a top A-level student with dreams of going to Oxford University until she meets a charismatic older man who offers her an exciting alternative, or so she thinks.

Hornby's name has attracted attention to the film but critics have then also been impressed by the film's star, newcomer Carey Mulligan. The film also features Emma Thompson, Dominic Cooper, Alfred Molina and Rosamund Pike.

Hornby talks about the long process from conception to fruition of the movie and his hopes for Mulligan's future.


Was it hard adapting someone else's work for the first time?

No it was a total gift! When I first saw it, it was 10 or 12 pages in a magazine, so it gave me some structure and idea of characters but no dialogue.

Nick Hornby
Nick Hornby found Lynn Barber's story both "funny and painful"

I came up with all the narrative, but I felt like it was half-way between adapting an original - so it was like I could colour in without going over the edges.

What was the writing process like for you?

It was a long one. I think I started it five years ago and during that time there seemed little prospect of the film actually being made. The hardest thing to do was to keep myself geared up in between drafts.

Books are much more straightforward at this stage and, at this stage in my career, I can more-or-less count on my work being published. But with films it's more like a 5% chance.

What made you want to do it?

The material was funny and painful at the same time. Not a lot of material switches moods like that so that was very attractive. It also tells a story of London and of Britain that I don't think we know much about - it was the 60s before the 60s really happened.

I recognised the character of Jenny's dad and it seemed a really significant part of recent history and I really wanted to tell that story.

The film has been well received, particularly at Sundance where it won the audience choice award. How do you feel about winning awards?

Well, I guess you try not to think too much about it but it is still very exciting. I think things will almost certainly happen for Carey. It's strange because we finished the film a year ago, so I am still amazed with all the attention to be honest.

There has been a lot of interest in Carey. Does that help in terms of promoting the film?

Well absolutely it helps, it is certainly an indication of the film's quality. I think people recognise that in Carey there is an exceptional new talent and a new star. I think Kate Winslet is the obvious comparison.

Technically, she is amazing and in some ways she is physically freakish the way she played a 16-year-old so convincingly.

So I think she would probably want to think of herself as a Kate Winslet. She has real taste in material, but of course I would say that!

I don't think she will go off and do lots of big, dumb Hollywood movies. I think she's better than that.

Nick Hornby was talking to BBC entertainment reporter Sophie van Brugen.

An Education is on general release from 30 October.



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