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‘A Wrinkle In Time’ screenwriter, Jennifer Lee, talks storytelling and more in this exclusive interview

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez

There is so much I love about Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time. From the diversity of the cast, to the message in the story, it was everything I want in my movies. The best part, for me, is the fact that so many brilliant women helped this movie come to be. From director Ava DuVernay, to screenwriter Jennifer Lee, this film proves that women can do anything.

I had a chance to talk with A Wrinkle In Time writer (and writer of Frozen), Jennifer Lee. Check out her insights on storytelling and working on the film.

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/

What does it take to adapt a detailed book like A Wrinkle In Time into a film?

Jennifer Lee: It took four years. It was a challenge. My daughter was actually reading the book, so I was reading it again and I had a whole take on it. I wanted to try it. What I loved is, Disney really responded to acknowledging that. I wasn’t trying to do the book, adapting it for the film.  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. If I could stay true to that, then we might have a chance of finally getting it made. ‘Cause it’s been years of trying. Then of course, when Ava joined, that was the final magic piece of the puzzle.

Talk about your process for writing the screenplay.

Jennifer Lee: I tend to write in the mornings and then I can edit and give notes, some things in the afternoons. Then I would go into animation in the afternoons and do that part of my job. For me it was more of like an every morning thing. I spent about a year and a half to almost two years, just writing. I worked very closely with Jim Whittaker and Catherine Hand, the producers, creatively. And then with the studio, getting notes. What I loved is the notes were always about deepening. There was never anything sort of about the size or scope.

How do you as the writer fit into the film’s journey?

Jennifer Lee: First it was a lot of conversations with director Ava DuVernay. And we talked deeper and deeper of the characters. Ava wanted to get her head around the physics, I love physics. We would do all that. And then of course as the cast and the crew come. A fun thing for Ava and I was the, the bully, Veronica is actually a matchup of her biggest bully and my biggest bully. What I appreciate though, is that journey was also like understanding that the bully has wounds as well. So all of those little things we did together. And then we brought the cast in and they brought a lot to it. Connecting from the ground up, with something – particular important is something so fantastical

How is writing for the screen different than writing for the stage? 

Jennifer Lee: A Wrinkle In Time is a perfect thing in the middle, ’cause I was writing the book for Frozen on Broadway, but we weren’t fully on stage yet. The difference between animation is directors have complete control. You want to go from a helicopter shot to a close-up. You want to splice one take together versus another. And then animate it differently. It’s decadent. And then you go to live action and everything’s reinterpreted every day, when those actors get on set. And what she shoots is what’s there. And then that affects where you go.

But then you get to Broadway and everyone, the actors own it and they’re live. And that’s it, you surrender. So it was a great way to sorta ease me into that. The amazing thing is, storytelling is storytelling. And everything comes from the character, from the emotion. It doesn’t matter how fantastical the world or whether it’s just a tiny set. It all comes back to the intimacy of those characters.

 

About A Wrinkle In Time

From the studio:From visionary director Ava DuVernay comes Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic that takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light, good versus evil 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.

A Wrinkle In Time opens on March 9, 2018 and stars Storm Reid as Meg Murry, Levi Miller as Calvin, Deric McCabe as Charles Wallace, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Mrs. Murry, Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who, Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit, and Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which. The film is directed by Ava DuVernay. The screenplay is by Jennifer Lee.

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