Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004565, Sun, 14 Nov 1999 11:13:14 -0800

"Ada" to be made into a film (fwd)
From: Yinshih@aol.com

There has been talk through the years of turning ADA into a
However, richly textured novels like IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME, PETERSBURG,
ULYSSES, and ADA are enough to drive a screenwriter into a madhouse. Last
month I took a scriptwriting seminar with a Hollywood story editor who agreed
with this premise. Now it looks like Arthur Penn is teaming up with
screenwriter Michael Alexander to make a movie out of ADA.

Here's today's TIMES story about it.

November 14 1999 NEWS REVIEW

The key to the Nabokov cabinet

A few films cry out to be made. Others should never have been essayed and
ought to be put out of their misery. A plangent instance of the second is The
Blair Witch Project, said to be the most frightening film ever screened; in
truth about as scary as a home movie shot during a bad week in wet woods. A
ripe example of the first kind is the projected movie from Vladimir Nabokov's
novel Ada. It will combine three remarkable talents.
First there's Nabokov, the Russian aristocrat who went to Cambridge, lived
between the wars in Berlin, where his early novels were published, then moved
to Paris, where he met James Joyce, and finally emigrated to America where he
held the chair of Russian literature at Cornell University. The succès du
scandale of his novel Lolita allowed him to devote himself entirely to
writing and consolidate his reputation as one of the most glittering
intellects of the century. He's always seemed to me one of the three great
writers of English born speaking another tongue; the others are Conrad and
Koestler. So what sort of film will they make of Ada?

A number of top international scriptwriters were commissioned to do a film
script for Ada (rhyme it with ardour); all failed until the Colditz veteran,
writer, explorer, connoisseur, and high player Michael Alexander took tea
with Nabokov in Montreux shortly before his death. "I'd read it carefully,"
Michael told me last week, "and realised there was a film there waiting to
get out. Then I saw the way to do it. I found the key to the cabinet." His
solution appealed to Nabokov, who gave him the screen rights. And what
precisely is the book's fascination? "It's a sort of enchantment," Michael
says. "It has a good story line and is quite erotic. I see it as not so much
an art movie as a good seller." Fine; but who is to turn this shimmering
story into a film?

It's the veteran director Arthur Penn, the man who made The Miracle Maker and
Bonnie and Clyde. They hope to start shooting next summer, perhaps in Italy,
perhaps in North Carolina, where Nabokov thought it should be made. "When I
left Nabokov," says Michael, "my last words to him were per Ada ad astra."
The old word juggler enjoyed that, and I suspect we shall enjoy the upshot of
his Swiss tea party, too.

Copyright 1999 Times Newspapers Ltd. This service is provided on Times
Newspapers' standard terms and conditions. To inquire about a licence to
reproduce material from The Sunday Times, visit the Syndication website.