Rebel in the Rye, a recent biopic about reclusive Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger, premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival to unpleasing critical reception. Even so, the film was picked up late at the festival by IFC Films and is being released in U.S. theaters on September 8. The film that audiences will see, however, is much different than what was shown at the film’s festival debut. According to a recent interview with Indiewire, director Danny Strong has re-cut the film for theaters.
I always thought I’d keep working on the film after Sundance. I had rushed the film to get into the festival, and to me, there was going to be more work done.
Strong has been around the block in Hollywood, to say the least. Known primarily as an actor in such television shows as Gilmore Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mad Men, and Billions, Strong has also acted as writer on HBO’s Game Change (which won him two Emmys), Lee Daniel’s The Butler, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part and Part II, and as writer and co-creator for Fox’s Empire. With all this experience, including directing a few episodes of Empire, Rebel in the Rye is Strong’s first feature film as a writer-director.
Being drawn to Catcher in the Rye and its protagonist Holden Caulfield, like any young man growing up in America, Strong felt personally connected to the material and wanted to get it right. The film is based on Kenneth Slawenski’s 2011 biography J.D. Salinger: A Life, and follows the author primarily in his younger years. Nicholas Hoult stars as the young writer as he traverses formative experiences in WWII and struggles with the fame that came after the release of Catcher, infamously removing himself from the public eye to live a quiet life in Cornish, New Hampshire. Kevin Spacey, Sarah Paulson, and Zoey Deutch all appear as influential members of Salinger’s life.
Strong believes that the key to this story and Salinger’s life was understanding his disregard for public spotlight. According to Strong, “I felt that, if the audience didn’t leave the movie understanding why he moved to Cornish, New Hampshire and why he stopped publishing, that they would be shortchanging the story.” Therefore, after its relatively negative reception at Sundance, Strong was determined to make it the film that he envisioned. As for his new cut, “It’s deeper, it’s more layered,” Strong says. “I felt that the war story wasn’t clear enough, so it’s now it’s crystal clear. It just got into his head more, a deeper level. And it’s less linear, too. It just gels the film in a way that I thought I was close [to] at Sundance, but I wasn’t quite there. Now it is.”
Several more recent reviews of the film are praising its new cut, an effort that IFC fully supported, and seems to be resonating well with critical audiences. Check out the film in theaters on September 8 and see the trailer below.