'Silver Linings Playbook' Author on His Next Movie and the Mental Illness-Gun Control Debate
On linking mental illness with mass shootings, Matthew Quick tells THR, "It demonizes the entire mental health community, most of whom have never touched a gun in their lives."
While the cast and crew behind the big screen adaptation of Silver Linings Playbook have been touring the country, stumping for Oscar votes, Matthew Quick, the author of the novel on which their film is based, has been quite busy himself. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Quick at last Sunday's Writers Guild Awards in New York City.
A former New Jersey high school teacher, Quick left his comfortable job to pursue the dream of writing. His battles with depression, as well as years spent working with autistic children and in a lockdown facility for the mentally ill, helped him conceive of Silver Linings' protagonist Pat -- a role brought to screen by Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper. Quick has toured the country with the book and film, and is busy writing several new novels -- one of which has already been optioned for a movie adaptation.
The Hollywood Reporter: We’re now in a debate about gun control, and suddenly mental health has become a central plank as many blame mass shootings on the fact that the alleged shooters had mental issues. Do you think mental health is being used to obscure the gun issue?
Matthew Quick: I think gun control and mental health issues are two separate issues, but they’re related. My next book is called Forgive Me Leonard Peacock; it’s about a kid who takes a gun to school. So I’ve written about this. It’ll be out in August, and I’ll be talking about this extensively then. I think that unfortunately we wait until there’s tragedy to talk about this stuff. The kicker is there’s tragedy because we don’t talk about this stuff. We don’t have a system in place to recognize this and it make it easy for people to get help. I’ve flown all over the country and people would come up to me and say "I work in a situation where I can’t talk about this. At work I’m in a straitjacket. There’s no avenues to talk about it openly." That creates a problem. The tragedy happened because we’re not doing things to help people before they get to that tipping point.
THR: Do you think it’s become a scapegoat for people who don’t want to talk about gun control?
Quick: Yeah, the issue is very political, it definitely is, and I think that we’re missing a really great opportunity to just focus on one thing. I always say, whenever there’s a teen shooting, the question is always "what's going wrong with schools?" And it's a logical question to ask, but why aren’t we asked what’s going right in school all the days when people aren’t getting shot? That’s the majority of the days, so why don’t we turn that around and ask what are teachers doing right? Why don’t we maximize that and take a proactive, processed look at this. That’s the thing that’s sad. You throw mental health in the mix with gun control, we demonize the entire mental health community, most of whom have never touched a gun in their life.
THR: So is Forgive Me Larry Peacock going to be optioned?
Quick: A book called The Good Luck of Right Now has been optioned and it’ll be out next year. We do have interest in L.A. in Forgive Me Larry Peacock.
THR: Are you going to get to write the screenplay for The Good Luck of Right Now adaptation?
Quick: It’s really up in the air. I’m under contract right now to write another novel, so it’s really a question of how much time do I have, but at some point I’m definitely going to write a screenplay. Whether it’s original or not, that’s the issue, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I haven’t had a second think in the last four months but it’s a good problem to have.
THR: Last week, Bradley Cooper and David O. Russell met with the vice president, and presented a bill on mental health in the senate. Have you been surprised at how much Silver Linings Playbook has connected with people in that way?
Quick: I haven’t been surprised, I’ve definitely been pleased. I have experience working in the mental health community, and David has experience with his son. There are other people that have been involved in the film that do not talk about this publicly, but almost everyone has some reason they were drawn to this project, because they care very deeply about the subject matter. And I think that degree of authenticity, and the willingness to talk about it, is gold. People in the mental health community are very willing, they want to promote a discussion about that. It’s what I wanted to do with my book; it’s what I do with all my work.
THR: Did you see Side Effects?
Quick: I have not, no.
THR: It was a lot about mental health and pharmaceuticals. They talk a lot about the downsides of medication. Do you think Hollywood in general treats mental health fairly or unfairly?
Quick: You know, I think that it’s a hard question to answer, because every movie is made has a different director and writer. I feel like there’s a lot of great films out there. I think that Perks of Being a Wallflower was a great movie that focused on teen issues in a really positive way, and gives kids an avenue to discuss these things. I love the book, I’m a huge fan of Stephen Chbosky. That’s an example of a really good film that’s out there. I think Silver Linings has had a really positive effect on the discussion. I’d rather concentrate on the good things that are going on.