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Welcome to Suck City

Boston author Nick Flynn talks about the new movie based on his memoir — and how his Dad felt about being played by Robert De Niro
By THOMAS PAGE MCBEE  |  March 7, 2012

Plenty of books are turned into movies, but Scituate-born PEN-award winning poet, memoirist, and playwright Nick Flynn has had the slightly less usual experience, based on his book Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, of seeing his own life and that of his father — an alcoholic and petty criminal who disappeared from the family's life until Flynn encountered him again while working at a Boston homeless shelter —translated to the screen. In fact, at this point, he's writing yet another memoir about the process of making the film. Flynn spoke to me by phone from New York City about fathers and sons, seeing De Niro play his dad, and Boston's dark sense of humor.

WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT SEEING YOUR PARENTS RE-CREATED ON SCREEN, PARTICULARLY BY FAMOUS CELEBRITIES? I don't even think of De Niro as a movie star, I just think of him as our best actor. After he met my father — my father sort of rambled on for like two hours and didn't really give a fuck that Robert De Niro was about to play him, 'cause he just wanted to talk about himself. So yeah, he was actually a little disappointed because he's been casting the movie of his life for years. He had Dustin Hoffman cast to play him, so he was a little pissed. But he cast it back in the '70s. So, he was a little disappointed that we showed up with De Niro; it's a little like "Oh, well, I guess he'll do, but he wasn't my first choice." [My father] was the opposite of star struck; he was assuming Robert De Niro was star struck to see him. So he sort of just held forth. He gave De Niro like an "Okay, I'll let you. . . ." and he just told stories about himself. And then De Niro wanted to be able to ramble on like that, to have these long monologues that seemed to keep my father afloat.

HAS YOUR FATHER SEEN THE MOVIE? I showed him the preview of the movie about 20 times in a row, and he was very taken. The first thing he was taken by was when Paul Dano gets punched in the eye. He really liked that a lot. And then he was sort of taken by when De Niro is in bed and saying, "You are mine, I made you." Then he started imitating De Niro saying it, and saying what a great voice, and then he started saying it — he was sort of imitating De Niro imitating himself.

THAT SOUNDS REALLY META. Yeah, it was very strange. So then we ended up watching it [the trailer] like 20 times, and he kept stopping it, "Listen to his voice! That's great."

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Related: Review: Being Flynn, Review: Being Flynn, ULTRA takes in the Pauly D Project, More more >
  Topics: Features , Robert De Niro, memoir, homeless,  More more >
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  •   REVIEW: BEING FLYNN  |  March 28, 2012
    If you're a fan of Nick Flynn's stunning 2004 memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, you're probably concerned about whether Being Flynn director Paul Weitz will do justice to Flynn's exploration of grief, homelessness, and father-son relationships on the streets of '80s-era Boston.
  •   WELCOME TO SUCK CITY  |  March 07, 2012
    Plenty of books are turned into movies, but Scituate-born PEN-award winning poet, memoirist, and playwright Nick Flynn has had the slightly less usual experience.

 See all articles by: THOMAS PAGE MCBEE

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