it’s great. So I integrate those changes, and I send it to my father, who is
now eighty-nine and retired long ago. He has read every draft of everything I’ve written. He is more of a copy editor, but he knows his history,
and he’s very good with language. He comes at it from a different angle.
AYCOCK: Have you ever abandoned a book entirely?
PHILBRICK: With each book, I write a detailed treatment for my editor.
It’s as much for my benefit as for hers, to prove that there’s a book here.
I’ve done that and realized that my editor doesn’t like the idea or that I
shouldn’t finish it because it’s just not right. It’s an important step because my books take three or four years to write. And with every book,
there’s a point where I go, “What the hell am I doing? What did I get
myself into? I don’t see where this is going to go.” But you work through
it, and it’s good to have a little of that feeling that you’re on the edge of a
precipice. It gives the work an immediacy.
AYCOCK: I have to ask about the movie version of In the Heart of the
Sea. I’ve heard writers say that they had very little involvement in the
movies of their books. What was your experience?
PHILBRICK: I also had little involvement. The screenplay was written
shortly after my book came out, and initially, I thought, “This isn’t anything like the book.” But nothing happened, and thirteen years passed
before Chris Hemsworth attached himself to it. And then Ron Howard, who was an absolute delight to work with, became involved. He
hadn’t read my book, and when he did, he said, “This screenplay is different,” but it was a big-budget movie, and it had to have certain formulaic things. He brought in another writer who changed it in some good
ways. But ultimately, it is its own thing. When I write a book, I can go
down paths to explore this and that. When you do a movie, you have to
commit to what happened. It’s reductionist to a certain extent.
It was fun to go to the set in England where they had created a Nantucket waterfront. And I’m in the movie. They want to involve you, so
you feel emotionally invested, even if the film is not exactly the way you
would want it. I have to give credit to Ron Howard. He was very skillful
at that. But ultimately, they’re doing their own thing, and I respect that.
When the movie was finished, seeing it in a screening room in New York
with my son was terrific. The on-the-water stuff was so powerful.