Judy Blume Goes to Hollywood: Tiger Eyes
For bookish women of a certain age, nothing evokes childhood so sharply as the name Judy Blume. Iconic books like Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, Deenie, Blubber and Superfudge are still in print - and being discovered by new generations of readers - today.
And this month, the first film version of a Judy Blume book has hit US cinemas. Tiger Eyes (published in 1981) is directed by Lawrence Blume - Judy’s son - and she co-wrote and co-produced the film.
‘I don’t think I have many books that would make good movies,’ the 75-year-old author told Vanity Fair - though much surprise has been expressed about the fact that this is her first story to be told on the screen. Blume and Lawrence (who she calls Larry) have been talking about this project for years.
‘It’s cinematic. That northern–New Mexico landscape where we lived – we knew it intimately. It’s a big part of the movie.’
Tiger Eyes is the story of seventeen-year-old Davey, who moves with her grieving mother and little brother from New Jersey, after her father was murdered in a robbery. They stay with her aunt and uncle in Los Alamos, home of the atomic bomb; while her mother takes to her bed with prescription pills, Davey befriends a burgeoning alcoholic at her high school, and a Native American boy known as Wolf at a hospital where she volunteers. His father is dying of cancer; they bond over their grief.
‘People didn’t realise it was us doing the casting’
Blume says that making the film was ‘so much fun’. She’s proud of the movie, and full of praise for the cast, especially star Willa Cather (Gossip Girl, The O.C.) as Davey, who is in every scene. Rolling Stone calls Cather ‘exceptional’ and praises the film’s ‘grit and grace’.
‘It’s a movie. It can’t be exactly the same. But you try to stay true to the characters, their emotional lives, and the spirit of the book itself,’ says Blume. ‘People didn’t realize it was us—we were doing the casting; we were making these choices—but “they.” “They better not ruin it.” “They better not have Taylor Lautner playing Wolf.”’
Staying true to the book is one reason that Cather is in every scene: Lawrence wanted the film to have the feel of a first-person book, for everything to be told from Davey’s point of view.
‘Judy Blume … was judging my parenting skills’
Reading the interviews with Blume for the film, it seems many of the journalists grew up reading her books. One wrote in the LA Times about her conflicted feelings about bringing her nine-year-old daughter to the film’s premiere: her daughter was dying to meet Blume, their rare shared idol, yet Blume had cautioned her that nine is too young for the film. She brought her anyway; Blume gritted her teeth and asked Willa Cather for support: ‘Don’t you think she’s too young to see this?’ The journalist cringed in shame; ‘Blume – whom I had admired since “Blubber” entered my consciousness in the early 1980s – was judging my parenting skills.’
Blume says she is often approached by mothers who urge her books on their daughters, wanting to impart their passion. Her advice? Be cool.
‘There comes a time when you say, “Oh, you have to read this book,” or “Oh, I loved this book!” and your kid will look at you and think, “Ew. She’s so uncool. I am not reading what she likes.” So I say, if you can possibly afford to, get one with a new cover, leave it around the house, and say, “Oh, I don’t think you’re ready for that … yet.’