Tony-winning theater director Michael Grandage arrived in Berlin today for the world premiere of his first feature effort, Genius. In tow were screenwriter John Logan and stars Colin Firth, Jude Law, Laura Linney and Guy Pearce. Based on A Scott Berg’s book, Max Perkins: Editor Of A Genius, it tells the story of a life-changing friendship that developed between literary lion Thomas Wolfe and respected literary editor Perkins who also first published Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Firth plays Perkins, and at this afternoon’s press conference here, said it was a challenge “taking a character like that and pitting him against someone whose every move is so completely contrary,” speaking of Jude Law’s Wolfe.
But the buttoned-up Perkins, “is not the first time I’ve played rather a strange man in a suit,” Firth added. The star of The King’s Speech, A Single Man and Kingsman: The Secret Service later noted, “The suit is the costume. I put it on. If someone wants me to wear a mankini in a film, I’m available… I’m ready to burst out of a cake,” he said to a delighted press corps.
More seriously, he continued, “You’d be surprised how much variation I can find within the confines of a suit… I find repression really interesting because I think there’s an awful lot going on inside there. Mystery is fascinating in all art forms.”
Perkins had a challenging time with the prolific Wolfe, whom he had to wrangle to edit such works as Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time And The River. Although Wolfe ultimately left Perkins and Scribner’s for Harper & Brothers, Perkins served as his literary executor after the writer’s early death in 1938.
For Law, one of the big difficulties in Genius was “celebrating and bringing to life the speed of thought with which these two men converse. It’s the heart of making their intellectual abilities clear. Michael wanted a staccato, rat-a-tat-tat. We were endlessly rehearsing to try and get the speed of their responses.”
Nicole Kidman and Dominic West also star in the pic which Lionsgate acquired in a nearly $4M deal early on at Cannes last May. It’s currently dated July 29 domestically. Grandage recently directed Kidman in Photograph 51 in her West End return last fall.
Genius also marks the third collaboration between Grandage, his producing partner James Bierman and screenwriter Logan following the hugely successful stage productions of Red, inspired by artist Mark Rothko, and Peter And Alice starring Judi Dench.
Logan said he first read Berg’s “compelling” book 30 years ago and found it embodies “what it is to be a writer and an artist.” The project “reached critical mass” when he did the two plays with Grandage. The director previously told Deadline that when he read Logan’s script for Genius, he’d “never read anything that had spoken so clearly to me about what I do.” The red carpet premiere is tonight here in Berlin.