We spoke with “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” author Ben Fountain at the New York Film Festival world premiere of the film at AMC Lincoln Square.
So, is this your first novel?
First published novel. Yeah.
What is it like walking on a red carpet, from your first published novel, with Ange Lee and Academy Award winning director.
Well, you know, I’m old enough and I’ve taken enough hits that I can really enjoy it without getting carried away, I think.
You’re not carried away?
I’m very happy. I’m very excited. I’ve got my family here with me. But on Monday morning, I’ll sit down at my kitchen table and go back to work. That’s what really makes me happy.
What initially inspired the book and the story?
Seeing a half time show on TV like it’s depicted in the book. American soldiers who have been in combat and then they’ve been dropped down into this very artificial situation of a halftime show. Just, I thought, what would it do to your head to be 19 years old and to get whip-sawed like that, psychologically. That was the genesis of the book.
Were you thinking cinematically at all, when you were writing it.
It’s interesting. I wasn’t thinking about any book in particular when I was writing the book. I was thinking a lot about Robert Altman, and those great ensemble movies he made, like Nashville. I was just thinking, those movies where all these people have their own agendas And there is a lot of interaction, but it is people interacting past each other because they can’t see past their own agenda. Robert Altman was really kind of the presiding Spirit over the writing of this book.
Did you see it as a movie in that way, then?
Oh God, I never thought it would come close to being made into a movie. It was just something useful to think with when I was writing the book.
Can you speak about watching Joe bring your character to life, because he is a newcomer.
I spent a very nice day on the set and I got to spend some time with Joe, and I thought he was perfect. I mean, he’s got this wonderful presence, this quiet, thoughtful presence. There is a real soulfulness about him that feels genuine. Also, he is not a pretty boy. I mean, he is good-looking but he is not like so many of the American actors who all look alike. I thought, “No, this is the right guy.”
The film stars Joe Alwyn, Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel, and Steve Martin. It will be released on Nov. 11.