Iain Reid on Seeing Foe Come to Life on Screen

The new film adaptation of Iain Reid’s 2018 novel, Foe—starring two of our favorites, Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal—is in theaters today! To celebrate, we asked Reid about the process of seeing his work come to life on screen, his favorite book-to-film adaptations, and more.


How does it feel to see your characters come to life on screen?
I feel very grateful that we have such strong, talented cast to lead the film. All three are singular and brilliant. I was a big fan of all of their work before they were cast in Foe. They made the story so much better. It was really interesting to be part of the early process before shooting. The actors had lots of questions about the characters and their backstories. They really went deep.

What’s the best part of having your work adapted for film?
I really appreciate and enjoy the amount of collaboration that’s involved in making a film. With a novel, there’s usually some collaboration with your agent and editors, but that’s about it. With a film, there are so many people who bring something unique to the project, and each time it gets better because of it. In the case of Foe, not only was it getting to work with the director, Garth Davis, and the producer, Kerry Roberts, but also the amazing cinematographer, Mátyás Erdély, the sound designer, Robert Mackenzie, the production designer, Patrice Vermette, the editor, Peter Sciaberras, the musicians Ollie Coates, Park Jiha, and Agnes Obel, and many, many more. All exceptional artists that I’m fortunate to work with.

What’s your favorite book to screen adaptation (other than your own)?
There are many. I love Jonathan Glazer’s adaptation of Under the Skin. It’s a movie I often return to and every time I watch I feel something new. I also really admire Sarah Polley’s adaptation of the Miriam Toews novel Women Talking. And I also want to mention Charlie Kaufman’s adaptation of Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief. It’s a bold and original adaptation unlike any other.

What’s the hardest part of having your book adapted for film?
The hardest part is probably the level of uncertainty that exists throughout the entire process of an adaptation. I wish I was better at offering advice, but I don’t feel like I have much, if any, useful or practical advice other than to try and focus on the people you’ll be working with. It’s important for me to work with people that I feel comfortable with. There’s always plenty of ups and downs, so you want to go through that with a group that enjoys each other, trusts each other, and feels balanced and harmonious. You won’t agree on everything, but that’s okay. That’s good. Those discussions will always make the work better.

How was your relationship with the book changed during the process of adaptation?
It hasn’t really changed my relationship with the book at all. If I had still been writing the book (and if it hadn’t been published yet) while we were working on the film adaptation, I’m sure it would have changed my relationship to the book. I would have probably had ideas while working on the screenplay that I would want to incorporate into the novel too. But the book was already finished and out in the world when we started working on the film. So the book and the film, while connected, will always feel like two distinct pieces. But I did enjoy getting the chance to revisit the story and the characters (in a different form) and expand on certain aspects while working on the screenplay.


Foe is available now from Gallery/Scout Press.

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