NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to Margaret Qualley about her new role in My Salinger Year, based on the memoirs of Joanna Rakoff.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Joanna Rakoff is a young aspiring writer who falls in love with New York and has a coveted job at the literary agency of …
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, “MY SELLER YEAR”)
MARGARET QUALLEY: (As Joanna) Jerry Salinger.
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: (as Margaret) Jerry Salinger, of course. And most importantly, you never call him.
QUALLEY: (as Joanna, laughter) Why not call Jerry Salinger?
WEAVER: (as Margaret) Jerry doesn’t want to hear how much you love “The Catcher In The Rye” and he doesn’t want to read your stories.
QUALLEY: (as Joanna) I don’t have any stories.
WEAVER: (as Margaret) Good. Writers are the worst assistants. Get to work
GARCIA-NAVARRO: But Joanna’s boss Margaret, who is played there by Sigourney Weaver, has other plans for her. The new film “My Salinger Year” is based on the memories of the acclaimed poet and writer Joanna Rakoff, who plays Margaret Qualley in this film adaptation. And she’s joining me now. Welcome.
QUALLEY: I was really excited right now because I listen to NPR every morning and I grew up with NPR.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That’s so nice. Have you ever read “Catcher In The Rye”? Are you a fan of JD Salinger?
QUALLEY: Yes, I love Salinger. I love “Catcher In The Rye”. I love “Franny And Zooey” and “Nine Stories” and – yes.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me about your character in the film. I mean, she’s very tied to the kind of fan mail for Salinger who doesn’t want to receive any of it. And she begins to read these letters and becomes even more involved in them. Tell me about your relationship with the author.
QUALLEY: Sure. Yes. You know Joanna works in a publishing company, which is great because it’s a job, and she lives in New York that she loves. And there are so many aspects of their life that seem like they are on the right track. But it is not fulfilled because it does not do what it wants to do. She wants to be a writer. I think she really takes inspiration from fan mail because it’s the only creative medium in her work, even though she breaks the rules by responding to these fans. But she connects with them. And she is ready to cross a line to do what she thinks is right.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You played both Ann Reinking and now this character. What is it like to play a real person who has to be accessed somehow?
QUALLEY: Well, it was different with Ann Reinking. Gosh, how – and rest in peace. She died a few months ago and it was such a surreal, crazy feeling. I had the great pleasure of getting to know her pretty well while filming “Fosse / Verdon”. And she was so generous and kind to me. I love her. With that experience, I was really trying to do justice to someone I grew up to be because I was a dancer. And there’s an interview with Ann and Bob’s daughter Nicole. And I listened to this interview over and over and tried to understand how to make her voice a little bit. And yes, it was just one – it was a big deal. And then that – it was nice because I felt like I had a lot more freedom because the intent was never to be exactly like Joanna.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you could reinvent them in a way. You could make it your own.
QUALLEY: Yes, absolutely. Yes.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: In the end we see your character leave this very comfortable job where they have this future to become a poet, become a published writer, really move into their own space and find their own voice . I mean, do you think this is a story that speaks to young people today who are really looking carefully, you know where they fit in, especially at a time like this pandemic?
QUALLEY: Absolutely. You know, everything I speak to about what’s going on about the pandemic right now comes from a place of immense privilege. I am very aware of that you know But I know that people are being forced to really think seriously about their lives. And I think that there is something beautiful. You know, I think people have had the opportunity to hang out with their families and maybe give people a chance to look at their lives and do things that they want to do. But I also realize that this causes very, very high costs.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Margaret Qualley plays Joanna Rakoff in the new film “My Salinger Year”. Many Thanks.
QUALLEY: Thank you. It was very cool talking to you.
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