"The Glass Castle" author Jeannette Walls opens up about fearlessness and turning her memoir into a film with Brie Larson and Naomi Watts
Jeannette Walls didn’t have a traditional childhood. She and her siblings didn’t play sports and have sleepovers with their friends. Instead, they were constantly on the move, living a complex life of poverty with their dysfunctional parents.
Years later, Walls turned her story into a memoir — one that’s been on the New York Times bestsellers list for over seven years. Now, her touching story has been made into a major motion picture. The Glass Castle is, in a word, remarkable. It even made actor Max Greenfield cry.
Earlier this week, Walls discussed the film with Brie Larson and Naomi Watts at a press event in New York City. Larson plays Walls from her late teen years onward, and Watts plays Walls’ mother, Rose Mary. All three spoke passionately about how much the project has touched their lives. Walls and Larson even teared up from time to time.
Telling such a complicated and heartbreaking story is a huge undertaking. But Walls said she wholeheartedly trusted writer and director Destin Cretton from the start. “Do what you will with my story,” she recalled telling the team. “They didn’t gloss over the weird ugly stuff, but they didn’t ignore the joy.”
Walls consulted with the actors and movie makers throughout the process. She was blown away by how believable Larson, Watts, and the rest of the cast — including Woody Harrelson and many talented child actors — were as her and her family members.
There are many powerful metaphors and symbols within The Glass Castle. Walls exists between chaos and stability, turbulence and order. She’s always searching for balance but never quite finds it.
Even if you don’t relate to every detail of her story, you can still see part of your own family reflected in hers. Walls remarked that many readers, and now moviegoers, have opened up to her about their own families. It’s something she enjoys and embraces.
“It’s so beautiful,” Walls said. “For so long, I felt trapped. When one person tells a story, it makes it so other people can.”
Walls published The Glass Castle in 2005. She said she wrote the first draft in only six weeks, but spent the next five years revising and re-writing until it was right. Once Walls realized that she had a story to tell, nothing could stop her.
Larson agreed, saying that her experience working on the film taught her a lot about her own family and her own childhood. “We’re really resilient. We’re all survivors in our own way. We’re stronger than we give ourselves credit for,” she said.
“There’s always beauty in the struggle,” Watts added.