Feature by: Jack Foley
THE character of Igby Slocumb is one of the most memorable of
the year, in cinema terms, so it's hard to believe that he almost
never made it to the Big Screen.
Writer/director, Burr Steers, originally envisaged Igby as a
character in a book, before realising that his life would be better
communicated visually, as the characters and situations began
to take shape.
He then spent two years working it into script form.
In creating Igby's story - that of a 17-year-old at war with
the stifling world of 'old money' privilege into which he was
born - Steers blended his own experiences growing up among the
wealthy elite with themes from the novels and films that made
an impact on his life.
"Igby Goes Down is influenced by the books I grew up reading,"
"Like A Confederacy of Dunces, and The Catcher in the Rye,
and films from the early '70s, such as Five Easy Pieces and Mike
Nichols and Hal Ashby's earlier movies.
"Visceral films about being young and having all these huge
things inside you and no way to express them, and how that turns
to destruction, if not violence."
The other influence he confesses to having was his brother's
"Salinger wrote The Catcher in the Rye after he'd come back
from the war and he'd been surrounded by death.
"I've gone through that, with my brother dying of AIDs.
Maybe going back to a teenage self was something I did naturally
"It was the first script I wrote that felt like I found
my voice. I wasn't faking it."
It is clear that Igby was a very personal script for the talented
writer/director, but he is keen to maintain that the story is
not his own, and that Igby and he are clearly different people.
"It's not autobiographical," he states. "There
are parts of me in it and Igby has my voice, but it's only a facet
of me. I'm from Igby's world.
"That's why it rings true. But it's a fictional story, heightened
in the way you need fiction to be heightened.
"Igby Goes Down is a movie about things seeming very attractive,
pretty and affluent on the surface...
"Then, underneath the surface, you have turmoil. It's about
being young and trying to find yourself, and feeling like an anomaly
in the cloistered, suffocating world you've been brought into.
"It's about rebelling against people who are trying to force
you to conform."
Little wonder, then, that Kieran Culkin considers the role to
be so great. He identified with Igby immediately and was thrilled
when given the opportunity to portray him.
"Igby has such a great voice," he observes. "I
also feel like he's like me in some ways.
"I never went through a lot of his life experiences, but
often the way he speaks, or the smartass remarks he makes, are
on a par with the things I'm thinking."
Burr concurs, stating that the search for the perfect Igby took
seven months, before Culkin fit the bill perfectly.
"We couldn't find anybody with the vulnerability and fragility
of Igby, who also had that acerbic, wry sense of humour and timing.
"Kieran gets it. He gets the intelligence of the dialogue
without playing the joke."
We suggest that audiences rush along to find out what he means...