Exclusive Interview With Kaui Hart Hemmings On The Descendants

The Descendants is Alexander Payne’s first film since the 2004 Oscar winning Sideways. In the film, Payne wonderfully mixes tragic drama with great humor and creates another incredible script, which just won Best Adapted Screenplay at this year’s Oscars.

The Descendants marks another first for someone else too. For Kaui Hart Hemmings, it was the first novel she had ever written. Though it wasn’t a big hit when it was originally released in 2007, the novel has seen an increase in popularity due to it being turned into a film that has an Academy Award under its belt.

Recently, we spoke with Hemmings about the novel and the process of how it got adapted into a movie. Check out the interview below.

We Got This Covered: What was your inspiration to be an author?

Kaui Hart Hemmings: I guess reading, I guess I loved books, and I wanted to write one, too. After college, I moved to Breckenridge, Colorado, and went snowboarding everyday. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew what I didn’t want to do. So I applied to grad school for writing, and I just gave it a shot and took it from there. But I guess my inspiriation, when it comes down to it, is just my love of books.

WGTC: Was this novel inspired by something that happened in your life or something that happened in a friend’s life?

Kaui Hart Hemmings: No. It was a complete work of fiction. It’s not based on a real experience.

WGTC: When Alexander Payne approached you about adapting the novel into a film, was he the one you thought could do it perfectly?

Kaui Hart Hemmings: I don’t know if I thought about who could do it perfectly, but he was my favorite director and is my favorite director out there today. It was sent out to a list of studios and directors, and I was crossing my fingers – hoping that he would pick it out. I was very excited that he was going to write the script and direct it. It was the best scenario.

WGTC: With books being turned into films, there are usually some creative differences when a director goes to adapt the novel. Some scenes are altered or not included at all. How close did Alexander follow your book?

Kaui Hart Hemmings: The plot is exactly the same. The characters are the same. The dialogue is pulled out of the book. I couldn’t have thought of a closer adaptation. It seems extremely faithful, but it’s not something I necessarily needed him to do. That was just the route he took.

WGTC: I notice that when a book gets turned into a movie, the sales of that book tend to spike. Since this was a limited release, did the book sales increase due to the fact it was being turned into a movie?

Kaui Hart Hemmings: Yeah, I mean, especially now after the Oscar win for adapted screenplay, there’s definitely been a spike. I think, this week, it’s number nine on the New York Times bestseller list. It’s never been that; it’s never done that before. I’d say in the past year, it’s sold more copies than it did from 2007, when it was first published, up until this year. I’m very grateful the book is finally getting read. It’s been well reviewed, but not well read.

WGTC: Did you get the chance to visit the set of The Descendants?

Kaui Hart Hemmings: Yeah, I went when I wanted to. I got to put my friends and family in it, and I was in the movie too. That was fun. I played George’s secretary. I only had one line.

WGTC: When you visited the set, for the first time, did you think to yourself that George (Clooney) was the perfect fit for the main character of the story?

Kaui Hart Hemmings: Yeah, the first time that I visited the set was actually a scene that I was in, and I put some friends in, too. I showed up and it went from me being in my room writing this novel to trucks and truckloads and caterers and people running around and construction. It was crazy and then I see George and he’s in his costume, which were khaki pants and his aloha shirt. It just felt like seeing someone who was my next-door neighbor. He was perfect. Then, I got to see him do his scene, which was a pretty heavy scene, in front of a room full of people. I guess I’ve always liked him, but I didn’t realize what a great actor he is. I got to see him go from just joking around with everyone and being warm and friendly and then turning on a dime and giving a really heartfelt and very moving performance.

WGTC: Do you have another book that you’re working on right now?

Kaui Hart Hemmings: Yeah, I’m working on another novel.

WGTC: What’s the title and what’s it about?

Kaui Hart Hemmings: I don’t know. All I know is that it’s set in Breckenridge, Colorado.

This concludes our interview, but we would like to thank Kaui Hart Hemmings for taking the time to speak to us. The Descendants will be available to rent or own on DVD/Blu-ray on March 13.