In less than three weeks, moviegoers will finally be able to figure out if Harvey Weinstein got his money's worth and if filmmaker Shane Salerno was right in pumping $2 million of his own cash into a J.D. Salinger documentary, appropriately enough titled Salinger. And that suspense (along with fond memories of Catcher in the Rye) is pretty much all we have to go on.
"Code names. Hidden identities. Surveillance cameras," reads a list of precautions Shane Salerno took in making Salinger, thus making the production sound like a thriller all of its own. "It was run like a CIA operation. Everything was compartmentalized, top secret and on a need-to-know basis. It was really intense," said co-producer Jeffrey Doe, in a thoroughly reported story published this morning by Hillel Italie of The Associated Press.
Fascination with the secrecy behind Salinger — which will be in theaters on September 6 — has been building for some time, with The New York Times reporting on "air of mystery" surrounding the film back in May. And a trailer released in June only stoked more curiosity about the project.
Salinger, who lived in New Hampshire and hated the media, would have surely enjoyed Salerno's own aversion to publicity. In fact, as Salerno told USA Today for a big feature published today, he had trouble getting access to those who knew ol' Jerome David:
It typically happened the moment he said the word "Salinger" to friends of the notoriously press-shy author.
"They loved him and wanted to protect him," Salerno says. "Usually, they slammed before I got to my last name. But over time, I was able to say my whole name before they said no."
All this secrecy was more than just a savvy media strategy, according to the AP: "The Salinger crew worried that early publicity would make some interview subjects reluctant to talk. They also cited the example of the Michael Moore documentary Sicko, which leaked online in advance of its release." Of course, we're hoping that all this covert behavior was ultimately worth whatever revelations Salerno and his team actually unearthed about an author who is both beloved and unknown.