The immensely popular 2002 novel The Nanny Diaries had two writers, so it's only fitting that the movie version has two directors. Husband and wife team, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who were Oscar-nominated for writing 2003's American Splendor, have adapted the book, which tells the story of a young woman, played by Scarlett Johansson, who puts off some major life decisions by deciding to take short-term work as a nanny in the rare air of Manhattan's Upper East Side, where housewives carry business cards, children are treated as well-groomed fashion accessories and the husbands are rarely seen. I recently had a chance to speak with Berman and Pulcini about the special challenges of bringing this book to life as a movie -- anyone who's read it knows that it's a very interior, non-cinematic tome that even goes so far as to withhold the names of key characters from the reader. (Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti are credited as Mrs. X and Mr. X in the film) Here's the interview.
RS: Is this a world that you have first-hand experience with, or just a good story that came your way?
SSB: Well, we live in New York City. We live on the West side, we live across Central Park from the Upper East Side, which is really close, but like, you need a passport to get there. It's a whole other universe away. So, in a weird way, we were familiar with the world, because we would walk around and see women dressed in Burberry jackets with little dogs in matching Burberry jackets. We would see the world, but we were outside observers. It wasn't a world that we were intimately included in.
RS: So when you sat down to adapt this popular book, how much freedom did you give yourself to take it in new places, to make it your own?
RP: Luckily, we had a lot of freedom, because there had been other writers on the project before us, and the studio had come to the decision that it wasn't the easiest book to adapt. Even though it was immensely popular, it was very interior. It was very much a catalog of great details and observations, you know. So how do you open that up, cinematically? So I think they kind of welcomed our approach, and I know the writers have seen the movie and they're very happy with what we've done with it.