Donna Deitch Wins Highest Honor from Outfest


AE: Last
year when you spoke with us, you mentioned that a sequel to Desert Hearts is in the works. What can
you tell us about it?
I’m still working on the screenplay. That
would put me into pre-pre-production. I’ve just recently turned my mind to that
in a rather committed way as opposed to it being on the back burner. I hope to
have the screenplay done by the fall. That’s what I’m determined to do now.

And I’m going to be
directing a film of my partner’s book called Strange Piece of Paradise — Terri Jentz’s book, she’s writing the
screenplay for that right now. It’s a true crime memoir. I think she’ll have
that done by the end of the summer.

Author Terri Jentz

AE: Since it’s a true
story, will the film be a documentary or a feature?
DD: It’s
a feature. She was riding her bicycle across country with her roommate from
college, and they were attacked by an axe murderer in 1977. And she went back
years later to solve the crime. The crime was never solved.

The solving of the
crime and the event itself drive the narrative. It’s a lot about violence
against women. It’s also a story of a small town and how they kept the truth of
his attack to themselves.

AE: With
two of you in the family working on projects at the same time, how is that
going to be with balancing which one to do first, etc.?
The one to do first will be the one that’s
done first, and the one that gets the financing first.

I also have another
screenplay that I’ve written that I’m trying to get the financing for. It’s a
World War II story about the most infamous "catcher" in Berlin.
Catchers were Jews who hid underground but were caught and told, "If you
catch Jews and turn them over to us, we will keep you off the trains." At the
beginning of the war there were 15,000 Jews in Berlin, and at the end of the
war there were 1,500, and that’s due partly to these catchers.

It’s pretty
controversial because the character is a coward and made a choice that is worth
examining. It takes a look at how people are broken down, and with the Nazis in
how they broke the Jews in preparation for their Final Solution. And this
particular woman was an incredibly beautiful blonde and talented singer. This
was neither a hero nor a typical villain. She was more of an average person.

AE: Because
we’re, I have to ask: Is there any queer content in it?
Yes, there is. I took all these characters
mentioned in the book … and constructed a coterie of characters around Stella.
These were people who intersected with her in childhood, through enforced labor
and underground. This provides part of the page-turner aspect of this
screenplay, because you never know if she’s going to catch this person with
whom she had a friendship with, whether she was going to turn them in or not.
And one of them becomes a lesbian with another young woman who already is a
lesbian. They meet and go underground together.

AE: Is
there a working title?
It’s called Blonde Ghost — she was known as the Blonde Ghost.

It’s a thriller and it’s a love story. I’m
obsessed with telling the story, but I just need to get the financing.
I’ll get it — I
know I’ll get it.

AE: Do you
still have connections with Oprah Winfrey? Maybe she could help.
That’s very interesting that you thought of
that, because Oprah tried to option this book herself. When I read the book, I
wanted to get it. So I just called the author Peter Wyden and introduced
myself, and one of the first things he said to me was that Oprah Winfrey is
interested in optioning this book. And I said, "Well, Oprah gave me my
first job as a director, and she’s such a fantastic person, and remains to this
day the best boss I ever had, but Oprah owns a lot of books. And if you option
this book to me, this would be the only book that I have."

He and I would talk every couple of weeks as
I was in the process of talking him into going with me instead of Oprah. And
one day he called me and said, "I’m going to option the book with you … I
was talking to someone at Oprah’s company about you and they said some awfully
nice things about you, so that made up my mind."

Oprah Winfrey and Jackée in The Women of Brewster Place

AE: Have
you had any discussion with her about this?
No, I haven’t, but I’m going to take my
screenplay to her. She’s at this place now where she’s branched out, having
made The Great Debaters with Denzel
Washington. She was pretty much strictly into producing television films before
and this is not a television film.


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