May 28, 2019
Donna Tartt’s best-selling 2013 novel “The Goldfinch” took wing with a lost boy and a stolen masterpiece, and star Ansel Elgort envisions the big-screen adaptation engaging hearts and minds just as much as the Pulitzer Prize-winning book.
“It’s a very powerful and emotional coming-of-age story told from a personal point of view,” Elgort says. “It touches on the themes we all experience at one time or another – everything from loss, guilt, deception and betrayal to love, hope, friendship and redemption.”
Directed by John Crowley ("Brooklyn"), “The Goldfinch” (in theaters Sept. 13) centers on Theo Decker, a 13-year-old who survives a terrorist bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that kills his beloved mother. (The film's first trailer premieres Wednesday at noon ET/9 a.m. PT exclusively at USATODAY.com.)
Amid the rubble, young Theo (played by Oakes Fegley) grabs the Dutch painting that meant so much to her and hides it away, as the artwork and the memory of his mom drives the overall story. He’s taken in by Mrs. Barbour (Nicole Kidman), a friend's socialite mother, and finds stability in Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), a bohemian antique shop owner who's the first person to help Theo deal with the aftermath.
See exclusive first photos of Ansel Elgort and Nicole Kidman in Donna Tartts The Goldfinch
But the traumatic event continues to haunt Theo years later as an adult (played by Elgort), with his troubled younger years leading to self-medication and criminal dealings. His harrowing journey takes him from New York to Las Vegas – where he lives with his alcoholic father Larry (Luke Wilson) and dad's new girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson) – to the noir-ish underworld of Amsterdam.
A fan of Tartt's tome, Kidman describes reading the novel as “really an experience of letting go, giving in to the storytelling current as it unfolds like bends in a river. It was a rare and immersive pleasure and partly what made the odyssey, both the book and the film, so extraordinary.”
Crowley became enamored with the Dickensian tale of an innocent boy “stuck in grief." With visuals by Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins, "we were able to address the idea of what you see and don't see and also what you remember and how memories can get crushed and evaporate after time," the director adds.
See exclusive first photos of Ansel Elgort and Nicole Kidman in Donna Tartts The Goldfinch
When Theo’s journey intersects with Mrs. Barbour, "there’s an electrical arc formed out of love and loss” that Kidman found herself drawn to, she says. For Crowley, it's another role in an "amazing run" for the actress, including "Destroyer" and HBO's "Big Little Lies": "Her curiosity and her hunger and appetite for her own work is really inspiring."
See exclusive first photos of Ansel Elgort and Nicole Kidman in Donna Tartts The Goldfinch
Tackling a 760-page book is no small feat. What helped for Crowley was the adaptation focuses on just two periods in Theo's life, with the plot bouncing back and forth between them in nonlinear fashion.
"We move around a lot more impressionistically to suggest that the man that you meet at the start of the story is not in a very good place," Crowley says. "It's a very interesting study in how an individual's relationship to his own past and his sense of his past can shift."
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