By Ashleigh Stevenson and Gill Pringle

Dreams rarely come true, but it did for Catherine Hand, producer of Disney’s newest movie A Wrinkle In Time. Speaking to FilmInk, Catherine spoke about how she read the book when she was very young and wanted this movie to happen ever since. “I was ten years old, and wrote a letter to Walt Disney, for him to make it into a movie. I crumpled up the letter, I was too shy to send it. But when he died, I made a promise to myself that I would make it.”

Both Catherine and Madeleine L’Engle, the author of A Wrinkle in Time (first published in 1962), faced various challenges in making their dreams come true. Catherine explained that Madeleine’s book “…had been rejected 26 times before it was published….”

Catherine sent a letter to Madeleine, asking to obtain the rights for the movie. “I was working for Norman Lear, and I was kind of like his right-hand person,” she says of the famed TV producer. “I was working on all the projects that he was going to do, and I got the courage to ask him to read A Wrinkle in Time. He loved it, and said ‘it’s not really something for me to do’, and I said, ‘well, can I go after the rights anyway?’ And he said, ‘well, if you get Alan Horn,’ who was then the president of Norman’s company, Tandem Productions, ‘to read the book, and if he gives you the approval, then go for it.’ So, I sent it to Alan, and he sent me a note back, ‘I don’t know how you’re going to make it, but go for it’.”

This was all happening back in the late 1970s, early ‘80s.

After Catherine sent the letter to Madeleine, they decided to meet and Catherine explained that they “…had this energy, this synchronicity, this affinity..,” and “…six months later, Norman’s company had the rights with me as the champion. And then years later, when the rights reverted, I had become so close to her, that she just said that I should go and set it up elsewhere, and she will only sign a contract with anyone as long as I’m the producer.”

Madeleine was a big part in helping Catherine through her tough times trying to make this movie happen. “I think with a lot of times, you get close to people with your pain, with your disappointment… So, when I would be disappointed, when I had this script that didn’t work, when people weren’t interested, they didn’t want to do a story with a young girl as the lead, there was a lot of things… It’s also timing, movies come out at the right time. I think it’s the right time, right now, for this movie. But I think that also, I got married, I had children, then later on my husband died, and Madeleine was there for me. We just became a true mentor-mentee, I don’t know what to say, friends even. Think about the conversations people have about A Wrinkle in Time, I had it for twenty years with Madeleine L’Engle,” Catherine said.

A Wrinkle in Time is about a young girl named Meg who has to travel to unknown worlds to rescue her father with the help of three beings named Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey). Catherine explained that reading the book through the eyes of Mrs Which gave her a new perspective on the story. “…I thought, ‘oh my gosh, if you really want to understand A Wrinkle in Time, read it from the point of view of Mrs Which.’ She’s gathering some new messengers around a campfire, and they ask, ‘what do we do?’ And Mrs Which says, ‘I’ll tell you a story about a girl named Meg Murry. It was a dark and stormy night.’ And all of a sudden, you go, ‘this is so wise!’ I was always seeing it as a kid, as a great, cosmic adventure story, about a young girl who can do something her father can’t, and saves her brother and saves the universe, right? And then to Mrs Which, and realising the wisdom in this book, which is so universal and timeless.”

Madeleine L’Engle passed away in 2007. Alan Horn went on to become chairman of Walt Disney in 2012, and it is no surprise that the film ended up being made by the powerhouse studio.

“Madeleine would be beyond herself. I think that while everything about the book was extremely personal to her, and she was very possessive of getting it right, I think she would be really excited….”

A Wrinkle in Time is in cinemas March 29, 2018


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