James Frey was the toast of the literary world, feted for his best seller, A Million Little Pieces—a frank, unvarnished memoir about his addiction and rehabilitation. But his reign was toppled three years later by a shocking report that he had embellished certain facts about his sobriety journey. The revelation destroyed his reputation and earned him a stern interrogation from Oprah Winfrey, an early evangelist for his book. In a makeup interview years down the line, Frey told Winfrey that their earlier interview felt like “a personal car crash.”
Still, the story he weaved in A Million Little Pieces has remained captivating. Rumors of a film adaptation were bandied about for years until, finally, Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy, Fifty Shades of Grey) reached out to Frey to see if she could get the rights. What transpired was a record-quick exchange.
“He said ‘Yeah, you want the rights?’ I said ‘Yeah, are they available?’” Taylor-Johnson recalled in a recent phone interview. “He was like ‘Yeah. You can have them…I’ll be here if you need me, just get on and make art.’”
“That was music to my ears,” she added. So Taylor-Johnson set off to make the movie, cowriting it with husband Aaron Taylor-Johnson—who also stars—and tapping Billy Bob Thornton, Charlie Hunnam, and Juliette Lewis, among others, to fill out the cast. The film, which made its debut at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, now has a proper trailer, which you can watch exclusively above (and check out the exclusive poster below).
For Taylor-Johnson, who read the book when it first came out, Frey’s scandal didn’t cheapen her impression of A Million Little Pieces.
“I remember hearing about the controversy and watching it, and feeling the pain of what he experienced and what was happening. But realizing it didn’t affect my experience of the book,” she said. “I enjoyed the creative spirit in which he wrote it.”
Sam and Aaron’s script collaboration came by accident. After acquiring the rights, the artistic couple, who previously worked together on Nowhere Boy, looked for writer friends to tackle the screenplay, but everyone was busy with other projects. To save time, Sam and Aaron began brainstorming a story arc and certain scenes they thought should be included in the adaptation. Before long, they were looking up advice on how to write screenplays and hammering one out themselves, finishing it in about 18 months. “It sort of organically became clear that he was really good at sitting for hours on end and understanding structure,” Taylor-Johnson said with a laugh. “He has a very innate sense of what works. I don’t have that patience.”
The movie was shot in 20 days, in true indie spirit, with its starry cast working for scale. “I remember Billy Bob going, ‘Well—first time I’ve had to share a trailer in a while,’” Taylor-Johnson recalled. But the quick pace helped the cast and crew instantly bond and, Taylor-Johnson said, ultimately fit the theme of the story, a chaotic tale of redemption.
“You don’t laugh as hard or cry as intensely as you do when you’re going through recovery,” the writer-director said. “It was important to think about the balance of that in a way, the balance of the darkness and the light…the biggest thing I’d like is for you to come away with hope and optimism rather than despair.”
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Charlie Hunnam, Billy Bob Thornton, Ryan Hurst, Juliette Lewis, Giovanni Ribisi, David Dastmalchian, Dash Mihok, Andy Buckley, Eugene Byrd, Tom Amandes, Odessa Young, Carson Meyer, Andy Mackenzie, Charles Parnell, Dominic Pace , Elester Latham, Frederick Lawrence, Darrell Keith Harris, Deep Rai, Keith Barber
The film focuses on the life of the now author who at one time suffered from severe health problems due to the drug addiction he suffered for many years. However, the most controversial of this movie is the book on which it is based, since part of the story is false. This was confirmed by the same writer in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which he apologized for lying to the readers.
A Million Little Pieces has an exceptional cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays the role of Frey, while Billy Bob Thornton plays the role of Leonard, a worker at the rehabilitation center where the protagonist is interned, and who befriends Frey and helps him overcome his fears.
Other actors who complete the cast are Charlie Hunnam, Giovanni Ribisi, David Dastmalchian, Juliette Lewis, Odessa Young, Charles Parnell, Andy Buckley, among others. The film was produced by Alex Heineman, Andrew Rona, Brad Weston, and Pamela Abdy, as well as Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Sam Taylor-Johnson, who also wrote the script.