Later this summer, Lois Lowry’s cherished novel The Giver arrives in theaters, adapting a coming-of-age sci-fi book that has been required reading for teenagers for decades. The latest version stars Jeff Bridges as The Giver, Meryl Streep as Chief Elder, and has director Phillip Noyce behind the lens. But it almost didn’t shake out that way. Years ago, Jeff Bridges wanted to direct and adaptation of The Giver, and he shot a lot of footage, which he’d like fans to see. Soon.
Lowry and Bridges were part of a panel in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con, prepping audiences for The Weinstein Company’s take on The Giver. And Bridges, ever the storyteller, revealed that once upon a time, he set out to film The Giver, with his father, Lloyd Bridges, in the role of The Giver. He says that he recruited one of his young nephews to play Jonas (a part now occupied by Brenton Thwaites). And he says the footage that he shot still exists.
"We have that footage somewhere in a garage," Bridges reminisced. "I think we’ll dig that up, and make it a special feature on the DVD." The crowd broke into applause… and not the kind of nostalgic applause that occurs every time Bridges drops a signature line from The Big Lebowski (which happens from time to time).
From the sounds of it, Jeff Bridges filmed a good deal of The Giver footage in hopes of securing financing, which he said never came. Lois Lowry’s book was first published in 1993, and I’m certain Bridges wasn’t the first filmmaker interested in bringing its themes to the page. Bridges said that he wanted a project that both his father could participate in, and his children could watch. Sadly, the project fell apart, and Bridges has yet to find a project worthy of his directorial efforts. How has that not happened?
Thankfully, we live in a day and age where "lost" footage like this can be retrieved and shared via alternate avenues. I think that Lois Lowry fans would be curious what Bridges wanted to do with her material. (He admits that one of the things that initially stopped him from accepting the role in the adaptation was the fact that Phillips Noyce’s vision would be so different from what he imagined in his own head.) And those of us who love Jeff Bridges as an artist have to be curious about his potential as a director. Hopefully The Giver will have this incredible gem, this lost footage, when it arrives on DVD, as Bridges promises.
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