While the Be Reel Podcast is usually a bi-coastal operation, last week, co-host Noah Ballard and several thousand writers descended on Portland, Oregon for the annual AWP conference. In light of the gathering and the all-too-seldom chance to talk movies in person, Be Reel cracked the spine of a related podcast category: the writer as forger, as plagiarist, as bookish Danny Ocean. This time out, we discuss “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (2018), “The Hoax” (2007) and “Secret Window” (2004) for a three-movie slate of word crimes (released right on the heels of the trailer for “Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy,“ an upcoming movie about another more recent literary hoax).
The first of those three titles, you likely know. In an Oscar-nominated turn from mere months ago, Melissa McCarthy plays Lee Israel, a struggling biographer who takes to falsifying the letters of famous literary wits to make her rent. Then, “The Hoax” is based on an even wilder real-life yarn of the early ’70s: Richard Gere plays writer Clifford Irving, who takes a million-dollar advance for an authorized Howard Hughes biography despite never speaking to Howard Hughes.
Finally, “Secret Window” is a lesser Stephen King adaptation (starring Johnny Depp and directed by David Koepp) that plays on the horror titan’s most central tropes. A blocked writer holes up in the New England wilderness and grows slowly angrier with his wife while dealing with a plagiarism accusation from a mysterious stranger. Small spoiler: discussing “Secret Window” requires a full-scale referendum on Chance’s taste in movies as a 14-year-old.
Also on today’s episode, we’re joined by two esteemed fiction writers and fellow AWP-ers, who’d never do any of the shady stuff depicted in these films — Natalie Serber (“Shout Her Lovely Name”) and Nick White (“Sweet and Low”). Nick and Natalie discuss what movies so often get wrong about their art and lifestyles. Plus, they unpack some rare exceptions they call favorites, like “Wonder Boys” and “Stranger Than Fiction.”
Play the new Be Reel below and catch up with old episodes here.