Holden Caulfield once said that “people never notice anything,” but we couldn’t help but notice that a new biopic about J. D. Salinger was filming at Caffe Reggio today.
Laurie Gwen Shapiro, a regular at the 89-year-old coffeehouse on Macdougal Street, told us she was one of many who couldn’t get her usual caffeine fix there today.
One shutters to think what Holden Caulfield would think of lousy Macdougal Street these days, but the movie (written and directed by Danny Strong, creator of Empire) is actually about Salinger’s earlier days. According to Variety, “The story will explore his rebellious youth, his experiences on the bloody front lines of World War II, enduring great love and terrible loss, a life of rejection to the pages of the New Yorker and his writer’s block — which led to a spiritual awakening.”
— Imran Virk (@ImranVirk) May 12, 2016
Salinger enrolled in NYU in 1936. According to Kenneth Slawenski’s J.D. Salinger: A Life (from which Rebel in the Rye is adapted), “the bohemian atmosphere of the Village campus may well have served as a diversion, rather than as an opportunity for Salinger to apply his talents.” It’s unsure how many classes he actually attended before dropping out mid-semester and traveling to Europe, at one point working in a slaughterhouse in Poland.
By the late 1940s, the budding writer was back in New York, living uptown with his parents. According to Raychel Haugrud Reiff’s biography, he “spent his nights in Greenwich Village partying with a variety of girls, playing poker, hanging out at bars, and eating at his favorite restaurants; and threw himself into writing.” (Some of those favorite spots, per Slawenski, were Renato’s Restaurant, Blue Angel, Reuben Bleu, and, of course, the soon-to-return(?) Chumley’s.) Salinger published a short story about Holden Caulfield in the New Yorker in December of 1946, and moved to a garage apartment in Tarrytown the next month.
Salinger fictionalized his Village days in the short story “Seymour,” and Caulfield, in Catcher in the Rye, visits a fictional nightclub named Ernie’s, where his brother used to go “before he went out to Hollywood and prostituted himself.”
As for the Hollywood adaptation of Salinger’s life story, it stars Nicholas Hoult as Salinger, Victor Garber as his father, Sarah Paulson as his agent, and Kevin Spacey, spotted on set today, as writer Whit Burnett, who mentored Salinger and published his first short story in 1940.
This isn’t the first time the film’s cameras have rolled in the neighborhood. On May 5, exteriors were scheduled to be shot on Morton and Commerce Streets and interiors were to be shot on Grove Street. The Daily Mail got photos of that shoot as well as photos from a Brooklyn shoot earlier this month.