Stranger than fiction: the ‘con artist’ author behind Netflix’s cursed The Woman in the Window
Amy Adams plays an unreliable agoraphobic woman who believes her neighbor was murdered - Netflix
During the filming of The Woman in the Window in October 2018, the cast and crew celebrated the close of a sure-fire hit. The film was firmly anchored in the commercially successful psychological thriller genre, but it did display the kind of heavyweight talent that could impress critics and even earn an Oscar nod or two.
It was directed by Joe Wright, whose previous film, the Churchill biopic Darkest Hour, received praise. The star was Amy Adams, a popular actress and six-time unsuccessful Oscar nominee who gasps the sentimental old academy to blame her. Lip-smacking supporting cast included Julianne Moore (the fictional neighbor Jane Anna believes was murdered), Jennifer Jason Leigh (who claims to be the real Jane) and Gary Oldman (Jane's husband).
However, since then the film has been hit by a number of disasters. The poor reception by the test audience, delays due to studio politics and the pandemic, allegations of plagiarism and bizarre scandals regarding some of the people involved in the film have led some commentators to brand The Woman in the Window with the dreaded label "cursed".
After the cinemas were expected to be full, the film has now landed on Netflix - a full two and a half years after the first filming was completed. The high hopes of 2018 weren't reflected in the subdued way the film was advertised, with no pre-screening for critics and little of the hoopla that normally comes with such a star-studded project.
The reviews were largely lukewarm. But that was perhaps the inevitable outcome for a movie that was clearly born under an unfortunate star.
Everything started so well. The Woman in the Window is based on a debut novel by AJ Finn, a book that seemed like a magnet to attract money. US publisher William Morrow raised $ 2 million for a two-book deal, and Fox 2000 took over the film rights: The company's president, Elizabeth Gabler, raved in 2016 that it was "extremely rare and enjoyable" be to find a book that "offers such an extraordinary tapestry for adaptation to the film".
The pseudonymous author quickly became Daniel Mallory, a senior editor at Morrow, the company that is now publishing his book. It was reported that a number of other publishers interested in the book had withdrawn when they learned that Mallory was the author; At the time, this was attributed to the fact that publishers were often reluctant to buy novels from other publishers.
The Woman in the Window was released in January 2018. Many critics noted that the main plot - the agoraphobic unreliable narrator Anna Fox, who insists that she saw one of her neighbors murdered but is not believed - seemed more calculated to fit into the territory of such a blockbuster- Psychological thrillers like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, but generally it has been hailed as an enjoyable read.
It was the first debut novel in 12 years to hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list the week it was released. It was also a top 10 best seller in the UK. Fox 2000 was clearly right to bet that the book would be a hit. What could go wrong now?
Fraudulent: Dan Mallory - Andrew Crowley
Mallory was in his late thirties and known in the publishing industry as a handsome, charismatic figure with a flair for good business. With the success of The Woman in the Window, he quit his job. "Now I write full-time, for the convenience of my former colleagues," he wrote in the biographical note on his Amazon page. But what appeared to be a self-deprecating joke turned out to be an example of a deeply troubled and troubled man hiding in plain sight.
In February 2019, Ian Parker, an employee of the New Yorker, posted a gorgeous profile of Mallory accusing him of being a serial fantasist who had repeatedly feigned serious illness throughout his life. He revealed that the reason so many publishers rejected The Woman in the Window was because of Mallory's worrying reputation in the industry.
Parker put together a dossier of Mallory's large and small fibs. According to Parker, Mallory has claimed over the years that he was a close friend of Ricky Martin and modeled for the cover of Russian Vogue - claims that don't stand up to scrutiny. Professional demands include working on the script for the horror film Final Destination as a teenage intern at New Line Cinema (he didn't), working with Tina Fey on one of her books (no), and reading the manuscript of JK Rowling's pseudonym Thriller The Cuckoo's Calling and recommendation for its release (uh-uh).
New York-born Mallory was fond of swaying an English accent and claimed to have two PhD students despite never having completed his PhD at Oxford and no record of anyone else was found.
He was known for missing meetings, and Parker said two coworkers once called to ask where he was. He replied that he was making an emergency dog seat for a friend. “The meeting continued as a conference call. Mallory called every now and then, “No! Go down! “After they hung up, the two colleagues looked at each other. "There is no dog, is there?"
Julianne Moore as murdered neighbor Jane - Netflix
Well, a lot of us hate meetings, and some of us have blown up our resumes on occasion. But sometimes Mallory's behavior seems to border on the pathological.
While working at Ballantine Books in New York, there were a number of incidents where plastic cups of urine were found in or near his boss's office: "These were recorded as messages of contempt or as territorial labeling," notes Parker . Mallory was suspected of being responsible - although he continues to deny it - and the incidents stopped after he left the company. He also had to apologize for accidentally using a corporate credit card after leaving, he claimed.
He then began postgraduate studies at New College, Oxford, after impressing one of the tutors - the respected poet Craig Raine - with an essay explaining how his academic performance had suffered in the past because of his brother and hers Mother had to care for the terminal illness. Raine was amazed to learn from Parker in 2019 that Mallory's mother and brother were still alive.
Mallory got a job in London at Little, Brown in 2009 after exaggerating his academic qualifications and seniority in his previous publishing job. After a while, he said goodbye after telling his colleagues that he had an inoperable brain tumor.
Scary: Amy Adams as Anna Fox - Netflix
"In Little, Brown's open plan office, helium-filled Get Well balloons swayed over Mallory's desk," writes Parker. "He wore a baseball cap for a while, even indoors, to hide the hair loss from chemotherapy." Mallory eventually left the company after it was discovered he lied about a job offer to raise his salary. By then, some colleagues had wondered if he had ever really been sick.
He returned to the United States to work for Morrow. In 2013, he stopped coming to the office and received emails from his brother Jake saying that Mallory was being treated for cancer and that he had later suffered cardiac arrest in response to pain medication. Parker, who has a forensic ability worthy of AC-12, notes similarities in Mallory and Jake's speech styles, including the spelling of "email" as "email," and has concluded that Mallory wrote the emails himself, although Mallory denies this. After he got back to work, a colleague asked him how his brother Jake was doing to find out that he had committed suicide. (He does not have.)
Parker's conclusion is that Mallory faked an illness in order to buy time to write the manuscript of The Woman in the Window. Unsurprisingly, the article caused a stir, asking questions about how the publishing industry had ignored Mallory's "gas light, lies, and manipulation" and whether it would have been possible if he hadn't been a well-spoken white man.
Gary Oldman as Alistair Russell - Netflix
Mallory apologized for claiming that he had cancer as a substitute for what he saw as the more shameful ailment he really suffered from - depression. Mallory's psychiatrist confirmed to Parker that Mallory had been diagnosed with Bipolar II.
Although this diagnosis is hardly responsible for Mallory's behavior, he has gained sympathy for a decades-long battle against mental illness. His novel continued to sell well after the article was published. As "A J Finn" he still supports the books of other thriller authors: The publishers firmly believe that it does not deter readers to put his name on the cover with an approving quote.
When the scandal broke out, his publishers insisted that they continue to work with him and that the second AJ Finn novel would be out in January 2020. It hasn't seen the light of day, but a spokesman for HarperCollins, its UK publisher, tells me, "It's definitely on the way." Clearly, you have every reason to believe that readers will be happy to buy a novel written by a manipulative liar. Some readers may even think that this qualifies him as a thriller writer.
One detail that was rather lost in Parker's article amid cups of urine and fake cancer surgeries was his claim that The Woman in the Window relied heavily on the 1995 film Copycat, a thriller starring Sigourney Weaver. A few days after its release, there was another plagiarism allegation that found similarities between the plot of The Woman in the Window and that of Saving April, a suspense thriller by British writer Sarah A Denzil. (William Morrow insisted that Mallory / Finn submitted the plot sketch of The Woman in the Window well before the Saving April 2016 release.)
Plagiarism allegations may not be as arresting as reports of someone perking up making false claims about the death of their parents and siblings, but they have been more of a headache for the movie's producers than anything related to Mallory's personal offense. In case no legal action was taken for plagiarism, but when the Mallory story broke in early 2019, the last thing the filmmakers needed was more headaches.
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The film, which looked so promising in late 2018, did not go down well with test audiences. As Joe Wright recently said, "There were some plot points that people found a little confusing - I would say they might be too opaque ... So we had to go back and sort out certain points."
Perhaps Wright and the producers would have been better off keeping their nerve and believing in a movie they were initially happy with. Tracy Letts, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who wrote the screenplay, commented in 2019, “We made this movie and we all went to see it and we were all happy with it. And then they showed it to an audience in Paramus, New Jersey, and they didn't like it. And so there were some circumscriptions and new entries that I had nothing to do with. "
Producer Scott Rudin hired Bourne films screenwriter Tony Gilroy to do the rewriting, and the original October 2019 release date has been postponed. The finished version includes scenes in which characters rattle large amounts of plot displays. But with its patchwork of Frankenstein's monster of a script, the film was still registered as too complicated for the test audience when the revised version was shown.
The good news was that the first trailer was released in late 2019 and was generally well received. Social media seemed more interested in discussing Amy Adams' Oscar chances than reconsidering AJ Finn allegations earlier this year. The new release date was announced as May 2020.
I hardly have to say what happened this month to keep the film out of theaters. But unlike the Bond film No Time To Die, The Woman in the Window had a checkered history even before the pandemic that may have made executives nervous about further delaying it until theaters reopen.
Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox sold Fox 2000 to the Walt Disney Company in 2019. In August 2020, Disney announced that it would sell the film to Netflix on the grounds that "an adult-themed thriller doesn't go well with the family-friendly Disney + streaming service and release calendars when theaters reopen and the audience returns. "
It was stressed that this decision had nothing to do with the New York article about Daniel Mallory, but the revelations about him could hardly have helped calm nerves in the most difficult climate for new film releases. And then there was another twist - in terms of the damage a single person could do to the film, Scott Rudin came up and said to Mallory, "Hold my beer".
Last month, The Hollywood Reporter published an article on Rudin describing several allegations of bullying and bad behavior that made Mallory appear positive. Rudin is said to have specialized in throwing anything he has on hand at subordinates, from a teacup to a stapler. Once he threw a baked potato at an employee who couldn't answer one of his questions ("Well, find out - and get me a new potato"). On another, he tossed someone a glass bowl, which resulted in a witness to the incident having a panic attack and leaving Rudin's company for good.
He is also reported to have hit an assistant with a computer monitor and abandoned a colleague on the highway after an argument in his car. He is said to have vengeful those who decided to leave his company and whose credits have been removed from his films on IMDb. Novelist Michael Chabon, a frequent contributor, has now written a Mea Culpa article apologizing for making Rudin possible: “I've heard regularly, even routinely, how he treated his coworkers ... with one so-called cautious, even surgical, contempt like a torturer trained to cause injuries that leave no visible mark. "
Canceled: Scott Rudin
Rudin has now apologized across the board and has resigned from many of his film and theater projects. However, his name remains in the credits of The Woman in the Window.
The Rudin Affair may have been a factor in the decision to release The Woman in the Window with little fanfare. It could have been called the final blow - if it hadn't been for the fact that the critics are delivering the coup de grace. "Curiosity might bring you here, but boredom will drive you away," says the Guardian. "The film is a pale, boring mix of bad acting and bad storytelling," says Vanity Fair. Our own Tim Robey calls it "an insanely vague Hitchcock homage". A reviewer asked Gary Oldman to return his Oscar.
Others enjoyed it more - particularly those in the know of accidental stocking - but it's not a reception that should make investors feel like the numerous high blood pressure setbacks along the way to release were worth it.
I have to say that for most of the two hours I spent looking at the woman in the window, my mind kept drifting to thoughts on a much more enticing project. Last year it was announced that Jake Gyllenhaal would star in A Suspense Novelists Trail of Deceptions, a miniseries based on Mallory's revelations.
"What may have started when my dog was doing homework turns into my mother who died of cancer, my brother took his own life and I got double PhDs," said Janicza Bravo, the director. “Our protagonist is white, male and pathological. There is a void in him and he fills it by cheating on people. He's a cheater. The series explores white identity and how we as an audience participate in making room for that behavior. “I wouldn't bet against this series, but against The Woman in the Window, which is Daniel Mallory's on-screen legacy.
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