Around the Bend is probably closer to a true
story than not. But to call it True would be inaccurate. The central
story in the film—a Father’s meeting his adult Son, after
a twenty-five year absence—is based on a true enough encounter:
Mine, with my own estranged father. And the emotions with which those
two characters waltz in the film—Anger, Grief, Longing, Inarticulateness,
and finally, the remote and elusive possibility of Acceptance, if not
Forgiveness—were also approached, denied and avoided like The
Plague during my own journey with the strange man named Bob who showed
up on my doorstep.
But Around the Bend veers sharply from my
own history in a variety of ways, and for several reasons. In truth,
the exact specifics of my particular family strife were not overwhelmingly
interesting to me. No doubt my wife, who’s listened to me talk
endlessly about my father shit for years, is laughing her ass off at
the last sentence. But, honestly, in the film I was much more interested
in the universal aspects of paternal estrangement.
Over the years I have met dozens of other men—both those who
never knew their fathers, and surprisingly, those who did—who
shared a kind of quiet, subtle (or not so subtle and not so quiet) disconnect
in their relationship to and with their fathers. It is certainly not
news that men have, for many years, perhaps always, felt a gap between
themselves and their fathers. A gap of communication, certainly, but
also another less easily identified gap as well. For some of us, there
is no relationship as mercurial and frustrating as the one we have with
our fathers. And again, this is frequently true whether they raised
us or not.
This “gap” has always been of interest to me. There are
some men who think the whole boring subject is a crock of shit, and
I should just go fuck myself. Some of those men are my relatives and
good friends. But, crock of shit or not, this idea of the Longing For
Dad, is at the center of this film, and its screenplay. During the nearly
ten years it took us to make the film, the script evolved, revolved
and devolved many times over. But each draft eventually found itself
poking around the same subject: The things Men and their Sons do—and
do not—say to one another.
For me personally, this sense of paternal longing intensified greatly
around the time I had a son of my own. But it wasn’t until my
father’s last “reappearance,” on the verge of his
death, that I finally felt the full weight of my desire to know him.
And of course, at that point, there wasn’t much time left.
Once he passed away, I picked up the screenplay once more. And, as
often happens in writing, in Draft Thirty-Two, what I’d been trying
to say all along got said pretty quickly. The script was richer, shorter,
funnier and oddly, a lot more honest. It was this draft, fraught with
its embarrassingly overt articulations of Father Longing, that attracted
Warner Independent Pictures, and ultimately the cast.
Turner, the character so exquisitely realized in the film by Christopher
Walken, is not really my father. He’s both a better man and a
worse one. And Josh Lucas, playing his son Jason with equal skill, is
not really me. Turner and Jason are just a couple of men, like me, sniffing
around for a tiny piece of their own fathers. And almost any piece would
That’s the True part.