'August: Osage County' probes family ties that bind, wound

Fri Dec 20, 2013 11:25am EST
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Playwright Tracy Letts created the plot and characters in "August: Osage County," the Pulitzer Prize and Tony award-winning play about a dysfunctional Oklahoma family, and knew that adapting it for the screen would not be easy.

It was hard work condensing a three-hour play that premiered on Broadway in 2007 and enthralled audiences into a two-hour film, but Letts, 48, was grateful to be able to do it.

"There is a reason that impels you to write a play in the first place and I was afraid that in the hands of another writer some of that reason might be lost," he told Reuters in an interview.

The film, which opens in U.S. theaters on Christmas Day with a star-studded cast headed by Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, poses questions about family, its meaning and whether to battle with relatives or walk away when things get tough.

"I thought they were valuable questions to ask," he said.

Letts, also an actor who won a Tony Award this year for his portrayal of George in a revival of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," grew up in Oklahoma.

He drew on events and people in his own life when writing "August: Osage County," which is filled with twists and surprises and deals with addiction, betrayal, resentment and adultery with doses of humor as well as piercing sadness.

Letts said his own experience as an actor informed the characters he created, including the chain-smoking, pill-popping, acid-tongued family matriarch Violet Weston, which earned Streep, 2012's Academy Award best actress winner for "The Iron Lady," her 28th Golden Globe nomination.   Continued...

Cast members (from L-R) Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Meryl Streep and Abigail Breslin pose at the premiere of "August: Osage County" in Los Angeles, California December 16, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni