The author’s nephew, Griffin Dunne, takes an unprecedented look at Didion’s life
Joan Didion — famed essayist and journalist — has kept a relatively low profile the last couple of years. Save for being photographed by Juergen Teller for Céline and publishing South and West, Didion, 82, has been under the radar. In October 2014, a Kickstarter trailer premiered Didion’s nephew, Griffin Dunne’s, in-progress documentary about his aunt.
His film, now titled Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, is premiering October 11 at the New York Film Festival before it comes to Netflix on October 27. Variety talked to Dunne about his aunt and why he chose to make the documentary he did. He says the genesis of the project began six years ago when he made a promotional short movie to promote her book Blue Nights.
“I pushed my luck and said, ‘What about doing a documentary?” he told Variety. “No one had done one — her choice, by the way. She agreed and then I thought, ‘Oh boy, I’m going to have to get the goddamn money to do it the right way and the way she deserves.”
He says his aunt opted not to do documentaries in the past because she was concerned it would end up being a dry, academic exercise. The trailer portrays Didion in an incredibly candid way, speaking about her success and her career, as well as delving into her life after losing her husband and daughter in the span of two years. We see what life is like for an 80-year-old author, and we also see what life was like as a writer living glamorously in LA, partying with Spielberg and Warren Beatty.
Vogue’s Dana Spiotta called the documentary “a tender, life-size portrait of Joan Didion as a person.” You can watch the trailer here, and if you’re in the mood to revisit Didion’s work, read arguably the best essay on New York City, “Goodbye to All That,” here.