Catherine Hand once wrote a letter to Walt Disney asking him to make a movie from her favorite new book, “A Wrinkle in Time.”
The fifth grader never sent the letter. That doesn’t mean she gave up on her plans, though, witness the new “Wrinkle in Time” from “Selma” director Ava DuVernay. Hand serves as one of the Disney film’s producers.
Hand may have completed her decades-long quest, but several times she came close to calling it quits.
“I had days when I gave up … you have faith when you’re tested, and I was tested so many times,” Hand says. One particular moment came after the death of her husband, leaving her to raise three young children.
She continued, working alongside television icon Norman Lear to bring author Madeleine L’Engle’s vision to the big screen.
The project even reached famed auteur Stanley Kubrick at one point around 1980.
“We thought, ‘how can we make this a big event kind of film, to usher in a whole new of stories?’ One of the first people on the list was Stanley Kubrick,” she says. Kubrick’s children had an attachment to the book, she says, but the filmmaker passed.
Hand kept at it, even after a 2003 TV version of “Wrinkle” came and went sans trace.
Undaunted, Hand stuck to her personal script, getting to know L’Engle in the process. The author passed in 2007, but Hand’s mission lived on.
Now, audiences nationwide will see her story on the big screen. Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling play the fantastical beings who help Meg find her lost father through a multi-universe adventure.
Storm Reid plays Meg, the bright girl tasked with reuniting with her scientist pappy (Chris Pine). Hand says Reid’s casting came easily for the “Wrinkle” team.
“We were all looking at audition tapes, the team, executives at Disney, Ava [DuVernay] and myself. She leapt out at all of us,” she says. “When she read with Ava it was so clear … ”
The original “Wrinkle” didn’t shrink from the malevolent spirit that threatened the family reunion. Some then, and now, shrink from introducing children to such dark forces. Yet a quick glance at some iconic children’s tales reveals youngsters are well versed in similar visions.
Classics like “Bambi” and “Snow White” showed children are capable of processing fear and danger, she says. More importantly, those stories proved empowering for young minds, she adds. Overcoming evil is empowering for children as well as adults, she says.
FAST FACT: Madeleine L’Engle endured 26 rejections before a publisher embraced her 1962 novel “A Wrinkle in Time.”
In times of trouble stories like “A Wrinkle in Time” matter. Sometimes in ways the culture doesn’t expect.
L’Engle once told Hand about an exchange the author had with a librarian regarding the days after the Kennedy assassination. The librarian told her people checked out “A Wrinkle in Time” more than any other book at that time.
“It gave them a sense of hope and courage,” Hand says. She hopes the same holds true for the film adaptation.
“Oprah [Winfrey] says you just need to have a little bit of light … just a little bit of light and let that snowball,” she says.