How Does Bill Bryson Feel About 'A Walk In The Woods'? The Author Saw His Bestseller Turn Into A New Indie Comedy
As you might expect, Bill Bryson was thrilled when the rights to his memoir, A Walk in the Woods, were purchased by Robert Redford back in 2005. A Walk in the Woods , about Bryson's trek along the Appalachian Trail with his childhood buddy Stephen Katz, became a bestseller after it was published in 1998, propelling Bryson to travel-writer fame. But, as the years unfolded without any news on the film adaptation, it began to look like A Walk in the Woods was never going to be a movie after all. Finally, 10 years later, A Walk in the Woods is hitting the big screen, with Redford starring as Bryson himself and Nick Nolte taking on the role of recovering alcoholic Katz. After seeing the adaptation spend nearly a decade in development limbo, how does Bill Bryson feel about A Walk in the Woods ? Turns out, he's pretty happy with it with how it all turned out.
In an interview with ABC News Australia, Bryson said that he always had faith that Redford would do his memoir justice, telling the outlet that having Redford at the helm "was a complete comfort right from the very beginning because, you know Robert Redford just makes intelligent movies." Knowing that the actor was also interested in playing his role in the film likely didn't hurt — what guy wouldn't want to be played by Robert Redford in a movie?
Now that the film is finally finished, Bryson has supported A Walk in the Woods, praising it to the press as a faithful and entertaining adaptation, despite the fact that Bryson and Katz were aged about 20 years. "What I really hoped they would do, and they did, brilliantly — better, far exceeded my expectations — was to keep the spirit. And, it does seem to me, the reason this is such a terrific movie is because of the chemistry between these two guys [Nolte and Redford]," Bryson told Variety after the film's premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
Yet although Bryson has joined Nolte, Redford and A Walk in the Woods director Ken Kwapis in promoting the film, the real Katz, who is actually named Matt Angerer, has remained out of the spotlight. This appears to be the preference of both filmmakers and Angerer, as he has said that he was never asked to contribute to the film in any way. Angerer told The Des Moines Register that Nolte never got in touch with him to talk about the role of Katz, and he reportedly hasn't spoken to Bryson since 2014. Still, there's no bad blood, Angerer told the paper; their lives have simply gone in different directions. Besides, Angerer, now 10 years sober, is just happy to be alive. "I count my lucky stars to be sitting here. I should have been six feet under," he said.
It's not the first time his life has inspired another person's work, though, so he's probably used to the process. After all, Bryson wrote the book, not Angerer, and Bryson has admitted to slightly embellishing Angerer's bumbling, comedic nature.
"He stayed with me every step of the way. And he didn't have to. I mean, I had a book contract in my back pocket, I had a commitment to fulfill. He didn't have that, he could have left, but instead he stayed with me. And, you know, the way I repaid him was to convey him in the book as this kind of great buffoon," Bryson said during a Q&A.
If Angerer and Bryson are still close, that's the sign of a truly strong friendship.