Cat Person director Susanna Fogel and author Kristen Roupenian discuss the challenges and intentions behind adapting the source material.
- Cat Person, based on a short story by Kristen Roupenian, challenges the notion of faithful adaptation by expanding and exaggerating the source material.
- Roupenian, the author, expressed her love for the adaptation being categorized as a thriller, as she always imagined it as part of a horror collection.
- The trailer for Cat Person showcases moments that exist in a murky space between unsettling and unsafe, while Emilia Jones brings Margot’s inner thoughts to life through her acting.
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Cat Person is making its way to theaters after a strong debut at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. The film is based on a short story by Kristen Roupenian, published in The New Yorker magazine in 2017, which is a gut-twisting depiction of an early relationship between a college student Margot, and an older man, Robert. In the film adaptation of Cat Person, Margot is played by Emilia Jones (CODA), and Robert is played by Nicholas Braun (Succession).
Those who have read Roupenian’s short story might be surprised it even got the opportunity to compete to be one of Sundance Film Festival’s best movies, as the nature of the writing presented challenges for adaptation into a visual medium. Cat Person director Susanna Fogel (The Spy Who Dumped Me, A Small Light) expressed her own doubts about the process, revealing the aspect of the script that made her feel comfortable jumping on board. Read her thoughts below:
Susanna Fogel: I can’t take credit for writing the adaptation, but when I first heard the story, I didn’t immediately know how it could be adaptable because it was so internal. It felt like it might get adapted in this very small, quiet way. The fervor that the story sparked felt like it deserved a bit noisy, but I wasn’t sure how to bridge the two. And when I read Michelle’s script, which really explored this genre-bending way into Margot’s psychology, all of those horrors and fears that she feels are made into this suspenseful, genre storytelling. That’s the way you do it. That’s the way you really show how scary and confusing it is to be a woman. The way to take her story, which was so authentic and personal, and make it feel like a big thing.
How Cat Person Honors Its Source Material By Expanding It
The idea of being faithful to a project’s source material is often used to comment on what aspects were and weren’t directly adapted to their final medium. In the case of Cat Person, however, the screenplay by Michelle Ashford was faithful to Kristen Roupenian’s original story in the way it exaggerated and expanded the author’s work. Roupenian’s story doesn’t necessarily read as quickly as a thriller might, but when asked at the Cat Person premiere how she felt about the film being adapted as a thriller, Roupenian said the following:
Kristen Roupenian: I love that, actually. That was one of the first things they told me when they were thinking about optioning. They actually said horror, and I wrote Cat Person always imagining it was part of a collection, which was a horror collection. And that was sort of my realist capstone to all these other more clearly genre series. So, when they said that, I was like, “You get it.” I feel like the story has the bones of [horror].
The trailer for Cat Person certainly points to that, featuring moments and reveals that live in the grey area between unusual and unsafe. Margot’s thought process, a key aspect of the short story, is on full display in the film as well, with Emilia Jones acting against herself when making key decisions. With Roupenian’s blessing on the film, it will be exciting to see how Fogel, Ashford, and the rest of the team have brought Cat Person to life.
Key Release Dates
- Cat Person Release Date: 2023-01-21