Alex Michaelides - THE “NY TIMES” BEST-SELLING AUTHOR
Text: Romina Xyda
Photography: Andrew Hasyes Watkins
When his path as a screenwriter came to a dead-end, Alex wrote his first novel and watched it climb “The NY Times” Best Sellers list. His segue into Hollywood’s film industry came through an agreement with Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B, for the future adaptation of “The Silent Patient” onto the big screen.
Your debut as a writer was a huge surprise. Your book, “The Silent Patient”, became a global best seller. As far as you’re concerned, was there any indication of that upcoming success?
Honestly, I didn’t really believe that anyone would read my book. Perhaps that is why I wrote it with such freedom, and why I was in complete disbelief when my publisher called and said that my book had earned the number one spot on “The NY Times” best sellers list. I thought it was a prank. It was a wonderful, surreal experience. For a few days, I felt as if I was walking on a cloud. However, it was the opportunity to connect with my readers across the world that was most satisfying. I thank all of them, and I hope future readers will enjoy it just as much.
What was the source of inspiration for “The Silent Patient”? Is there anything of yourself in it?
“The Silent Patient” is an amalgamation of three obsessions; the tragedy “Alcestis”’ by Euripides, psychotherapy, and the suspense of Agatha Christie and Hitchcock. When these three elements –tragedy, psychology, suspense– came together in my mind, something magical happened. I could also say that failure was a driving force behind “The Silent Patient” because I wrote it out of desperation. After a failed and soul-destroying career as a screenwriter, I wanted to write something wherein I would retain full control from beginning to end.
Is it true that Uma Thurman played a key role in the book’s success, and in what way?
I owe so much to Uma Thurman. She and I became good friends during the filming of “The Con is On”, in 2018. I was a co-writer on the film, and she played the leading role. Even though it wasn’t a very good film, I watched Uma work tirelessly in an attempt to improve it. Her efforts inspired me to become better. No one had ever devoted so much of their time to me, sharing the gift of their wisdom. I was writing the book at the time, and when I told her about it, she gave me all kinds of wonderful ideas, such as depicting Alicia as a painter. Taking her advice into account, I re-wrote the whole book from the beginning! I am incredibly grateful to Uma. I plan to write a TV series exclusively for her, just for the honor of working with her again.
The rights to the book were bought by the production company Plan B, which is linked to Brad Pitt. What was your first reaction when you heard about it?
I’ve not met Brad Pitt, though I’m a fan. I’m very excited that his company Plan B, an industry giant, will be involved with the film based on my book. Moreover, I’m particularly excited that the producer is Jeremy Kleiner, who has won two academy awards for the films “Moonlight” and “Twelve Years a Slave”. An incredible director is also involved in this endeavor. However, I’m not at liberty to reveal his name just yet.
You moved from Cyprus to London two decades ago. What do you miss the most about the island, and what are your strongest memories?
When I think of Cyprus, I reminisce about the sun, the food, spending time outdoors and on the beach. I was a fairly solitary child and was always roaming around the beaches lost in my imagination. My father and his siblings owned a place by the sea where we would spend our summers. That experience... being in nature by the water, enjoying such freedom, was undoubtedly the most fortunate in my life. I also remember my grandmother, her cooking, and the stories she would tell… My parents still live in Nicosia, and I visit them whenever I get the chance, which isn’t very often, unfortunately. One of my sisters, my cousins, and best-friends still live there. That is why Cyprus will always be my home. I miss the lifestyle, the beaches, the food. I would love to write a novel set in Cyprus one day.