Ten Minutes With Rebecca Miller
Rebecca Miller is the author of a short story collection Personal Velocity and a novel The Private Lives of Pippa Lee. Both were made into movies that she wrote and directed. She also wrote and directed The Ballad of Jack and Rose, which starred her husband Daniel Day-Lewis. As the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller and photographer Inge Morath, she has been exposed to creativity on every level. She recently published her second novel Jacob’s Folly.
Growing up in Roxbury did you have any idea what you wanted to be? I started out wanting to be a secretary and then decided being a stewardess would be more fun. I became interested in painting and then segued into writing and film.
Were you aware of how famous your parents were? I think all children see their parents as simply their parents. It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized the fame of the people who used to be at our house.
What started you on your career? It was really a gradual progression. I started working as a painter and created triptychs shaped like houses, working a lot from my own dreams. I made very rough surfaces, much like Paul Klee. Painting definitely helped mold my life as a writer.
Is the creative process the same in all forms of writing? Often I write a film based on my own work. That short-circuits some of the trouble it takes to develop characters and a plot. When I start from scratch, as I did with The Ballad of Jack and Rose, it took a really long time because I didn’t have a prose guide.
What was it like to work with your husband on that movie? By the time Daniel came on board, I had finished the script. After that, it was a total collaboration. It was an ideal actor-director relationship.
What writers and artists have inspired you? Gregory Crewdson is an amazing photographer. For writers I go back again and again to Flannery O’Connor, Milan Kundera, and David Foster Wallace.
Your new novel Jacob’s Folly has a unique main character who spans two hundred years. What was the inspiration? I did a lot of research about contemporary Jewish society. There was a story a mother told about her daughter being followed by a particular fly. And I thought about reincarnation. I realized I wanted the spirit in my book to be reincarnated.
What is in the background of your author photograph? The photograph was taken by my middle son Ronan and shows the wall of index cards I created to keep track of the novel’s structure. I could see everything at once—the ratio of one character to another.
Have any of your children shown any interest in the arts? The oldest is eighteen and is pursuing musicology. The middle one at fourteen is interested in photography, painting, and filmmaking. The youngest is eight and still deciding.
What do you like most about being in the house where you grew up? I love the familiarity of everything. I like to think that not much has changed since I was a child. It has a comforting quality and a contrast to the other landscapes in my life.