Sunday, May 25, 2008

My Conversation with Salman Rushdie

In which I discuss Helen Hunt, Salman Rushdie, and epidermolysis bullosa.

So I was paging through Elle a very serious literary journal this week and saw that Helen Hunt has produced, directed, and starred in a new movie. And her OB, in the movie, is played by Salman Rushdie. Yes, Sir Salman Rushdie of Satanic Verses, fatwa, and Booker Prize/literary genius fame. And yes, that Helen Hunt, of, uh, Mad About You.

In the interview I skimmed while waiting for an appointment and don't totally remember read, Ms. Hunt stated that in the most important scene in which Sir Rushdie appears, her character is praying. She wanted "someone Indian" to give audiences the idea that it wasn't just the Judeo-Christian god to whom one can pray. She thought of Salman Rushdie and so, more or less, she called him up and asked him to audition.

Forget the implications of that statement for cultural awareness. Forget that Rushdie's own religious beliefs are not clear cut. Forget how strange it would be to watch Salman Rushdie give someone a sonogram. And I know he's been in movies before, always playing himself. What got me is the last part. She called him up? Who knew you could just call Salman Rushdie up?!

So I did it. I called him. And I asked him to come have a seat here on the rug in Jacqui's Room...
And I now present to you:

The Jacqui's Room Interview with Salman Rushdie*

JACQUI: Mr. Rushdie, sir, welcome to our rug. It's so good of you to come.

SALMAN: Please, call me Salman.

JACQUI: Okay, Salman (giggles). Frankly, I can't believe you took my call.

SALMAN: Nonsense. I took Helen Hunt's call, didn't I? Besides, I've been smitten with you ever since I signed that copy of Shalimar the Clown for your husband. And your writing! The New Girl...And Me? Genius. I've read it, like, 80 times.

JACQUI: Wow. Thanks. I've read almost all of your books, too. Would you like me to send you a signed bookplate?


JACQUI: Oh. Okay. Um, I guess we should start by discussing your role in Then She Found Me. I was surprised to hear you were interested in something like that. What made you decide to do it?

SALMAN: If you'd been following my career as closely as you say you have, you'd remember that I was already in Bridget Jones' Diary. If you had a chance to be in a major Hollywood movie, wouldn't you do it?

JACQUI: I guess so. But aren't you worried it will make people take you less seriously as a writer?

SALMAN: Jacqui. Honey. Lighten up. I've been knighted. I've won the Booker Prize. I wrote a book so powerful it made an entire country vow to kill me. I could plagiarize Robert Munsch for the rest of my career and nobody'd say a word.


SALMAN: Hello?

JACQUI: You aren't going to, are you?

SALMAN: Aren't going to what?

JACQUI: Plagiarize Robert Munsch?

SALMAN: God no. Sappy stuff, that. But you get the point.

JACQUI: Sort of. Speaking of your writing, I can't wait to read The Enchantress of Florence. Can you discuss why you were drawn to the character of Akbar?

SALMAN: No. I'd rather discuss how gaunt Courteney Cox looked in that picture opposite me in Elle.

JACQUI: You mean the one of her and Jennifer Aniston and Orlando Bloom at that gala to benefit epidermolysis bullosa research?

SALMAN: Yeah. Does she need a cheeseburger or what?

JACQUI: Totally. You know what's weird? My husband the scientist worked on epidermolysis bullosa and made some discoveries that were very important to the field.

SALMAN: Shut up! And you didn't get invited to the gala? Ridiculous.

JACQUI: I know!

SALMAN: (gasps) OMG! I just had the greatest idea for my next book! I have to go write it now.

JACQUI: Wait! Before you go, any parting words of advice for the writers who come to Jacqui's Room?

SALMAN: Yes. It helps if your characters are haunting, your plots mesmerizing, your writing magical, and your settings historically and culturally fascinating.

JACQUI: Okay, we'll all work on that. Thanks, Salman.

SALMAN: No, Jacqui. Thank you.

* Note: Actual conversation with Salman Rushdie went more like this:
ME: I'd like Mr. Rushdie to sign this book for my husband's birthday.
BORED BORDERS EMPLOYEE: He's not personalizing anything.
ME: Oh, well can I just ask him to sign it?
BORED BORDERS EMPLOYEE: No. Leave it here and he'll sign it when he's done. Now get out.


Write2ignite said...

Um, if I had still been slurping the milkshake I shouldn't have been eating (it was gone in 5 minutes) while reading this post, I'm sure I would have been unable to stop it's unintentional (but very powerful) exit from my nose.

Mary Witzl said...

Oh, you got me on this one! I got really excited thinking about your interview with Salman Rushdie -- but this was just as good! My husband is a huge Rushdie fan. He thinks Midnight's children is one of the best books he's ever read. I'm partial to Haroun and the Sea of Stories myself.

Jacqui said...

Mary! I am a huge fan too, so much so that if I really had an interview, I would probably just drool and babble. But if you know Rushdie, send him over and I'll try to control myself. :)

wordwrangler, thanks. I am jealous of your milkshake!

Bish Denham said...

Too funny! I nearly spewed coffee all over my keyboard.

Jacqui said...

Hmm, not sure whether to be happy or worried that I keep making people almost spew. :)

Thanks, Bish.