Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Brooklyn author's 'Heart' is in 'The Narrows'

By Meredith Deliso

As a kid, the first movie Tim McLoughlin ever saw was at the Pavilion 8 (which some of you may remember as the old Sanders). It was 1964, the film was “The Incredible Mr. Limpet,” starring Don Knotts.

“That place was a cathedral,” remembers McLoughlin, a Brooklyn native who grew up in Bensonhurst and now, after stints in several Brooklyn neighborhoods, currently resides in Brooklyn Heights (read an essay of his about the theater here).

Today, when the author goes to the Park Slope theater, his own movie is on the screen: “The Narrows,” based on his 2001 book “Heart of the Old Country,” published by Brooklyn-based publisher Akashic Books.

How “Heart” came to be published itself is the stuff worthy of cinema. A Brooklyn court clerk, McLoughlin knew he had a story in him, and in his late 30s, started writing a coming-of-age story about a 19 year old, Mike, going to school part time and working for Big Lou’s Car Service, on the periphery of organized crime in Bay Ridge.

Hailed for its refreshing voice and unromantic view of Brooklyn’s underclass, the sardonic look at provincialism in the borough went on to be published in five languages, won Italy’s Premio Penne award, and was optioned to be made into the independent film, starring Kevin Zegers, Vincent D’Onofrio, Sophia Bush and Eddie Cahill.

Though he had no part in the screenplay, McLoughlin is good friends with the screenwriter, Tatiana Blackington, whom he met while in a creative writing class at the West Side YMCA.

While the film naturally departs from the book, the biggest change has to be the title.“‘I would obviously have preferred it if they stuck with my title, but I can’t really argue with ‘The Narrows.’ That sounds pretty cool,” says McLoughlin.

Keeping true to form, the film was also shot in and around Bay Ridge (regulars may recognize Kelly’s bar at 94th Street and Fifth Avenue, as well as a social club a couple blocks away).

“It was a low budget, independent feature, yet to me I’m standing there and it’s looking like ‘Spiderman 3,’” says the author on his first foray into cinema. “It was amazing to see those moments when I could suddenly identify a sequence from the book.”

In bringing the characters to life, some of the actors were “spooky good,” says McLoughlin.

“There’s no actor in that film that I don’t think does a good job of portraying the characters,” he says.

The biggest name attached to the film has to be D’Onofrio’s, who plays Mike’s father with a savviness yet also a sadness that impressed McLoughlin.
“He told me later that he based his physical mannerisms and some of his patterns of speech on an old relative of his who was from Bensonhurst,” says the author. “It worked really well.”

The cast also boasts a Brooklynite in Monica Keena, the girlfriend of the Mike character.“Man did she ever nail Gina,” says McLoughlin. “The attitude, the accent, all of it is just right. Monica Keena pulled off pure Brooklyn.”

Next up for the author, who still keeps his day job as a court clerk (he has four years left until his pension and then it’s writing full time) and is also the editor of Akashic’s Brooklyn Noir series, is his second novel, an amateur sleuth story about a bartender on Wall Street who solves a murder. He hopes to have that completed by the end of this year.

When McLoughlin thinks about his journey, from his first published book to now film adaptation, “It amazes me,” he says. “There’s no part of it that hasn’t been fun.”

“The Narrows” is playing now at Park Slope’s Pavilion 8 (188 Prospect Park West). For screening times, call 718-369-0838.


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