Between the Lines: Michael Zadoorian's Movie

Jul 29, 2016

Michael Zadoorian
Credit John Roe

Detroit native Michael Zadoorian says earning his living as a copywriter sharpened his editorial skills and thickened his skin as a creative writer. He's the author of two novels: Second Hand and The Leisure Seeker, along with the short story collection, The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit. But did that prepare him for the phone call he got from a renowned Italian film producer?

“The Italian filmmaker Paulo Virzi is going to make his first English-language film based on my novel, The Leisure Seeker,” Zadoorian says. “And it will be starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland.”

Film rights to the novel, published by William Morrow in 2009, had already been bid on several times. But Zadoorian says he learned to take it all with a grain of salt. Sparks of interest faded to nothing. This time, though, the deal was solid. Filming will begin later this year.

Credit HarperCollins

“It's essentially the story of an older couple in their 80's,” Zadoorian says. “They decide to escape all their doctors and their adult children, all the people who seem to be running their lives. They decide to kind of kidnap themselves and go on a last vacation together. The 'Leisure Seeker' is the name of their RV.”

Against the wishes of their frantic children, Ella (played by Mirren), who has terminal cancer, and her husband, John (Sutherland), who has Alzheimer’s disease, take off on their final cross-country journey on Route 66, heading west to California. The novel follows their adventures and misadventures. There are touching moments when the shadow of John’s memory loss temporarily fades, allowing him renewed intimacy with his wife. They spend evenings looking at old slides projected onto walls or white sheets. They gather others around them in random campgrounds to share their memories. There are also moments of terror - and comedy - including an attempted robbery Ella thwarts by pointing a loaded gun at the would-be robbers who've underestimated her because she's old.

“Since they are both ill, between the two of them they make one person,” Zadoorian says. The couple is, in part, modeled after his own parents. “I know from experience with my own parents how painful Alzheimer’s can be, but it was important to me to also make the book funny. This is a couple who had laughed together, who had fun, and had a good life together.”

Zadoorian has won Columbia University’s Anahid Literary Award; the Michigan Notable Book Award; the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award; and was a International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award finalist. He's published pieces in The Literary Review; the Beloit Fiction Journal; American Short Fiction; the North American Review; and Detroit Noir. Zadoorian lives in Ferndale, Michigan, with his wife and cats.

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