Mike Fleming

While Jonathan Demme is busy writing the script for Stephen King’s upcoming thriller novel 11/22/63, and completing another script for an animated feature adaptation of the Dave Eggers novel Zeitoun, the Oscar-winning director has become so captivated by the Occupy Wall Street movement that he brought his camera down and filmed a 15-minute atmospheric piece, with at least one more in the works. Demme called it “an informercial for Occupy Wall Street, a citizen’s response to something important,” he said. “I have no agenda, but I’m an enthusiast and support this so passionately that in a tiny way I wanted to contribute.”

To Demme, Occupy Wall Street is a game-changing expression of youthful outrage reminiscent of protests against the Vietnam War and segregation. “I’m from the hippie generation, I came aware in that age of protests and demonstrations,” he said. “These young people are living that sense of potential change, and when you go downtown to see it, it’s such an oxygenated atmosphere that it’s thrilling. Many people dump on Barack Obama, they say once he got in office he didn’t do anything. But neither did we, the people who supported him and then went off and lived our lives. The only voice that has been in his face has been the Tea Party and I promise you, if Occupy Wall Street had taken root when the president was elected, we’d be living in a different country by now. This is a voice that cannot be ignored, and it is fantastic that young people are spearheading it. They turned out and helped get Obama elected, they evaporated after, but here they are and they are passionate. These kids are deep in student loan debt, trusting there would be positions for them, and either they can’t get jobs or they’ve been laid off. There is justifiable outrage.” Demme said he thinks the movement will continue even as the cold sets in downtown, and that moves will be made to shelter them in some of the buildings that have been empty since the financial meltdown of 2008. “I’m hoping the center of this movement will relocate to New Orleans for the winter, where students streamed by the hundreds of thousands to gut and rebuild houses after Katrina,” Demme said. “How can you not be energized by this continuing collision of idealism against governmental and business negligence?”

On the movie front, Demme said he’s almost done scripting the animated Zeitoun and has begun adapting King’s novel 11/22/63, about a man’s attempt to go back in time and stop the JFK assassination. Demme’s interest in the latter is less politics than its thriller dynamic. “The suspense aspect is what grabbed me,” Demme said. “It’s the idea that someone from today has the opportunity to travel back in time to prevent that assassination, and what our guys discovers when he goes back is, as King puts it, the past is obdurate, it doesn’t want to be changed.” Demme is much further along on Zeitoun, which he has spent several years working on. Demme has an animator at work, and will soon be ready to set it up. “It’s my first animated film and now that I’ve seen the amount of work that goes into it, it’ll probably be my last,” Demme said. Here’s the first installment of his Occupy Wall Street footage:

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