Celebrities in the Bookstore

Twenty years ago, Adrian Lyne, a film director, writer and producer, best known for his Fatal Attraction with Glenn Close and Michael Douglas, came into the bookstore to ask if the building were available for a scene in a re-make of Lolita. He wanted to put a camera on the second floor balcony to film Lolita riding her bicycle down Pirate’s Alley in an artificial rain shower. Without any hesitation, Rosemary and I agreed, even to his wish to repaint the front of the Faulkner House olive-drab green.

When production began, the cast for the alley scene, Dominique Swain, Lolita, and Jeremy Irons, Humbert, found the bookstore and our home a welcome place of respite and relief.

Dominique, a very young teenager, was in New Orleans with her school tutor and the second floor dining and living area of our home was their temporary classroom. Jeremy Irons was often in the bookstore and the adjoining back rooms, very interested in the rare books. Since he was British, I showed him my collection of books by and about Samuel Johnson and his literary circle of friends, Boswell, Burke, Goldsmith, Garrick and others. A biography of David Garrick, the famous 18th century Shakespearean actor, I thought would be ideal for him. Paul Muni had owned it; in the book he had neatly tipped in clippings about and pictures of Garrick. Both Jeremy Irons and Paul Muni had won best leading role Oscars, Muni in 1939 for The Story of Louis Pasteur, his very first screen appearance, and Irons in 1990 for his performance in Reversal of Fortune.

The price of the book, as I recall, was about $250. Irons asked to see it several times and was, I sensed, tempted but wanted more time to think about it.

Late one afternoon, I’m in the bookstore, and Jeremy Irons is in the back room talking with Adrian Lyne. Through the front door comes Steven Soderbergh. (He had been in before, bought Randall Jarrell’s Picture from an Institution.) He is visibly aggravated, he complains about blocked streets, no parking anywhere close, near impossible getting to the store, what’s going on? I smiled and said, “I have a nice surprise for you. Your friend Jeremy Irons is here making a movie, that’s what’s going on; in fact he’s in the back room. Go see him!”

In 1991 Jeremy Irons starred in Soderbergh’s film, Kafka. Two years earlier Soderbergh won the Palm d’Or for Sex, Lies and Videotape at the Cannes Film Festival. He began his film career as a teenager in Baton Rouge using 8mm cameras and equipment borrowed from college students. (His father was Dean of Education at LSU.) After high school Soderbergh moved to Hollywood. In 2001, two of the five films nominated for Best Director were his, Traffic and Erin Brockovich. He won with Traffic.

In a couple days, everyone was gone, no congestion, no blocked streets. Workmen were outside painting over the olive drab with the lemon yellow color the building was weeks before. The David Garrick biography that Paul Muni had owned was still in the bookstore and Jeremy Irons continued thinking about it. I know because two weeks later, he calls and asks if I had sold it and if not he wants to buy it and have it shipped to him. Of course I did, savoring the extra satisfaction I always feel when I find the perfect home for one of my unique books. O, the life and joys of a bookseller.

–Joe DeSalvo, Owner, Faulkner House Books

Lolita 1997


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