Lantos scoffs at Jewison’s claim that Richler saw Brad Pitt as Barney

‘Someone is not remembering things correctly’

In yesterday’s blog, I reported a conversation I had with veteran director Norman Jewison, who told me that about decade ago he was involved with producer Robert Lantos in an attempt to adapt Barney’s Version, and that the book’s author, Mordecai Richler, wanted Brad Pitt to play Barney—the role eventually performed by Paul Giamatti in the movie that premiered at TIFF on Sunday. Brad as Barney? It sounds preposterous, but Jewison swore that was Richler’s dream.

Well, last night I ran into Lantos, who dismissed the director’s claim as pure nonsense. Not only that, the producer insisted that Jewison was never even involved as a candidate to direct Barney’s Version. And Lantos should know: he was the only producer who ever owned the screen rights to the book. “Someone is not remembering things correctly,”  he said. Jewison told me he had tried to persuade Dustin Hoffman to play Barney, while Richler imagined Pitt in the role. But Lantos says he and Richler had talked about casting Hoffman, and that Pitt’s name never came up. (By the time the movie got made, Hoffman ended up playing Barney’s father.)

So the story just gets curiouser and curiouser. Canada’s biggest movie producer is suggesting that its most venerable director is promoting a fictional version of events,  a situation that would not be out of place in Richler’s novel.  At the rate things are going, this blog, like Barney’s Version, will need corrective footnotes.

Meanwhile, for my story on the making of the movie, go to Barney, unbound.