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Great Moments In Celebrity And Writer Pen Pals

Natalie Portman and Jonathan Safran Foer aren't the only epistolary It-couple out there: Blake, Shailene, and James also want in

Late last week, Natalie Portman and Jonathan Safran Foer made the questionable life choice to publish a series of email exchanges in the New York Times, in which they discuss things like guinea pigs and which days of the week people pick up Jonathan's garbage. It is, to borrow a phrase from Franzen, "something else." Below, we've published the extremely real epistolary archives of other famous people and their literary pen pals.

Blake Lively and Stephen King

>> On Tuesday, June 21, 2016 at 4:31 a.m., Blake Lively wrote:

Dear Stephen King,

Sitting down to write this email to you, Stephen King, has been the hardest thing I've done yet on my The Shallows promotional tour. I'm more intimidated than I probably should admit. I'm no writer of scary books, no prolific Twitter culture critic, no old guy with tiny glasses. I am hungry, though, and not just for enchiladas. I'm hungry for your brain, Stephen. (Nom nom. Just kidding. Again, I am not good at writing horror.)

You came to the New York premiere of The Shallows, and in the 15 minutes that have followed, we've known each other through many other firsts. The first time I said, "Hi, Stephen King." The first time you said, "Hi, Bake." The first time I said, "It's Blake." The first time you said, "If you say so." The first time I said, "What did you think of The Shallows?" The first time you said, "What?" The first time I said, "Can I get your email address?" The first time you said, "OK." The first time I said, "I'm going to email you in 15 minutes." The first second time you said, "OK."

I've found that when approached with a curious spirit, people are kind, they’re generous, they answer, if asked. They'll often open their doors and hearts and let you in. Because people with wisdom — people like you and me — have stories to tell and want them heard.

I have a story to tell, Stephen. It's called The Shallows. It's about a surfer named Nancy and the shark that tries to suppress her beautiful spirit. You saw it tonight. I want you to write the novelization of The Shallows. I think what the world needs now, more than ever, is a very long, scary book about a surfer named Nancy and the shark that tries to suppress her beautiful spirit.

It's almost 6:00 in the morning. Ryan Reynolds, my husband, is still asleep. So is my baby, whose name I forget, but it definitely has a name. I can hear Martha Stewart stirring in the Martha Stewart Wing. People often refer to being mocked for appropriating black culture and being mocked for defending an alleged child molester as the two great challenges of being an actress. In fact, the hardest part is having to care for Martha Stewart.

-Blake

>> On Thursday, June 23, 2016 at 3:36 a.m., Stephen King wrote:

Blake,

In many ways, adapting The Shallows is an obvious choice for my first novelization. The story of Nancy getting her limbs gnawed off is remarkably close to all the stories I've written: the scariness, the grossness, the limb thing, the blood, the atmosphere of constant violence, womanhood in a religious-military-socialist amalgam, the dark fantasy of surfing around Mexico in purposely mismatched swimwear. The themes are endlessly interesting to me, as are the questions of how much of the mythology is an accurate reflection of how sharks eat people and how much is storytelling cemented by repetition.

I didn’t realize it was also a radical choice until I said to my wife, "Do you think I should adapt The Shallows?" Then I learned that if you adapt something because Blake Lively asked you to, even if it is fundamentally a story of love between a woman and her mother, it is “brave.” I wish you had been inoffensive to anyone, neutral, unproblematic. Like, “Hi, I’m Bake.” But I know that Blake — the woman and her stories — engages me like nothing else. It has made me understand that so many conflicting things can be true at the same time, like how you write in your Letter From The Editor for Preserve — another first; your first and only letter from the editor, ever — “The function of Preserve is part magazine, part e-commerce hub, part philanthropic endeavor and above all, a place to showcase the power of imagination, ingenuity, quality, and above all, people." Because I’ve primarily lived outside of The Shallows — hearing, reading and thinking about it from afar — it is also the thing I’ve most imagined over the past two days. A movie in English, a contemporary thriller about a shark trying to eat a hot woman, will clearly not be the easiest novelization to make. But it is my novelization to make.

More later? I’m writing another scary book. It’s 3:30 in the morning and the sun rises at 4:50 here in Portland — when it rises at all. (Take notes: This is how you write scary!)

-Stephen

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Shailene Woodley and Jonathan Franzen

>> On Thursday, June 23, 2016 at 12:35 p.m., Jonathan Franzen wrote:

Hello, Shailene.

It’s Thursday, garbage day. One of the garbage days, I should say. Thursday and Sunday and Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Friday and Saturday are garbage days. Every day is a garbage day in America. I woke up this morning because my BlackBerry Bold buzzed at me, like a thousand wild birds, albeit exponentially less erotic. As the illustrious Karl Kraus always said, "Spare me this melody of life that disturbs my own music, which comes into its own only in the roaring of the German workday."

Enraged, I walked into my kitchen and made six cups of coffee. I drank one of them (black), masturbated loudly and painfully into the second (was hot), then poured that and the other four onto my BlackBerry. I do this every morning.

Why do I mention all of this? Because the coffee and the masochistic masturbation and the inchoate rage are among the many rituals around which my daily life is organized. Some are imposed (like the BlackBerry Bold buzzing, I do not know how to turn it off and I refuse to learn because I refuse to play by its techno-consumerist rules), some are self-originating if meaningless (like coffee), and some were created for the purpose of adding deliberateness and meaning to life (like masturbating into the coffee). For the last half a year, I have played a game at dinner called I Don't Hate This Thing. If I can think of something that does not generate the experience of hate — the cocked head, slight nod, raised eyebrow, and gutturally moaned “fuuuuuuck...” — I call it “clearing the Hate Line.” I have never cleared this line (incidentally, I hate you), so I don't know what happens after that in the game.

It must be terribly difficult to establish rituals in your life. (What with making dozens of morally simplistic YA dramas, rife with schmaltzy tropes...) I know you don’t have an “average day,” even though you are an "average" person, but what have you tried to ritualize in your work and home life? And so long as the subject has been raised, what has cleared your Hate Line in the past couple of weeks? Also, why are we emailing each other? Can you think of a reason?

Jonathan

>> On Thursday, June 24, 2016 at 1:44 p.m., Shailene Woodley wrote:

Dearest Jonathan,

We are emailing each other because we both despise technology. It's the one thing we have in common. OK, now this makes sense.

I am woefully lacking ritual in my life, which is among the hardest things and best things about my work. The other hardest thing is that I have to do one more Divergent movie, unless I die first. I will never have the boredom or repetitiveness of an office or know what it feels like to walk around a grocery store without screaming and screaming and screaming. But every job takes me to a new place with a new schedule, and it requires a reinvention of ritual each time, even more so with my crock pot of chaga mushroom tea brewing all the time. Every time I go on location, I have to figure out where to live, what activities are available for my mugwort, how and when we will travel from our home base, how and when I will find an herb that turns me invisible so it seems like I died but I can still be alive. You learn how deeply grounding ritual is when you lose it.

When I’m not working, I’m pretty much exclusively with my herbs, so my rituals have to do with school, meal preparation, play dates, bedtime. Weekends are best for ritual, because I own them completely, and other than that I don't own anything, not even my own body, which belongs to the Earth. I do the whole week’s laundry, which I love because it involves burning all of my dirty clothes and using the ashes as my new clothes. And then we (the herbs and I) spend the weekend together as a family — usually somewhere in nature, often with friends who have herbs. Lots of cooking, lots of trying to figure out how to fake my own death. I like weekends better when I’m working because then they truly feel like I’m regenerating energy, whereas when I’m not working, time blends into one continuous, undifferentiated stream, a stream filled with poison, but just enough to knock you out for a few years, not to actually kill you, but people would think you were dead.

What has cleared my Hate Line recently? Yesterday I saw five bunnies die on the set of Ascendant because one of the PAs drove over them in a prop army tank. I also made prolonged eye contact with a horse, during which it was pretty clear we were having some sort of communication. The communication I sent him was, "Help."

I saw James Brown sing Saturday night. I am friends with his ghost.

Before the concert, I ate a meal at a restaurant that was pretty insane. It’s called the Clove Club; it is on the Ascendant set, which I haven't been allowed to leave yet. Ben (the PA who killed the bunnies) made me laugh a lot comparing his main course (cold oatmeal) to mine (herbs).

I’m working with a group of actors right now who are so white — Miles Teller, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Bill Skarsgård, Jeff Daniels — and we did a scene last night, all night, in which every take was the same, and each one starkly disturbing in its mediocrity, and we sat stone-faced and froze our asses off and played with my chaga tinctures to ease the existential pain. It was rare energy on a film because there were so many men together but there was also me, a woman, and Zoë Kravitz, who is one more woman. Usually it’s all men and each of us is the only woman, trying to smile weakly whenever Miles Teller starts talking about his JonBenet conspiracy theories.

Dead bunnies, unsympathetic horses, ghost music, dystopian oatmeal, artistic depravity...that’s five! Now can you help me fake my death (real death fine too)? Happy Thursday.

James Franco

>> On Friday, June 17, 2016 at 11:16 p.m., James Franco wrote:

Netflix:

When will The Shallows be available on Netflix? I'm hearing rumblings from my friend Blake Lively that Stephen King is writing a novelization of The Shallows. I'm not sure whether you're aware of this, but I, too, am a novelist: I wrote a book called Actors Anonymous and another book called Straight James/Gay James. I'm planning on writing a novel detailing the process of Stephen King's adaptation of The Shallows, then making out with David Blaine inside a giant see-through shark skull for 14 hours to promote it. Would love your thoughts.

>> On Monday, June 20, 2016 at 7:31 a.m., info@mailer.netflix.com wrote:

Coming Friday, June 24...The Fundamentals of Caring

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>> On Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 11:16 p.m., James Franco wrote

Hi again, Netflix!!

Thank you for letting me know about the imminence of The Fundamentals of Caring. I starred with Selena Gomez in Spring Breakers and I enjoy keeping up with her career. Do you think The Shallows will be on Netflix soon? Do you think Selena would join us in the see-through skull (and can you ask her)? Thanks!

>> On Friday, June 24, 2016 at 9:00 a.m., info@mailer.netflix wrote

James, we just added a movie you might like

THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING

A writer stuck in the past. A teen with an uncertain future. On a road trip full of firsts, they get a new lease on life.

This informational email has been sent to you as part of your Netflix membership. If you would like to stop receiving these emails, please click here to unsubscribe, or visit the Communication Settings page, uncheck the Now on Netflix box, and click "Update." Please do not reply to this email, as we are unable to respond from this email address. If you need help or would like to contact us, please visit our Help Center.

This message was mailed to [jamesjamesjamesjames@gmail.com] by Netflix.

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Use of the Netflix service and website is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Statement.

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