IFC Films has acquired a documentary film about legendary novelist and humorist Kurt Vonnegut that’s been in the works for 39 years. The indie distributor, which will release “Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time” in summer 2021, also released a teaser with the “Slaughterhouse-Five” author’s voice.
Robert B. Weide, best known as a director on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” directed the film with Don Argott (“The Art of the Steal),” and it traces Vonnegut’s life and Weide and Vonnegut’s close friendship together up until the author’s death in 2007 at age 84.
“Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time” is a rare portrait of the author that dives into his upbringing and creative output, and the film includes footage and interviews Weide began shooting of Vonnegut as far back as 1988, well before they had plans for a film or any idea how close their friendship would become.
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In the clip above, you can hear a brief message Vonnegut left for Weide in which he says he’s terrified of seeing screenings of films based on his own work (“they scare the s— out of me”) and why you should never play games of Three Card Monte.
“Unstuck In Time” is named for the protagonist Billy Pilgrim in Vonnegut’s landmark anti-war novel “Slaughterhouse-Five” and how the story arrives randomly at different moments in his life. The documentary follows a similar structure, jumping back to his childhood in Indianapolis, his experience as a prisoner of war in World War II, his marriage and family, his early careers as a publicist for General Electric and a car salesman, and his years as a struggling writer, leading to his eventual superstardom in 1969 after “Slaughterhouse-Five” was published.
All of it is seen through the prism of Weide’s own friendship with Vonnegut and how they first met after he wrote a letter to the author in 1982 asking for permission to make a documentary on him. Weide also gets a little meta as well as he begins to examine his own creation over the years and considers how Vonnegut often made himself the supporting character in his own novels.
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“When I first approached Vonnegut to authorize this film in 1982, I envisioned a fairly conventional author documentary,” Weide said in a statement. “As the decades rolled by, fate stepped in, and what I wound up with was far from conventional. As my friendship with my literary idol grew, full disclosure was called for, and Don Argott came on to document the meta element of this story, as I continued to focus on Vonnegut’s biography. What we wound up with was a hybrid that combined our respective strengths as filmmakers and will hopefully be seen as a worthy tribute by Vonnegut’s fans and a compelling introduction for the uninitiated. I’m grateful to IFC for stepping up and bringing this lifelong passion project to the public.”
“Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time” is produced by Whyaduck Productions and 9.14 Pictures. Weide has also previously made documentary films on the Marx Brothers, Woody Allen and W.C. Fields. And he wrote the screenplay for an adaptation of one of Vonnegut’s novels, the 1996 film “Mother Night.”
“IFC Films has a proud history of supporting long-evolving film projects and we are thrilled to partner with Bob Weide on this 40-year journey of documenting the legacy of Kurt Vonnegut. The portrait that Bob and Don have created is an unparalleled look at an icon who has shaped modern culture and we are honored to bring that rare glimpse to audiences across the country,” Arianna Bocco, EVP of acquisitions and productions of IFC Films said in a statement.
The deal for the film was negotiated by Bocco with the filmmakers.