July 12th, 2015
04:18 PM ET

Filmmaker Mary Murphy discusses Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman" on Reliable Sources

Today on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Harper Lee: From Mockingbird to Watchman director, Mary Murphy, joined host Brian Stelter to discuss her visit with To Kill A Mockingbird author, Harper Lee and the highly anticipated release of the sequel, Go Set a Watchman.

Reliable Sources airs Sundays, 11 a.m. to noon (ET).

Video, Text highlights, and a full transcript from the show are available below.

MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s RELIABLE SOURCES WITH BRIAN STELTER

 

VIDEO:

Brian Stelter speaks with filmmaker Mary Murphy about "Go Set a Watchman" - days after Murphy met with reclusive author Harper Lee.

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS:

Murphy on if Harper Lee wanted To Kill A Mockingbird to be published: “She has issued statements.  Her lawyers issued statements.  Her very close friends that I have interviewed, everyone says she is delighted and happy to have it published. I did ask her if she thought it was ever going to be published.  And she said: "Don't be silly.  Of course I did."  So that was her answer.

Murphy on Go Set a Watchman being highly anticipated: “…it certainly seems like it's highly anticipated. It is like Harry Potter. I think that all - I think To Kill a Mockingbird is such a beloved classic, that the readers are greedy, greedy readers who want more. Nobody really thought they were going to get more and they are. That's a big deal.

Murphy on Atticus Finch’s character reflecting the culture of the setting in Go Set a Watchman: “…in the book, Atticus says racist things. And the book is set in the mid-'50s in Alabama. That was right after Brown v. Board of Education. Let's remember that Alabama was a state that would have rather closed its public schools than integrate them. This is the climate in which this book appears. This is what's going on in the novel. And a truly liberated white Southern man wasn't something you would find in these small towns or across the state. So Atticus in the book reflects sort of the time and reflects the culture of the time.”

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: The hottest book of the decade comes out on Tuesday.  And it's by an 89-year-old author.  This is what I love about publishing.

This morning, we have an exclusive for you on the famous American literary recluse Harper Lee and the filmmaker who spent time with her this week, after years of trying. I'm sure you know that Lee published the classic To Kill a Mockingbird 55 years ago.  And her only other book, Go Set a Watchman, is about to hit bookstores.

Mockingbird had sold more than 40 million copies, won the Pulitzer Prize, and it was turned into the classic film starring Gregory Peck as small-town lawyer Atticus Finch, which won him the Oscar. But many question whether the writer, now 89 and nearly blind and deaf, actually wanted to publish the new book.  It was a long-lost rough draft.  The film "Harper Lee: From Mockingbird to Watchman" documents her impact on the literary world and disappearance from it. Here is an excerpt, including the last interview Lee gave.  This was in 1964.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, HARPER LEE: FROM MOCKINGBIRD TO WATCHMAN)

HARPER LEE, AUTHOR, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD:  I never expected that the book would sell in the first place.  I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers.  But I was hoping that maybe somebody might like it well enough to give me some encouragement about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER:  This week the film's director, Mary Murphy, actually last week, traveled to Lee's home town of Monroeville, Alabama, and got a rare meeting with the author to ask her about her intentions.  And Mary joins me now here on the set in New York.  So, you're putting the finishing touches on an updated version your film airing tomorrow on PBS.

MARY MURPHY, DIRECTOR, HARPER LEE: FROM MOCKINGBIRD TO WATCHMAN:  Well, it's a coda to my film.

STELTER:  And you were able to actually see her.  You have wanted to do this for years.  So, tell us, what happened?

MURPHY:  I was invited by Harper Lee’s attorneys with Harper Lee's permission to record an event in Monroeville, Alabama, on June 30. And that was the day that Harper Lee's publishers, both British and American, came to her hometown to hand her a spanking new copy of her new book.

STELTER:  Wow.

MURPHY:  Most celebrity authors don't have their publishers show up at their door.  It gives you an idea of what a rare publishing event this is.

STELTER:  You were able to talk to her briefly.

MURPHY:  Yes.

STELTER:  Did you have the sense that she wanted this published?  There have been many stories speculating about that.

MURPHY:  She has issued statements.  Her lawyers issued statements.  Her very close friends that I have interviewed, everyone says she is delighted and happy to have it published. I did ask her if she thought it was ever going to be published.  And she said: "Don't be silly.  Of course I did."  So that was her answer.

STELTER:  Did you believe her?  Did you sense that she was...

MURPHY:  You will have to see.  I have got the video, and I have got the audio, and you can look at it.

STELTER:  It's obviously a sensitive subject, you know, because we haven't heard from her in decades.

MURPHY:  Yes.  Yes.  And absent her speaking directly and at length, questions come up.  And they don't get answered because Harper Lee doesn't answer questions.

STELTER:  The publisher, HarperCollins, no relation to Harper Lee, but HarperCollins, owned by Rupert Murdoch, it's putting this book out this week.  The Wall Street Journal owned by Murdoch had the first excerpt.  The New York Times had a review.  Now we're seeing more reviews of the book. The revelation is that Atticus Finch is a very different character than he was in Mockingbird.  What's your reaction to the idea of this racially tinged character to have these racist views in this new book?

MURPHY:  Well, in the book, Atticus says racist things.  And the book is set in the mid-'50s in Alabama.  That was right after Brown v. Board of Education. Let's remember that Alabama was a state that would have rather closed its public schools than integrate them.  This is the climate in which this book appears.  This is what's going on in the novel.  And a truly liberated white Southern man wasn't something you would find in these small towns or across the state.  So Atticus in the book reflects sort of the time and reflects the culture of the time.

STELTER:  That's something that Michele Norris of NPR suggested on Twitter.  She says, "Maybe this is a more, honest, accurate, real portrait."

MURPHY:  I think it's certainly in keeping with the way people were in Alabama at that time. There are other parts of the book that - in which you can see the old Atticus or the Atticus of To Kill a Mockingbird on display.  The relationship between father and daughter is very much that kind of accepting, wonderful father-daughter relationship.  They do argue, but it is a real family.

STELTER:  Some people are saying they're not going to read the new book.  They don't want their perceptions to be tainted at all.

MURPHY:  Well, I think people can do - readers will do as they wish.  They're two different novels.  Some people will be able to separate them.  Others will find them too closely linked.

STELTER:  And tell me about this moment for the publishing business.  This is really the most anticipated book of the decade.  What does it mean for the print publishing world to have this book be such a big deal?  There's even going to be midnight release parties like the way there were for Harry Potter.

MURPHY:  I'm not in publishing, but it certainly seems like it's highly anticipated.  It is like Harry Potter.  I think that all - I think To Kill a Mockingbird is such a beloved classic, that the readers are greedy, greedy readers who want more.  Nobody really thought they were going to get more and they are.  That's a big deal.

STELTER:  The fact that it's a surprise even adds to the level of excitement.

MURPHY:  Right.  And I know it was - I think it was a surprise to the author herself that the manuscript was still in existence.

STELTER:  Amazing. Mary, thanks for being here.

MURPHY:  Oh, sure.

STELTER:  And the film Harper Lee: From Mockingbird to Watchman airs on PBS Monday.  It is also available on iTunes.

END INTERVIEW


Topics: Brian Stelter • CNN • Reliable Sources
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