Salinger (film)

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The official movie poster for SALINGER documentary film.jpg
Directed by Shane Salerno
Produced by Shane Salerno
Buddy Squires
Deborah Randall
Craig Fanning
Written by Shane Salerno
Starring Martin Sheen
Edward Norton
John Cusack
Judd Apatow
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Cinematography Anthony Savini
Buddy Squires
Edited by Jeffrey Doe
Distributed by The Weinstein Company
Release dates
  • September 6, 2013 (2013-09-06)
Country United States
Language English
Box office $650,675[1]

Salinger is a 2013 documentary film about the writer J. D. Salinger, written and directed by Shane Salerno.

The film was one of the top-ten highest-grossing documentaries of 2013.[2]

The film holds an audience approval rating of 4 out of 5 stars from over 112,000 votes on Netflix.[3]

Production history[edit]

On January 29, 2010, the website broke an exclusive story and review of Salinger, a feature-length documentary about reclusive author J. D. Salinger that Salerno directed, produced and financed himself. The documentary was kept secret for five years. The film features interviews with 150 subjects including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, John Cusack, Danny DeVito (whose interviews were cut from the film's official release), John Guare, Martin Sheen, David Milch, Robert Towne, Tom Wolfe, E. L. Doctorow, and Pulitzer Prize winners A. Scott Berg, Elizabeth Frank and the late Gore Vidal. Michael Fleming, the first journalist in the world to view the film, said Salerno's picture was "arrestingly powerful and exhaustively researched". Additionally, Fleming announced that Salerno had co-written a 700-page biography on Salinger with New York Times bestselling author David Shields.[4]

On February 4, 2010, Entertainment Weekly released an article about the Salinger documentary that detailed the elaborate security protocol that was put into place to keep the film secret for five years.[5]

On January 26, 2011, Salerno spoke with the Associated Press about his Salinger documentary and its expected late 2012 release. "In the final analysis, what distinguishes our film and book project is access—access to Salinger's friends, colleagues and members of his inner circle that have never spoken on the record before as well as film footage, photographs and other material that has never been seen," Salerno said. "We take the viewer and reader inside J. D. Salinger's private world and shine light on a man named Jerry who lived in the shadow of the myth of J. D. Salinger".

On February 27, 2013, it was announced that Harvey Weinstein had acquired the documentary for theatrical distribution by his studio, The Weinstein Company, after being the only studio head to see the finished film after the 85th Academy Awards. The purchase price was $2 million. It does not include the television rights, which were sold to PBS' American Masters. The release date of September 6, 2013 was chosen for the film to be a candidate for the 86th Academy Awards.[6]

On June 13, 2013, The Weinstein Company released the first trailer for the film.[7]

The film premiered on American Masters as the program's 200th episode on January 21, 2014.[8] This version contains fifteen extra minutes of footage, including the interviews which were cut from the theatrical release, as is considered by Salerno to be "my definitive version" of the film.[9]

On September 4, 2013, in an interview on Charlie Rose, Salerno revealed that the project initially started as a feature film, with Daniel Day-Lewis as his choice to play Salinger.[10]

Audience and critical reception[edit]

Film critics hold diverse and wide-ranging opinions of the film:

  • 3 out of 4 stars. "A valuable and engrossing biography of the author of arguably the most beloved American novel of the 20th century". —Richard Roeper "Chicago Sun-Times"[11]
  • Salinger is a thoroughly engrossing film that provides a full-bodied portrait of the man, the myth, the legend J.D. Salinger…Filmmaker Shane Salerno spent a decade interviewing friends, lovers, and admirers of the reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye. It is truly unbelievable how much research went into the making of this film, and it shows on screen. —Marlow Stern, The Daily Beast[12]
  • “Mesmerizing. . . What compels us is the energetic pulse of Salerno's investigations, the sheer amount of work he's done. Salerno has spent nine years investigating Salinger's life. The photographs and information Salerno unearthed over all that time are impressive…the film is definitely fascinating.” —Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times[13]
  • “Compelling and captivating! [An] Exhaustingly researched. . . riveting story of Salinger's life and art.—Claudia Puig, USA Today[14]
  • “Shane Salerno‘s riveting and stunning portrait of reclusive author J.D. Salinger. . . should be a certain Oscar contender for Best Documentary Feature, not only for its superb execution but also as an investigative piece that has elicited major revelations about never-before-known Salinger literary works left behind by the author” —Pete Hammond, Deadline Hollywood[15]
  • “4 out of 5 stars. Comprehensive, authoritative and exhaustively researched. . . It's an impressive feat, really, given how determinedly secretive Salinger was…Every bit as impressive is how well-assembled Salerno's film is from a visual standpoint…‘Salinger’ is an engrossing and eye-opening film.” —Mike Scott, The Times-Picayune[16]
  • “Enthralling. . .the documentary capably strips away the fanaticism associated with his books to create the impression of a human being. . . Salerno's two hour-plus account of Salinger's complexities covers virtually every aspect of his life story. . . [Salinger is] certainly effective at giving him more dimensionality than the tenuous mythology surrounding him” —Eric Kohn, Indiewire[17]
  • “[A] portrait of the writer as an obsessive perfectionist, as a traumatized war veteran. . .as a cultural icon filmmaker Shane Salerno’s documentary Salinger is all of these things. Rich in anecdote and visually arresting, thanks to a skillful interweaving of rare photos and film footage of the elusive Salinger. —Soren Andersen, The Seattle Times[18]
  • “Salinger is a complex portrait of a beloved author…it is also the truth about how genius doesn’t always come in a perfect package. —Sasha Stone, Awards Daily[19]
  • "Salinger does what so many documentaries and biopics either fail to do or decline to attempt; it speculates convincingly on the connective tissue between the life and the work of the subject. Director Shane Salerno's documentary exhaustively researches author J.D. Salinger…to present a fascinating picture of one of the 20th century's most enigmatic writers…what emerges is a complex portrait of a complex man.” —Michael Ordoña, San Francisco Chronicle[20]
  • "...less a work of cinema than the byproduct of its own publicity campaign". —A. O. Scott of New York Times"[21]
  • "self-aggrandizing" —Dana Stevens, Slate[22]

The film holds a 6.4 audience approval rating and a 40% film-critic approval rating on the review aggregator website Metacritic, based on 28 critics' reviews.[23]

American Masters Director's Cut[edit]

The director's cut of Salinger aired on the Emmy-winning PBS series American Masters on January 21, 2014. It was their special 200th Episode. The reviews were nearly universally positive.

David Zurawik in the Baltimore Sun wrote "This is really an impressive documentary. The profile [Salerno] comes up with is worthy and then some of the American Masters. Salerno respects the greatness of The Catcher in the Rye and you will hear people, literary scholars...talking about what this book means and it’s really great literary criticism. I think this is one of the best American Masters they have had in years."[24]

Nathan Southern in TV Guide gave Salinger "3 out of 4 stars. Shane Salerno's documentary Salinger—a biographical profile of reclusive [The] Catcher in the Rye author J. D. Salinger—is an emotionally stirring and affecting work..." [25]

On January 22, 2014, AP reported that “within hours” of Salinger appearing on American Masters/PBS J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye “soared” to number 1 on Amazon for the first time in its publishing history.[26]


  1. ^ "Salinger". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Fleming, Mike, Jr. (January 29, 2010). "Secret J.D. Salinger Documentary & Book, Now Revealed (Mike Has Seen The Film)". Deadline Hollywood. 
  5. ^ Sperling, Nicole (February 4, 2010). "J.D. Salinger documentary: the top-secret film five years in the making". Entertainment Weekly. 
  6. ^ Fleming, Mike, Jr. (February 27, 2013). "J.D. Salinger Documentary Acquired By Harvey Weinstein".
  7. ^ Fleming, Mike, Jr. (June 13, 2013). "Hot Trailer: 'Salinger'".
  8. ^ Fleming, Mike, Jr. (January 30, 2013). "Next Up For J.D. Salinger Docu: Film Distribution Deal To Follow S&S Book Pact".
  9. ^
  10. ^ "An hour with filmmaker Shane Salerno on his documentary about reclusive author J.D. Salinger.". Charlie Rose. PBS. September 3, 2013.
  11. ^ Roeper, Richard (September 19, 2013). "‘Salinger’ documentary brings reclusive author out into the open". The Chicago Sun-Times.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Turan, Kenneth (September 5, 2013). "Movie review: 'Salinger' is a treasure-trove of details about writer". Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ Puig, Claudia (September 8, 2013). "'Salinger' documentary is far from phony". USA Today.
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  21. ^ Scott, A.O. (September 5, 2013). "The Punishment for Being Publicity-Shy". The New York Times.
  22. ^
  23. ^ ". metacritic. Retrieved October 1, 2013.
  24. ^,0,3086683.story
  25. ^
  26. ^

External links[edit]