Director James Ponsoldt’s The End of the Tour is based on a true account of journalist David Lipsky who spent five days on a book tour with legendary author David Foster Wallace back in 1996, when Wallace’s seminal Infinite Jest had just been released.
“It’s based on what these guys actually said, so, there’s a weird quality of real verite to this: these guys actually said this, actually did this. The tapes exist, and they were made available to me, and I made them available to the actors,” Ponsoldt tells Filmmaker Magazine about his source material. “It’s just capturing a tiny moment of time and how they’re engaging with what the world is bouncing back at them.”
Ultimately, Ponsoldt calls the movie “a hang-out film about a really complicated relationship.” It’s “a story about meeting someone you’ve admired from a distance, so in that regard it’s an unrequited love story. It’s about meeting that person who you’ve built up, whether it’s an artist or an estranged family member — someone who has taken on an entire constellation of emotion and meaning to you, and who, at the end of the day, is a total stranger. And who, when you do find yourself in their proximity for some time, [your] relationship [with them] is complicated by their own messy humanity…[Lipsky] really admires [Wallace] on a deep level, and on a certain level he kind of wants to be him.”
Ponoldt says he was moved to helm the film immediately after reading Donald Margulies’ script. “What I loved about it was the absolute restraint. It’s never histrionic. It’s never exploitative. It’s incredibly subtle. So immediately I knew I had to tell this story. You [make] movies about things that you can’t stop thinking about, about characters you love. You try to engage with questions that really haunt you,” he explains.
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