Exclusive interview with Sondra Locke about The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

From small things, big things one day come. The way Sondra Locke got the part in a major Hollywood production – the film adaptation of Carson McCullers masterpiece – is a story which should be remembered. It was an episode of faith, talent, luck. Almost overnight, an aspiring actress from Shelbyville, Tennessee, got nominated for an Academy Award on her first role. 45 years later, Wand’rin’ Star asked Sondra Locke how this came to be.

[The story of how Locke got the part can be read in her book.]

45 five years and many films later, Sondra Locke commented about this remarkable phase of her life:

The homosexual undertone was removed when they changed directors. The filming started September 25. Carson McCullers died September 29th 1967, four days after shooting started. The film was released July 1968. Did you ever meet her or knew her opinion about the adaptation?

I was supposed to meet her after the production but unfortunately she passed away before it could happen.

Do you think after all these years, that it was something of a (sorry if it sounds crude, but Hollywood does this many times) cash-in on the author’s death?

No, I don’t think there was any exploitation of her death, as she passed away during production. There was very little reported about it. The film version of her novel had been attempted for years. Originally Montgomery Clift was going to play Singer. However, he was in an auto accident and couldn’t get insured. I’m told many people tried to get Heart produced as a film over the years. I’m not certain all the different reasons it took so long to come to fruition.

How do you view the film now, given the fact that those aspects were removed and Gordon Anderson is gay? (And he was so supportive to say the least, in you getting the part.)

Honestly, I didn’t draw a correlation. I was mostly very disappointed that Joseph Strick didn’t direct the film. Of course, he originally cast me. I was looking forward to being directed by him. Also, I felt that his version would have had more depth.

Did you read the book prior to filming or was it just instinct and the precious help and “coaching” from Gordon that helped to create such an impact in that role?

When Gordon and I heard about the search underway for an unknown to play Mick Kelly, we took the novel from the library and studied it. I had not read it prior.

Clint Eastwood, at one point, was interested in filming the way you got the part, but Gordon Anderson advised you against it. Do you think someday this “story within the story”, so to speak, will ever be filmed? Who would you cast as yourself? And Gordon? And who could direct it?…

I honestly hope that it will not be made, because I fear it could fall into hands that would turn it into something ordinary, like some awful movie for television. I haven’t given thought to who might possibly make a good film of it. I think it’s best left as a part of my book, although so many people say that it should be a film. Unfortunately Hollywood would probably only be interested in exploiting the Clint section of the book.

David Furtado



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