vanity fair
Fur, starring Nicole Kidman as photographer Diane Arbus, will reach theaters in November – the $17 million culmination of two decades of Hollywood stop-and-go that involved Diane Keaton, Barbra Streisand, Bernie Brillstein, and Roger Avary, among others. From the day her book Diane Arbus: A Biography was optioned, in 1984, through her hiring and firing as screenwriter, to her meeting with Kidman, PATRICIA BOSWORTH rode a roller coaster, holding on to a portrait of the Arbus she knew: artist, wife, mother, and tragic suicide
August 2006
By Patricia Bosworth
Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark

MYSTERY MAN: Robert Downey Jr. as Lionel

Once Diane asked me, "Do you make love every night? Allan and I do."

A new film (Fur) starring Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey, Jr. about the life of the photographer Diane Arbus will be shot at Brooklyn’s new Steiner Studios…Shooting on Fur, to be directed by Steven Shainberg (Secretarty), is set to begin next month and continue through July. The movie will be based on Patricia Bosworth’s Diane Arbus: A Biography
The Associated Press, April 5, 2005


In May 1978, 1 signed a contract with Alfred A. Knopf to write a biography of Diane Arbus, one of the most important and innovative photographers of the 1960s. Diane had committed suicide in 1971, at the age of 48. The following year there was a large retrospective of her work at the Museum of Modern Art, where her startling portraits of dwarfs, transvestites, freaks, and nudists redefined people's notions of normal and abnormal.
The show toured all over the world to acclaim and controversy. Diane began acquiring an international reputation, albeit posthumously. At the same time, her suicide and the mystery surrounding it were turning her into a legend; she was being compared to Sylvia Plath and Marilyn Monroe.
I had met Diane in the mid‑1950s, and I never forgot her. I was 18 and had just started modeling; she was photographing fashion with her husband, Allan.
I can still see myself‑freckle‑faced and nervous‑entering their studio, on East 72nd Street. The place was two stories high, full of cameras and equipment. There was a tree in the center of the room. Diane appeared, barefoot and tousled, and ran across the polished floor to greet me.
Her large green eyes held curious powers of observation. She didn't just look at me‑she considered me. Then she giggled and said, "Good! You don't look like a model. And that's why we hired you!"
She guided me into a dressing room and began fussing with my hair and makeup, all the while plying me with gentle questions, and I found myself pouring out my heart. 1 learned later that Diane did this with everybody; she drew you out and made you feel as though you were the most important person in the world.
We developed a rapport as soon as she discovered that I'd recently eloped. She had been a teenage bride, too, she confided, married at 18. "Did you go on a honeymoon?" she asked. "Do you want kids?" From then on, whenever we were together she'd want to know how I was coping with my grown‑up life.          
Once she asked me, "Do you make love every night? Allan and I do." I was surprised at her frankness as well as her curiosity about sex. But this was very much a part of her.
When I came out into the main studio space wearing one of the outfits they were going to photograph me in that first day (little white blouses to be featured in Mademoiselle magazine), Allan was setting up the lights. After he finished he and Diane ducked under the focusing hood of their heavy 8‑by‑10 view camera. They had me strike various poses. "Hand on hips ... smile! Hold it!," Allan would shout. He and Diane took turns clicking the shutter, and when they finished the session they took pictures of each other.
I modeled for the Arbuses twice after that. They were Seventeen magazine's favorite cover photographers at the time, but Diane told me that she was bored being a fashion stylist and that Allan really wanted to be an actor. He was taking mime classes; he urged Diane to photograph on her own. He'd tell everybody who came into the studio how talented she was.
The last time I modeled for them (I posed for a Greyhound‑bus ad that ran in Life), the Arbuses asked me to stay for dinner and concocted a delicious fish stew. I watched Diane put her two daughters to bed‑tiny Amy and bewitchingly beautiful Doon. Diane was tender and playful with both her children; she obviously took great pride in being a mother.
At the same dinner a rather grimy‑looking young photographer from Look magazine dropped by. He and the Arbuses occasionally played charades together, and he said he was going to be a Movie director. His name was Stanley Kubrick.

From the Glamour of Fashion to Freaks and Eccentrics

Soon I left modeling for acting, and during the mid‑60s I became a journalist and an editor at various magazines, including McCall's In 1964, 1 started seeing Diane again all over the city‑pedaling her bicycle or jumping out of cabs, cameras weighing her down. She invariably wore a raincoat. "I feel like an explorer!" she'd say.
She had separated from Allan and left fashion, and she told me te was photographing people "without their masks"‑strangers ic discovered on foggy afternoons at Coney Island, or the bizarre habitants of Hubert's Dime Museum and Flea Circus, off Times Square She was also shooting at drag‑queen contests and nudist colonies. It was a time of enormous creativity for her, and she was flush with assignments from Esquire and New York.
I once watched her photograph Abbie Hoffman, a founder of the yippies at a fund‑raiser for the Chicago Seven in the East Village. Dine was totally concentrated on capturing Hoffman's manic expressions He seemed mesmerized by her, and after a while he seemed he observing her. Their eyes locked, and he listened to her gentle uesttons and responded to her gap‑toothed smile.
Diane was always connected to her subjects by a magnetic bond; at as the source of her formidable power.
When people heard I was writing about Diane Arbus, some asomed I would paint her as the stereotypical "tortured artist," but to ane she was a wife and mother whose obsession was to be an artist. 1at's what drove her, and that's what I chose to explore. Naturally, I ought out her older daughter, Doon, the executor of the Arbus estate. he as polite but firm: she would never cooperate with me on a book about her mother's life. She said, "The work speaks for itself." She also refused to give me permission to publish any of Diane's photographs.
Amy Arbus did not cooperate, either, nor did Allan Arbus, the photographer Richard Avedon, or Marvin Israel, Diane's mentor and lover.
But, as I wrote in my book, many others gave me information about Diane's worlds‑the mercantile world of Russek's (the family departcut store on Fifth Avenue, founded in the late 1880s as a fur empo­rium), the glamorous world of fashion, the dark world of freaks and eccentrics to which she was irrevocably drawn.
I received an enormous amount of help from Diane's sister, Renée Sparkia, and from her brother, Howard Nemerov, the distinguished poet. He invited me to his home in St. Louis several times and we spent hours talking. Howard told me he and Diane had been inseparable as children. Raised by nannies and chauffeurs, "we were protected and privileged and watched over incessantly," he said. "It made us fearful."

One weekend, Howard arranged to have his mother stay the night so that I could interview her. Gertrude Nemerov was a beautiful, white‑haired lady who chain‑smoked and shopped compulsively. 1 did most of my interviews with her as we wandered through department stores in downtown St. Louis. She told me that she didn't think Diane would have committed suicide if she'd had the proper medication, but that Diane's hepatitis had prevented her from taking the drugs prescribed to her.
Howard refused to speculate on his sister's violent death. "Don't be an armchair shrink," he pleaded. "Just tell the story." When I finished researching, I took over Susan Cheever's lease on her office on East 54th Street and for the next six years wrote and re‑wrote the book.
I tacked a photocopy of my favorite Arbus image to my bulletin board for inspiration. It was an eerie self‑portrait Diane had taken in her parents' bathroom mirror when she was 21 and pregnant with Doon. In the picture, Diane seems to be contemplating the mysteries contained in her face and the bigness of the camera. I imagined she might be pondering the big questions‑about authenticity and reality versus illusion, life versus death, the power of voyeurism, all those elements that are at the heart of photography.
"A photograph is a secret about a secret," Diane once wrote. "The more it tells you the less you know."

Options, Options...

My biography of Diane Arbus was published in 1984. Within weeks, it was optioned for Diane Keaton by Ileen Maisel, vice president in charge of production at MGM. I thought Keaton had the perfect quality for Diane: she was funny and ditzy and brave.
Until my book was optioned, I hadn't thought much about how it might be adapted. I knew that you have to reduce when you write a screenplay. A biography is about going inside a person, while a film is about surfaces. The story must be told visually in a filmbut which story? There were dozens of strange and wonderful ones that made up Diane Arbus's life.
Early on, my late husband the playwright Met Arrighi and I signed on to co‑write the screenplay. We made little progress but took many meetings and scores of notes. Maisel recalls that we began the screenplay with the image that opens my book‑Diane as a little girl teetering on the window ledge of her parents' apartment high over Central Park West and then being dragged inside by her frightened mother. Diane was always testing herself testing her courage.
We also sketched several scenes dramatizing Diane's love‑hate relationship with her father and first male mentor: the elegant and sensual womanizer David Nemerov, a master furrier who ran Russek's and nurtured his daughter's great gifts, first as a painter and then as a photographer, even as he insisted that she make marriage and motherhood her top priorities.
In the summer of 1984, the French director Diane Kurys (whose film Peppermint Soda had been a huge hit in Paris) flew to New York to talk about directing the Arbus film. She met with my husband and me and Maisel, but after much discussion decided she really wanted to work with Debra Winger instead of Keaton.
Subsequently, my husband convinced me that we should bow out of writing the screenplay. He didn't feel comfortable with so many people throwing ideas and stars around. And we still didn't know what Diane Keaton's opinions were. We hadn't even met her, although she did send me a book she'd edited of photographs of hotel lobbies.

More months went by. The novelist Alice Hoffman was hired to write a screenplay and, as I recall, completed a rather fanciful one based mostly on Diane's childhood. It, too, included the image of Diane on the window ledge.
At the end of 1986, Been Maisel left MGM for Lorimar Pictures, taking the Arbus project with her. She told me Keaton would no longer be involved. Bernie Brillstein, then head of Lorimar, picked up the option. (Brillstein would go on to form the production and management company Brillstein‑Grey with Brad Grey, now the studio chief of Paramount Pictures.)
Brillstein had a big collection of Arbuses‑he loved her work as an artist and thought this could be a very important picture. My agent, Boaty Boatwright, persuaded him to bring on Doris Dörne, the German‑born director of the 1985 hit comedy Men…
In the winter of 1987, Dörrie came to New York to shoot Me and Him, a bizarre film about a man who talks to his penis. (Griffin Dunne played the man.) When she wasn't shooting, Dorrie and I would brainstorm about casting Debra Winger as Diane, Richard Gere as Allan, Jeremy Irons as Marvin Israel. I was beginning to realize this was very much part of the movie experience‑endless talking, note‑taking, fantasizing. It gives a false sense you're accomplishing something!
Dorrie wanted John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion to writ,, the screenplay. When we heard they weren't available, she flew out to Hollywood to court the screenwriter Leonard Schrader, whose brother Paul Schrader wrote Taxi Driver. I remember her phoning me in tears because Leonard's guard dog had been so ferocious that she couldn't walk through the garden to get to his house.
 Brillstein held on to the property for a couple more years, but nothing came of it. In 1992, Barbra Streisand took over the option. Her trusted right hand. Cis Corman, said Streisand wanted to direct the picture and star as Diane. She'd had a huge success ith Yentl which she'd starred in, directed, and produced. She'd even warbled a few tunes. For a while there was a rumor that the Arbus movie would be called The Singing Photographer Streisand's interest in directing the picture waned after the screenwriter Patricia Knop (9112 Weeks) turned in a literal rendering of my biography, which Streisand didn't think was right for her. But she kept the option, and Corman sent the screenplay to Mike Nichols, Jonathan Demme, and Martin Scorsese. They all turned it down.
Finally, Corman stopped sending the screenplay around and instead we met with other directors‑among them Ang Lee, who said he was intrigued by the character of Diane but was booked for the next two years. The same was true for Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction and Luc Besson (The Fifth Element). Corman and I had dinner with another possible Diane: Meg Ryan. At the end the meal, Ryan confided that she'd rather play Sylvia Plath.
During those years, I would often have coffee with my friend Bonnie Timmermann, one of the top casting directors in the business and a great collector of faces. Timmermann had always wanted  to produce, and she was determined to produce this project "no matter how long it takes."
When Streisand dropped the option, in 1997, Timmermann persuaded Ed Pressman to pick it up. Pressman, who has made more than 70 films, is one of Hollywood's true maverick indepen dent producers. He has nurtured the talents of Oliver Stone, Brian De Palma, Terrence Malick, and Abel Ferrara, among others.
Pressman said he wanted me to be a producer and take another crack at writing the screenplay. I jumped at the chance. I decided to focus on the last day of Arbus's life, which she spent partly at her apartment in Westbeth, an artists' community that had just opened near the Hudson River docks. Mostly she wandered the city doing errands and meeting up with friends before disappearing back into Westbeth to kill herself.            
In between I would flash back to incidents related to her famous photographs and explore her passion for her lover, Marvin Israel. She called him "my Svengali." Richard Avedon called Israel his "biggest influence." A man of fierce intelligence an a painter of grim visions, Israel had designed Avedon's major museum shows.

 FUR FATHER Harris Yulin and Jane Alexander as Diane's parents, the furrier David Nemerov and his wife, Gertrude.

Streisand wanted to star as Diane. There was a rumor it would be called The Singing Photographer.

Israel had seen in Diane an original talent that needed to be pushed. For 12 years he cajoled and promoted her. But Israel' first allegiance was to his wife, the frail artist Margie Ponce. Arbus often spoke of how envious she was of Ponce, because "Marvin would never leave her." Diane admired him for his loyalty, but it depressed her, too.
The last day of Diane's life, Israel was spending the weekend with his wife at Ayedon's house on Fire Island instead of being with her. That night Diane slit her wrists, swallowed sleeping pills, and then curled up in her empty bathtub. As I wrote in my book, there was even a rumor that she set up a camera and took pictures of herself as she lay dying, but no such photos have ever surfaced. In her appointment book from July 26, the words "Last Supper" had reportedly been scrawled.
On July 28. 1971, after failing to reach her all weekend, Marvin Israel rushed to Diane's apartment. He let himself in with the key she'd given him and found the body. Then he called three friends: the writer Larry Shainberg, the attorney Jay Gold, and Richard Avedon. They all came to the apartment and waited with Israel for the police.

It Gets a Little Ugly

Throughout the summer of 1997, Timmermann and Pressman kept making me revise my drafts. After the sixth treatment they told me they liked what I'd written and introduced me to Mark Romanek, a talented young music‑video director who'd worked with Madonna and Michael and Janet Jackson, among others, and went on to direct Robin Williams in One Hour Photo.
We met at the Royalton, on West 44th Street. Romanek was bearded and superserious. He told me he'd originally wanted to be a photographer. He was from a wealthy family in Chicago, so he understood Diane's need "as a rich kid" to explore other realities.
He did not like my idea of focusing on Diane's emotional relationship with Marvin Israel. "Too tidy," 1 recall him saying, and, besides, he had "no interest in relationships." He wanted to concentrate on Diane's art.
A few weeks later, I flew out to the West Coast to meet with Romanek again and with Roger Avary, who had co‑written Pulp Fiction with Quentin Tarantino. Pressman thought Avary could serve as a balance between Romanek and me.
I arrived at LAX around noon, suffering from an abscessed wisdom tooth. I went directly from the airport to a dentist's office and arrived at Pressman's penthouse office near Sunset Boulevard giddy from painkillers.
Romanek was already there, dressed in black exercise togs, a dour expression on his face. Timmermann was there, too she hugged me nervously. We were surrounded by posters of Pressman's movies: Wall Street, City Hall, Das Boot.
Soon we gathered in an airless conference room, and then Roger Avary arrived, looking disheveled but genial. He had a wild, hooting laugh and a sweeping, extravagant mustache that reminded me of Salvador Dali's.
It turned out that Avary was writing a screenplay about Dali‑"so I grew my mustache this way," he said with a grin. Then he told us he couldn't work on the Arbus project after all, because as soon as he finished with Dali he was going to Ireland to work on a film based on Beowulf.
However, he did have one suggestion. He said that when he and Tarantino were writing Pulp Fiction they'd sketched episodes onto dozens of index cards under headings such as "Shooting scene," "Stabbing scene," and "S&M homosexual rape scene" and then tossed the cards onto the floor to see where they landed‑"like some gigantic puzzle."
I told him I liked the way they'd bookended the movie‑the diner scene at the start, the diner scene at the end. Avary laughed his crazy laugh and said, "We just put those scenes in as an afterthought. So you'd think we had a construction. But we didn't."
The meeting ended five hours later with the suggestion that Romanek camp out in New York and we try writing together until we came up with something.
For the next 10 days Romanek and I sat in Pressman's huge West 57th Street office throwing ideas and concepts and snatches of dialogue back and forth. Soon the room was littered with bags of half‑eaten takeout and stacks of classic movie videos that we might run for inspiration‑Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard, Federico Fellini's 8'/2.
For a while the only thing we agreed on was to start the movie with the same image of Diane teetering on the window ledge. But Romanek kept dictating and I kept scribbling away on a yellow legal pad, and finally we completed some pages we both liked. That evening, I gave the pages to Pressman and Timmermann. They suggested I write a memo detailing what 1 thought Romanek and I had achieved as collaborators.
I stupidly did as I was told, ending with the comment that, although we were making progress on the screenplay, it wasn't working yet because there was not enough story. After I sent the memo, 1 heard that Romanek had holed up in his hotel room to write the script himself and that he wanted me off the project. (Romanek admits there was a "creative stalemate" but attributes his behavior to "an unexpected burst of creativity.")
I was out. I hadn't seen it coming, even though I'd heard so many horror stories from other screenwriters about how they'd been treated in similar situations. And I'd read Monster, John Gregory Dunne's scathing account of Hollywood's writing life.
I remembered, too, the words of William Goldman, who wrote All the President's Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: "In terms of authority, screenwriters rank somewhere between the man who guards the studio gate and the man who runs the studio (this week), and there's a whole world to which we are not privy."
Needless to say, I was upset. I felt a terrible sense of loss. It wasn't just the loss of my book, which I'd already given up to other people to do with as they pleased, but now my potential screenplay too, which was becoming a vivid movie in my head. It was hard to accept that it would never be realized.
I went to see my old friend David Newman, a former Esquire editor who had co-written the screenplay for Bonnie and Clyde. A funny, decent man with an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema and a deep understanding of the business, Newman, who died in 2003, had guided me through the first phase of writing the treatment. "You're lucky they got rid of you when they did; it would have just gotten worse," he told me. "The bottom line is, unless you have the director on your side, forget it." Then he added, "No matter how wonderful his cockamamy screenplay is, unless he gets a big movie star to want to be in it, that movie ain't gonna be made!"
Romanek went on to finish the Arbus screenplay by himself, and in 1999 Bonnie Timmermann organized a reading of it in L.A., with Holly Hunter playing Diane. A lot of money people were invited, including Arnon Milchan, who produced Pretty Woman and L.A. Confidential. Halfway through the reading, Milchan excused himself, saying he had to catch a plane to Israel.
After failing to get enough financing for his version, Romanek parted ways with Pressman, and the Pressman office informed me that they did not intend to pay me for the screenplay I hadn't finished. They argued that since I was a producer I was responsible for Romanek's involvement as screenwriterdirector‑and, by extension, 1 was responsible for my own firing!
It got pretty ugly for a while, but the Writers Guild helped me get the money I was owed. When I told screenwriter friends what had happened, they laughed; screenwriters are always in litigation for some reason or other.
Then Pressman offered to pick up the option again, with the earnest promise that "this movie is going to be made," because "we believe in the material." I agreed to it, but I had already accepted that my work would be appropriated, would become someone else's property.
Over the years more options were forthcoming from Pressman, and there were more promises and disappointments and disagreements. But by then I'd detached myself emotionally from the project. I went back to writing books and was much happier, and a tiny bit wiser.

"A Leap into Fantasy"

I n 2000, Tamara Jenkins entered the pic­ture. A wisecracking former performance artist, Jenkins had written and directed Slums of Beverly Hills, a rollicking autobiographical account of her vagabond upbringing, which opened to great acclaim at Cannes in 1998.
Jenkins's idea was to put herself into the screenplay. The movie would be about Tamara Jenkins struggling to write a movie about the photographer Diane Arbus. Ed Pressman would be in it, sitting in his big office on West 57th Street, and I would be in it, too. Her screenplay was called Arbus Untitled, and I liked it. Francis Ford Coppola liked it, too. There was talk he might become executive producer.
Jenkins wrote a second draft, and then, in the middle of 2002, we started hearing about a movie called Adaptation, in which a screenwriter named Charlie Kaufman (played by Nicolas Cage) struggles to complete a script based on The Orchid Thief a book by Susan Orlean that began as an article in The New Yorker.
The device in Arbus Untitled seemed just too close to Adaptation, and after failed attempts to secure financing, Tamara Jenkins was gone from the project.
In the fall of 2002, director Steven Sham­berg and writer Erin Cressida Wilson signed on to adapt my Arbus biography. They had collaborated on the beguilingly transgressive and critically acclaimed movie Secretary, which starred James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal and was based on Mary Gaitskill's short story about an S&M relationship between an office temp and her boss.
Coincidentally, Shainberg's father, the late psychoanalyst David Shainberg, and his uncle Larry had been extremely helpful to me when I was researching my book. They were the only friends of Marvin Israel's who agreed to talk frankly to me about how much he had meant to Diane.
Steven Shainberg had grown up hearing about Diane Arbus. He'd always wanted to direct a movie about her, and he had a very specific vision about how he was going to do it. First off, he did not want it to be a biopic. I was involved only peripherally in Shamberg and Wilson's process. Basically, I gave them my blessing and went on with my own work.
In the spring of 2004, Shainberg sent me Wilson's screenplay, which he described as "a leap into fantasy." It was entitled Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arhus. I read it and reread it, and my overall impression was that, while it was original and unsettling, it bore no resemblance to my book. However, the screenplay did deal with many of the same themes‑ mainly, how an exceptionally gifted woman juggles the roles of wife, mother, and artist. Wilson handled these themes with sensitivity and intelligence. The essence of Diane Arbus is there; her spirit illuminates the story.
In Fur, Wilson creates a series of fictional incidents ‑Diane's tumultuous meetings with a mysterious neighbor named Lionel‑ which transform her into an artist. These incidents are surrounded by some of the facts from my book, especially scenes with Diane's wealthy and powerful father, David Nemerov, who, as I wrote, j new that women will always love furs because they are so soft and luxurious.
A lot of people got excited about Fur. For a while, Samantha Morton (In America) was going to play Diane, but she held out for too much money. Naomi Watts and Toni Collette were also considered.
But Fur didn't get off the ground until Ed Pressman decided to sell his interest in the project to Bill Pohlad and Laura Bickford. (Pohlad and Bickford are currently collaborating with this magazine's editor on a documentary about the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial.)
Bonnie Timmermann gave the script to Nicole Kidman's trusted acting coach, Susan Batson, who passed it on to Kidman. The actress had been set to star in Eucalyptus with Russell Crowe in Australia, but that project fell apart. After Kidman became enthusiastic about Fur, Shainberg flew to Australia to clinch the deal. Then he drafted Robert Downey, Jr. to co‑star as Lionel.

Movies Are Uncontrollable

I t is a hot, humid afternoon in July 2005,  21 years after the publication of Diane Arbus: A Biography, and I am walking into the gigantic Steiner Studios, where Fur is being filmed. (Picturehouse will release the film this November.) Formerly part of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Steiner is now a complex with enough space to shoot several movies at once. The Producers just wrapped here, and Jodie Foster and Denzel Washington are beginning work with Spike Lee on Inside Man.
The soundstage I'm on is as big and echoing as a cathedral. All the Fur sets have been constructed here: Diane and Allan's studio, the Nemerov home, the fictional Lionel's apartment. I sneak onto an adjoining soundstage and watch the award‑ winning photographer Mary Ellen Mark take portraits with a massive, 20‑by‑24‑inch Polaroid of some of the cast members: dwarfs, a woman with no arms, then Robert Downey Jr. holding a snow‑ white rabbit.
Back on the Fur set, I am surrounded by hardworking craftspeople‑ carpenters, grips, lighting designers, hairdressers, coaches, P.A.'s murmuring on walkie‑talkies. Over in a corner, Steven Shainberg is conferring with the cinematographer, Bill Pope. In another corner, Nicole Kidman is having her makeup touched up.
I still can't quite believe that my book has been completely reimagined as a $17 million movie. Part of me is thrilled, but another part of me is conflicted. Movies are uncontrollable. With so much money and so many players, no one person, not even a star, can exert his or her will completely.
Shainberg is preparing to shoot a scene with Kidman, so I go over to her, hoping to chat with her for a bit. She is very tall and beautiful and serene ‑in spite of the bodyguards, assistants, and makeup people who threaten to engulf her.
She seems so different from her most recent roles: the lovable witch in Bewitched, the stern political activist in The Interpreter. The spirit of Diane seems to inhabit her; it's as if she's in a trance. Kidman tells me that she can't be interrupted or else she might lose the vision she has for her upcoming scene. With that, she glides away to join Jane Alexander and Harris Yulin, who play Diane's parents, Gertrude and David Nemerov.
The scene depicts a birthday party where Diane is toasted by Allan, movingly played by Ty Burrell (Friends with Money). Later, watching it on the monitor, I'm struck by Kidman's expression in close‑ up. It reminds me of the look on Diane Arbus's face when she first saw me so many years ago, when she didn't just look at me but considered me.
Then I remember that, before filming started, I had sent Kidman a photocopy of that ghostly self‑ portrait Arbus took when she was 21. I wonder if Kidman ever received the picture; she never mentioned it.
When I return home, there's a fax for me on Kidman's letterhead. It reads, "Dear Patti‑ I'm sorry there was no time to talk. It's very hard ... in the middle of the work. Thank you for the photograph. It is a great inspiration. Love, Nic."
I go back to my office and study the self- portrait again. I still imagine Diane pondering all those questions about illusion, authenticity, life, death, voyeurism the ones at the heart of photography.
It occurs to me, not for the first time, that Diane was a rule breaker‑ determined to have love, adventure, and fame on a grand scale. She reached deep down into herself to confront her fantasies and her fears, and Wilson's screenplay for Fur reflects that. It shows Diane beginning her journey into all the worlds she wanted to explore with her camera, all the worlds she opened to the rest of us with her piercing, transformative eye.