Dito Montiel

  • The List
  • 28 February 2007


Dito Montiel (right) discusses the challenges of adapting his novel A Guide to Recognising Your Saints for the screen. Set in the 1980s it is a coming-of-age drama about a boy growing up in Astoria, New York.

‘The book is so different to the film, it’s more about people that I knew. I put my name to one of the characters in the movie, but it is not like an autobiography or a memoir. Of course, there are things that are personal, but I mixed up the people. I used the book more like a bank of emotions. Originally, with the film, I was writing a film just with the kids and then Robert Downey Jr got involved and said he wanted a contrary story to just the kids in the 80s and he had just seen Memento and he was like “maybe we could do it backwards?” We tried to think of another way to bring something else into it and the writing and the editing and the directing was like trying to remember any event in the past. I’d mess something up in the description of it; it would be fragmented because our memories are fragmented. To me, the film is supposed to be more about what it is like to experience something than to control something. I wanted it to feel like you’re in a moment.

‘Robert Downey was very cool, he helped me get it made and never sold me out along the way. He would pop in with different things. Even when he was in jail I got a couple of letters from him. He is a smart guy, and when you say his name the first thing people say is that he is “a great actor,” and you can list the number of great actors on one hand. There is a reason he is still around.

‘It’s been a war from day one to make this film and I love the end product. You don’t get many chances in life to make a movie and if someone says they don’t like it, I say “I do”. I’ve made records before and if someone said it sucked it bummed me out. A story about my life should not be particularly interesting but it is, it’s just about me and some kids who didn’t know how to talk to each other. It’s personal but not autobiographical.’

A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints is on selected release from Fri 2 Mar. See review.

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