REVIEWS & PRAISE
Riding the Bus With My Sister - The Book - Q&A
Is Beth still riding the bus?
How's her health? She had eye surgery in the book. Has her vision improved?
How did Beth feel about the book?
What kind of reaction did Riding the Bus evoke from the public?
Were you surprised at all that happened with this book?
Where does the book take place?
Riding the Bus With My Sister - The Movie - Q&A
"Riding the Bus With My Sister: The Movie," The Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation of 'Riding The Bus With My Sister' aired on CBS on May 1, 2005. Rosie O'Donnell starred as Beth, Andie MacDowell starred as Rachel, and Anjelica Huston directed. Larry Sanitsky and Rosie O'Donnell were the executive producers, and Joyce Eliason was the screenwriter.
To order the movie, click here.
How did you feel about a movie being made from your book?
I felt incredibly lucky, and very appreciative. Most writers never have their work adapted for the screen, and fewer still have the adaptation done by people willing to take on such emotional and rarely discussed material. It seems miraculous that Rosie found the material so important, and that she made the movie happen.
How did Rosie discover the book?
How did Beth feel about the movie being made? Was she excited about the process?
However, we did meet Larry Sanitsky, the Executive Producer, and Joyce Eliason, the screenwriter, when CBS and Rosie started moving forward with the project, about a year and a half before the airdate. Larry and Joyce rode around with us for a day – a snowy, freezing winter day, which was all the more impressive because they're Californians. They treated Beth with respect and dignity, and she was very fond of them by the time they went home. She's even corresponded with Joyce since then.
Did Beth ever meet Rosie?
What was it like to visit the set?
But there was also much that impressed me during the filming. One was how much Rosie inhabited the character of Beth, and how she brought a sense of humor to the role that deepened the portrayal all the more. Another was how well Andie and Rosie came off as sisters - sometimes arguing, sometimes sharing memories, sometimes being tender with each other. I also loved the great chemistry between the Rachel character and Driver Rick.
In addition to all this, I loved learning just how scenes get set up and shot, and what kinds of tricks they use - sometimes very simple ones - to pull off certain effects. For instance, there was a moment when the Rachel character is driving down the road, sees Jessie on his bike, and stops to have a talk. (This also happened in the book, and of course real life.) There was concern that her car's engine would overwhelm the sound of their dialogue, so four guys from the crew actually stood behind the car to push it at the end of the scene! That way, Andie didn't have to have the motor running.
Perhaps my favorite moment was when I was asked to be an extra in a scene. It's the last scene with Rachel, near the end of the movie. We're in an art gallery, and I'm one of the patrons in the crowd, pantomiming conversation with the man I was paired with. I'm wearing an orange-red blazer and am seen only for a split second, in profile. So be alert! On our first viewing, my own sister missed it.
How did Beth feel when she saw the movie? How did you feel?
I think it's a poignant, moving, and powerful film that showcases Rosie's astounding acting abilities. It also portrays both characters, as well as the struggles of the special sibling relationship in a more realistic way than we usually get to see in film, and presents bus drivers as the everyday heroes that I now know them to be.
In addition, the movie highlights some of the main themes from my book: Beth's right to live her life by her own choices, the importance of public transportation for a fully independent life, the essential need for friendships in the community, and the challenges and rewards of the sibling bond. The fact that the filmmakers kept these themes amazes and thrills me.
There were some changes from the book. How did you feel about the idea that anything might be changed?
In addition, for me the big lesson of my year on the buses was that I needed to learn how to love my sister without trying to control her. After all, truly accepting someone, as self-determination helped me learn to do, means stepping back and not trying to control. When the movie entered development, I realized that I wasn't going to be able to control the outcome – so I just applied the very same lesson. After all, if I can't control Beth, why should I think I could control Hollywood? The process was easy and painless once I made that connection.
What were the major changes from the book? (Caution: spoilers!)
Another major change in the story is that Rachel is still living with Sam at the start of the movie. In the book and real life, the relationship was already over four years before the ride began. Also, in the movie, Rachel has never told Sam about her sister, but that was not the case in the book. Neither Sam nor I was troubled by this artistic liberty.
In addition, a major point in the story was left out of the movie. When the movie Rachel and her brother leave their mother's house, and Beth stays behind, the flashbacks stop. In the book, some very hard experiences ensued which were traumatic for Beth and Rachel, but the filmmakers decided to omit that material. It was thought that the family would have a hard time watching that part of the story on TV. The family was pleased with this omission.
Other changes in the story involve the drivers. Rick in the movie is actually a combination of Rick and Jacob. Pradlip is a made-up character, but one who is very much like some drivers I've met. Most of the other drivers are referred to in the book.
There are also four siblings in my family, not three, as there are in the movie.
As for the characters, Beth in the movie has some mannerisms that are not like Beth in real life. Some of these are grand gestures, such as the movie Beth pushing in front of other passengers to get on the bus. (Beth would not do that.) Some of these are smaller gestures. In real life, Beth holds her mouth somewhat differently than the movie Beth. Movie Beth also drinks Coke, whereas Real Beth would only drink diet Pepsi.
Rachel is a fashion photographer in the movie, but was, at that time, a writer and professor in real life. Most of her reactions mirror mine, but I tend to be a lot more outgoing and lively than the Rachel in the movie. Andie MacDowell also looks a lot better than I do in the morning (not to mention throughout the day!).
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