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McMillan hoping 'Stella' grooves on big screen, too

Web posted on: Friday, August 07, 1998 3:10:47 PM EDT

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Who is Stella? What's her "groove?" And how does she get it back?

Stella, as readers of Terry McMillan are aware, is the main character of McMillan's book "How Stella Got Her Groove Back". The movie version of the best-selling novel releases nationwide on August 14, with Stella played by Angela Bassett.

The McMillan tale depicts the reawakening of Stella, a 42-year-old divorcee with an 11-year-old son. Looking to put some "groove" back in her life, she takes off on a trip to Jamaica to relax and escape from her routine. Romance ensues -- with a man half her age, causing Stella to reconsider what makes her happy.

Terry McMillan on...

Why she wrote the book:
1.1Mb QuickTime
Making the book into a movie:
980k QuickTime

Fueling the story

The novel, published in 1996, caught the attention of McMillan fans with its "girlfriend" sensibilities and stream-of-consciousness expletive-laden narrative. It was the follow-up to McMillan's tremendously successful "Waiting to Exhale", which was translated to a successful film starring Bassett.

Now fans are eager to see how "Stella", directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan, translates to the screen. McMillan says she and scripter Ronald Bass made changes to the script to fit the medium of film.

"There was not a lot of conflict in the book. Most it was internal conflict so we had to externalize it," McMillan says. "We had to create situations and people to add to the conflict in order to fuel the story ... so you could see what's at stake."


'A softness in Angela'

Bassett has a natural way with the role of Stella, McMillan said.

"She has a certain kind of power and sensuality and strength. The way I perceived Stella, she has it," says McMillan. "And there's a softness in Angela that I don't think you've seen in other movies."

While the medium of film invites a new batch of critics to take their shots, McMillan says the purpose of the novel was not to focus on relationships between older and younger lovers, but instead give women a choice to follow their desires.

'Saying yes'

"I wrote the book in order to give myself permission," McMillan says. "I started thinking about women in general and a lot of things we stop ourselves from doing because we think it's not appropriate, or we're always thinking of someone else and what other people think.

"I hope that the whole emphasis on the young and old business -- that's not the issue, that's not what they walk away with, because that's not what it's about. He could be white, I could be black. It's not about that. It's about saying yes when others think you should say no."

McMillan and company are hoping movie audiences will say yes to the translation to the big screen.


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