Although studies ended for ISU students in December, the Bloomington-Normal area became the subject of study for a team of filmmakers who are working on a biographical film about the life of David Foster Wallace.
Wallace was a writer and English professor who taught at ISU from 1993 to 2002, while also working on several pieces of literature. These included his 1100 page novel “Infinite Jest,” which was published in 1996.
Wallace received several awards on his writing, and gave a commencement speech, “This is Water,” at Kenyon College in 2005.
Wallace committed suicide in 2008 at the age of 46, after a lifelong struggle with depression; his final novel, “The Pale King,” was posthumously published in 2011.
The film, titled “End of the Tour,” is set to be released mid-2015 and will star “How I Met Your Mother” actor Jason Segel as Wallace.
The movie’s producer, Louise Lovegrove and director, James Ponsoldt, came to Bloomington-Normal before Christmas.
They stopped in classrooms where Wallace taught, spoke with those who knew him, and visited Babbitt’s Books.
Babbitt’s Books’ owner, Brian Simpson, knew Wallace as a regular patron.
“He was always a really generous person, both in terms of conversation and in services to the book store,” Simpson said.
Wallace often ordered books for his classes from Babbitt’s Books; he also did readings and signings of his own work at Babbitt’s.
His article in Conde Nast Traveler about Babbitt’s, which he called his favorite book store, also brought in new customers.
Robert McLaughlin, English professor, worked with Wallace for over 10 years
“He was a very good teacher,” McLaughlin said. “He worked hard to make himself available to students almost 24/7.”
Wallace taught classes on creative writing and prose, both on the graduate and undergraduate level. He preferred teaching undergraduate students because they didn’t know who he was.
“When he came to ISU, he was definitely on a lot of people’s radars as an up-and-coming writer,” McLaughlin explained.
Wallace was always very modest about his achievements, and often embarrassed by the attention he received.
For this reason, McLaughlin expressed discomfort at the idea of a movie about Wallace’s life.
“I have a feeling he would not be happy about it, but I could be wrong,” McLaughlin said.
However, he remains cautiously optimistic.
“The filmmakers seem to have a good angle, and they were asking all the right questions,” he said.