In 1970, Dan Wakefield’s novel “Going All The Way” was published. More than 20 years later, it was adapted into a screenplay and movie starring Jeremy Davies, Ben Affleck and Rachel Weisz. This month marks a golden anniversary for the book.
The movie was released just before “Good Will Hunting”, and was one of Affleck’s early movies. At the time, Wakefield was able to get Affleck to voice the audiobook.
“Going All The Way” is a novel that almost wasn’t. When Wakefield initially pitched his idea for the novel to his publishers, he was met with strong discouragement. Their reaction only fueled his desire to see it through.
“I was taken to a famous restaurant and told that I was a journalist, not a novelist,” Wakefield says.
At the time of this meeting, Wakefield had two best-selling books under his belt.
Wakefield shopped his manuscript around and it ended up in the hands of Kurt Vonnegut’s agent, who shared it with Vonnegut. Wakefield and Vonnegut are Shortridge High School alumni, and they graduated ten years apart. After reading the novel, Vonnegut reportedly told his agent to “add him to our stable.”
Fortunately, Vonnegut was incorrect in his satirical review of “Going All The Way”, which appeared in LIFE magazine. He surmised in the review that Wakefield would not be able to ever show his face in Indianapolis again, forced to forever watch the Indy 500 on television.
“It’s the only book review I have ever seen that uses the word ‘putrid,’” Wakefield jokes.
In truth, Vonnegut and Wakefield were great friends, and Vonnegut never passed up an opportunity for his classic sardonic banter. Not only does Vonnegut use the word “putrid”, but he also gives his “word of honor” that the book is worth reading. It sold more than a million copies.
A few years ago, nostalgic fan Will Higgins organized a bus tour of the local sites where the movie was filmed. The locations included Broad Ripple High School’s outdoor track, Shortridge High School, what is now Herron High School, and the Red Key Tavern. For filming inside the Red Key, some model planes were removed to reflect the accuracy of the post-Korean War era.
Another story from the filming of the movie centers on a piece of art that Weiss and Affleck’s characters admire in the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Wakefield recalls several of his intellectual friends inquiring as to which famous artist had painted it. Each had their guess. Wakefield humored his friends and later confessed that the film crew went to the Herron School of Art and asked a class to compete in producing the ugliest modernist painting. It was a joke among the cast and crew.
The best way to celebrate the golden anniversary of “Going All The Way”, aside from purchasing the book, is to have a drink at the Red Key. Dan Wakefield may be nearby, socially distanced, celebrating it too.