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Hits Big Screen

September 20, 2002
In New York City and Los Angeles, Lions Gate releases Secretary this week. The film, based on a short story of the same name by Mary Gaitskill, won a Special Grand Jury Prize for Originality at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. Starring James Spader (sex, lies & videotape) and Maggie Gyllenhaal, the film, like the story, is about a sadomasochistic relationship between a secretary and her boss. Unlike the story, however, the film is more of a dysfunctional romp that ultimately becomes a love story - taking a sidetrack from Gaitskill's alarming truth about modern love in favor of a fairytale version of the same.

Erin Cressida Wilson adapted Secretary, which was one of nine stories from Gaitskill's 1988 debut collection, Bad Behavior, while Steven Shainberg directed. Shainberg has previously directed one other feature, Hit Me (1998), otherwise know as a dreadful adaptation of Jim Thompson's novel called A Swell-Looking Babe. With the release of Secretary, though, it shouldn't be long before this history is forgotten. Andy Bailey of Indiewire has dubbed Secretary as the next Pretty Woman, while Stephen Holden of The New York Times writes that Gyllenhaal's role in the film should make her a star.

The film opens in select cities September 27th and everywhere October 2nd, 2002.

return to storyteller page

or read more:
Rebecca Miller's Personal Velocity Takes Prize at Sundance 2002

story to screen
The Movie
U.S.A., 2002, 104 Minutes, Color
Secretary DVD
released on DVD April 1, 2003

Director: Steven Shainberg
Producers: Steven Shainberg, Andrew Fierberg, Amy Hobby
Director of Photography: Steven Fierberg
Editor: Pam Wise

Principal Cast: James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lesley Ann Warren, Jeremy Davies, Amy Locane

The Book

Look in the Book!
7 sample pages online
in association with


secretary film adaptationSecretary: The Screenplay
by Erin Cressida Wilson, Steven Shainberg
Soft Skull Press, Inc., 200 pages

Promise to read Gaitskill's original short story first in Bad Behavior (above), then compare with Secretary: The Screenplay for an interesting study on adaptation -- good or bad, you decide. Accompanying the screenplay are color photos, illustrations, the filmmakers' storyboards, notes, and essays.

secretary soundtrackSecretary (Music from the Motion Picture) Soundtrack
various artists
Lion's Gate Records, Audio CD

Composed by Angelo Badalamenti, the soundtrack to Secretary offers "delicate, evocative instrumental underscore" that is "ever atmospheric," writes Jerry McCulley for McCulley also writes: "Badalamenti's electro-acoustic work--perfectly set up by Leonard Cohen's smoky "I'm Your Man"--creates a sense of both mystery and adventure..."

The Official Secretary Website
Andy Bailey's Review for Indiewire


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