Alta Live: Griffin Dunne on Joan Didion

“For me, it was a moment of such gratitude that I got the opportunity to start, make, and finish a film that will outlive us all."

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Griffin Dunne, who grew up in a family of writers, including his father, Dominick Dunne; his uncle, John Gregory Dunne; and his aunt, Joan Didion, had unique access to one of the West’s most distinct voices. After working with Didion on a promotional video for one of her books, Dunne approached her with the idea of making a documentary about her life, which he writes about in Alta Journal. “For me, it was a moment of such gratitude that I got the opportunity to start, make, and finish a film that will outlive us all, and that she, in the last years of her life, would be able to actually witness, right in front of her eyes, all this adulation and appreciation and love and thanks,” Dunne told Alta Live.

Making the documentary gave Dunne, even as someone who had known her for nearly all his life, a chance to grow closer with his aunt. In the documentary, Dunne tells Didion a story of a time when he was embarrassed in front of his family as a child and she was the only person who didn’t laugh at him. He didn’t expect the anecdote to end up in the documentary, but it has become a favorite memory of his aunt. And filming the documentary, Dunne explained, revealed Didion’s strength even at the end of her life. “I knew she was from California, but I never knew how much she was from California. As we were spending time together, I saw her history, I saw where she was from, I saw what it took for her family to cross the plains to settle in Sacramento,” Dunne said. “I saw a tough western woman who was going to be the last person standing on the wagon trail.”

Check out these links to some of the topics Dunne and Zerega brought up this week.

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