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Meryl Streep to star in 'Dewey' film

Friday, November 14, 2008

Talks are nearly complete to adapt "Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat who Touched the World" into a movie. Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep has agreed to play former Spencer Librarian Vicki Myron.
The cat is out of the bag, so to speak.

The No. 1 best-selling book based on former Spencer Librarian Vicki Myron and her relationship with the library's cat has landed at New Line Cinema for a film adaptation.

Michael Fleming from the entertainment trade magazine "Variety" confirmed the New Line movie talks and also linked Meryl Streep to the lead role.

"No contracts are signed yet," Myron said. "Somebody leaked it to the press, but we're working with New Line Cinema. They're buying the option to make the movie and Meryl Streep will be playing me."

Pamela Gray, who wrote the script for another Streep film, "Music of the Heart" will write the movie adaptation of "Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat who Touched the World," by Myron and Bret Witter. Myron learned Wednesday night that "Dewey" the hardcover non-fiction book will spend a second week at No. 1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

"It has great appeal," Paul Ingram, buyer at Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City, told Michael Crumb of the Associated Press.

Ingram compares "Dewey" it to the hugely popular "Marley & Me," about the joys and headaches of a difficult Labrador retriever. Ingram says that "Dewey" attracts an odd mix of pet lovers and history buffs thanks to its weaving of the cat's exploits with the history of a small town and Iowa.

Myron decided to include more in her book than just the story of Dewey because the town, the cat and Myron herself were closely linked. "When we tried to write just a cat book it didn't work. We had to tell the whole story for it to make sense," she told Crumb, during a break from a book tour in Des Moines.

Dewey was discovered in the Spencer library's overnight drop box in January 1988, a time when Iowa was in the midst of an economic chill that had gripped the nation. Myron bonded immediately with Dewey as she lifted the tiny kitten from the book drop that January morning.

"He was so cold and half starved and very dirty. He didn't look like much until I picked him up and he started purring immediately and he looked in my eyes with his eyes," Myron told Crumb. "He had the most gorgeous eyes I had ever seen and I felt a connection with him right away."

Myron was struggling back then to make ends meet -- a divorced mother trying to raise a daughter, working full time at the Spencer library and studying to get her master's degree. She had only been on the job for six months and had wanted to make the library more homey.

Patrons took to him quickly, and, over time, visitors increased from 60,000 a year to more than 100,000. Many were suffering from the crippling economy that hit the farming community especially hard, and Myron thinks Dewey lifted their spirits and made them a bit more eager to stop off at the library.

"Dewey didn't bring jobs to Spencer, but there were a lot of farmers who came in to fill out the first resume of their life. They didn't know how to use the computer, they were having a tough time and were really down when they came in. Dewey won them over and put a smile on their face," Myron told Crumb during an Associated Press interview in Des Moines.

Myron told Crumb her book is a story of unconditional love, companionship and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps during tough times.

Dewey died on Nov. 29, 2006, at age 19. Since then, the library has received more than 100 offers for a new Dewey, but the library board decided to wait at least two years before deciding whether to get another cat, says Myron, who retired at the end of last year.

She recalls how Dewey's health began to fail in the year before he died and how, to help him put on weight, she would feed him cheese, scrambled eggs and roast beef sandwiches. "And he loved it!"

On the day Dewey died, Myron was about to leave for a trip to Florida when she got a call from the library staff telling her Dewey wasn't acting right.

"He was fine when I left, or I thought he was, but when I went back down there I could see he was in pain," Myron said, in the AP interview. An X-ray at a local vet showed he had a large stomach tumor. She stayed with Dewey as he was put to sleep.

"It was heart-wrenching," Myron remembers. "I called all the staff and they came out to say goodbye, but it was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but I knew I had to do it because he was suffering and I'd never let him be in pain."

His ashes were buried in the lawn outside the library. A granite marker was placed at the site.

Myron believes his legacy will live on with the expected movie deal. Gray will be charged with capturing that legacy in a screenplay.

"I know that Pam Gray is going to follow me around for a couple of weeks and I have a feeling Meryl Streep is probably gong to want to follow me around for awhile," Myron said.

Streep was on board for the project regardless of the studio in charge, according to the former Spencer Librarian.

"She was attached before the film deal was made," Myron said. "She'll make it with us no matter which studio we go with. She loves the book and she wants to play the part, so that is very exciting. But I couldn't say anything, and now somebody has leaked it. We don't know if New Line Cinema leaked it to the press or what. But it's on about 10 sites this (Thursday) morning. It's not official. No contracts have been signed, but that's what's happening."

Myron isn't aware of a working title for the film, but the movie has been referred to as "Dewey" and "Library Cat" at some of the Web sites Myron is referring to.

"The film deal is pretty much set, but it's the merchandise and all of the legal end that's not set in stone yet," Myron said. "It is very close, but somebody opened their mouth before we got that far."

Myron thinks production is at least a year away.

"I always knew there would probably be a movie," Myron said. "We had planned that early on once we knew the book was good. But I guess I'm surprised at the Meryl Streep thing. I was hoping for her early on and she agreed. It's wonderful."

Myron suspects film crews will come to Spencer to film interiors and exteriors. Myron will serve as a consultant on the film.

"We don't know what that is going to entail yet. A lot of times they tell authors they have pretty much full control -- and all of my Hollywood contacts are saying 'don't believe that for a minute,'" she said.

A movie script isn't the only "Dewey" project in development. Myron said she is about a week away from closing a deal on a series of children's books. Preliminary plans call for two picture books for children and a novel tailored toward young adults.

Myron has stops planned in Washington, D.C., on the Princeton campus and will work out details for the follow-up book deal in New York.

"It is tiring," Myron said. "But luckily my publicist is building in days of rest here and there. Even though I'm on the road, it's not constant. I'm feeling pretty good."

Excerpts from an Oct. 16 Associated Press story by Michael J. Crumb were used extensively in this coverage

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In some ways Dewey speaks for Spencer and the state of Iowa. People here can find solace in their pets and that's a good thing, since we are responsible for raising so many animals for food, it gives us a chance to placate a little of all that with respect. Vicki has helped us to gain our image in the world as it should be. Regular folk who can make life a little easier through simplicity and understanding commitments.

-- Posted by Mr. Toad on Fri, Nov 14, 2008, at 11:03 AM

Thank you, Vicki, for continuing to honor Dewey's memory. He lives on in our hearts because of you!

-- Posted by IowaRox on Fri, Nov 14, 2008, at 3:26 PM

The whole world is talking about Spencer, IA. The library needs to put together some sort of marketing plan to reap the benefits of this.

-- Posted by guitarman on Fri, Nov 14, 2008, at 6:09 PM

I only wish I would have had the opportunity to meet this feline gentleman. I am a cat lover and feel a sense of loss for having never met him, but I love him any way. What a great task for the Spencer Community to embrace a pet and treat him with dignity. What a great story. I to would have driven a distance to see this gentleman. Dewey lived a great life it seems and had some of the best caretakers. I bet to this day Dewey is running the show as far as pets go; somewhere over the rainbow. Pets are a great addition and also deserve to be raised and laid to rest with dignity. Great Job to the Community of Spencer.

-- Posted by allaboard on Sat, Nov 15, 2008, at 2:38 PM

Hi, Vicki! A good friend of mine who lives in Spencer and knows you, alerted me to the Dewey book, knowing how much I love cats. I got it immediately, read it in a day, and fell in love with Dewey. As a matter of fact, I sent my copy to her so she could ask you to autograph it for me. Cats and books are my true loves. Thank you for such a wonderful memoir.

-- Posted by mom4cats on Sat, Nov 15, 2008, at 3:41 PM


-- Posted by vi on Mon, Nov 17, 2008, at 10:35 AM

My family is from Spencer and got to enjoy "Dewey" & the wonderful library there! In our opinions, its the best book we've ever read, esp. since we LOVE all animals! Thank you, thank you for telling everyone else what we've known for years. Animals will give you unconditional love, & tell you things, no matter what your age, race, economic status, etc. We tried to read the book alittle at a time, just to "save" it and laughed and cried out loud at times, and have given the book to everyone we know, who also LOVE it!! Can't wait for the movie!

The Best, Vicki! Thank you!

-- Posted by sunny on Tue, Nov 18, 2008, at 8:32 AM

I was 14 and a frequent visitor at the Spencer Library when Dewey made his first appearance. I remember him being a very social cat! Who knew what he would do for Spencer? Thank you, Vicki, for sharing his story!

-- Posted by cyclones on Mon, Nov 24, 2008, at 9:41 PM


All brazillian people loves Dewey!!!

Congratulations Vicky Myron for the amazing book!!


-- Posted by Larissa on Thu, Jan 1, 2009, at 11:18 AM

I am so glad that a movie will be made about Dewey. It was a great book. I am the owner of 4 cats and really enjoyed reading the story of Dewey. Thank you Vicki for sharing your story of Dewey and the neat little town of Spencer. I have a son who lives in Cedar Rapids, and the people there are really nice.

Can't wait for the movie to come out.

-- Posted by Copymom on Sun, Jan 11, 2009, at 3:34 PM

I enjoyed reading very much the book that I'm now looking forward to see the film!

Thanks to Vicki's book I not only "met" Dewey but also learned a lot about how people live in and around Spencer. I'm now regularly connecting on to the Daily Reporter and Spencer Library's sites.

-- Posted by Martine from France on Sun, Mar 15, 2009, at 6:13 AM

I loved this book and I'm thrilled that there will be a movie about Dewey. He deserves to be a star. He brought so much love to so many people.

-- Posted by jimnjudy on Sat, Apr 11, 2009, at 10:06 PM

I have just finished reading Dewey's story, I could totally live with Vicky and the Spencer Library staff the everyday experience of living with a cat such as Dewey. He certainly was special. I have four cats, recently lost one to an unknown disease, and what it is amazing is that every cat has its own personality. Each one adorable in its own right but different, and Dewey happened to be very sociable which ended it up to be very convenient for a Library. I am so happy to read that a cat could live 19 years, one of mine is at least 10 years old, two are 8 and one is about 4 . All came into our home life by destiny ( just like Dewey)and I have never regreted receiving them and caring for them , because they have given my husband and I so many happy moments,and being a warm companions on the sad moments. They always seem to know better what is going on around us . They just feel and love the ones who love them. The whole world is now aware that cats are dear companions thanks to Dewey, I will keep him in my heart.

-- Posted by kittiesmom on Mon, Jul 6, 2009, at 11:02 PM

I absolutely loved reading the story of Dewey and recommended it to my cat loving friends who also loved it. It would be great to see the story made into a movie, however, I would be so happy to have the movie end while he is still healthy, not having the watch the terrible part of when he dies. I would dread it knowing that part of the movie would be coming up. It would be so wonderful to see him still healthy in the library at the end, then have the words appear on the screen saying "he lived to be 19, . and is buried there" etc. I would love to come out of the movie feeling warm and happy, rather than so sad. Dewey was all about making people happy.

-- Posted by TLC (totally love cats) on Sun, Sep 27, 2009, at 2:39 PM

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