Anne Fine, author of Mrs Doubtfire: “There is almost no difference in the emotional depth of boys and girls”

TOnne Fine is not a fan of Ms. Doubtfire. The former Children’s Laureate may have written the book, mrs doubtfire, on which the beloved family sitcom was based, but had nothing to do with the 1993 big-screen adaptation he once described as a “pantomime.” On the one hand, he wanted Warren Beatty to play the role of hapless father Daniel, who disguises himself as an elderly nanny after losing custody of her three children, not Robin Williams’s.

“I was very surprised that so many people loved the movie and so many kids,” says Fine now. “I found it a bit sentimental at the end. And it’s very different from the book, except they used some of my jokes.” But the 74-year-old, she admits, was “impressed with Robin Williams’ comedic chops” in the end. Who couldn’t be? Think of the pool scene where he throws an accurate nail file at the head of his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, Pierce Brosnan, and then claims it was a “fruition.” Or when she sticks her face in a cream pie to hide her identity from the social worker.

Other scenes haven’t aged as well. When her son Kevin walks in and finds “Mrs. Doubtfire” urinating standing up, he demands that the police be called. Mrs. Doubtfire, she stammers to her sister Lydia, is “a she-he.” Is she transphobic?

“The issue of gender has become infinitely more complicated and delicate since the book was written,” says Fine cautiously. “[It] I wasn’t even close to being that sensitive when the book was published. Most of the concerns back then had to do with women’s roles in life, more than anything else. Daniel applies for the job as a woman because Miranda would never have let him do the job himself…and besides, men weren’t as likely to take babysitting or cleaning jobs back then as they do now.”

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Fine never met Williams, who took her own life in 2014 ahead of a plan Ms. Doubtfire continuation. She turned down the opportunity to join him on Michael Parkinson’s chat show to promote the film, because she had more important things to do. “I was hired for several months to talk to 200 librarians. And librarians are a novelist’s bread and butter. I wasn’t going to leave them at the last moment. So I said I couldn’t do it. I mean, I would have been terrified.”

As he watched the interview on TV, he felt only relief. “He was connected… he was so smart. And I thought that if he had brought me up, I would have sat on the other end of the sofa like a stuffed cushion. Really? Totally embarrassing.”

Fine’s novel was “much, much darker” than the film, he says. In one passage, he describes Daniel’s anger that Miranda dropped the children off 40 minutes late: “She reached into the drawer at the end of the table and pulled out an imaginary carving knife with one hand, while reaching for the teapot with her hand. the other. Still smiling horribly, she slowly and carefully drew the imaginary knife down the tea lover’s imaginary throat.” “It’s black comedy,” says Fine proudly, “and I sure did miss it.” [in Mrs Doubtfire].”

My only request was: ‘Please don’t make the children brats.’ I’m not taking any credit here for the success of the movie. But I do think that’s one of the reasons kids like the movie, because they can relate to those kids.

However, he had a successful intervention. “My only request was, ‘Please don’t make the kids brats,'” says Fine, who didn’t like director Chris Columbus’s performance. Home alone franchise for that reason. When Daniel’s youngest daughter, Natalie, says to him as he leaves the marital home: “You can’t leave now, we’re in the middle of charlotte’s website”, is certainly in stark contrast to home alone Kevin yelling: “Guys, I’m eating garbage and seeing garbage! You better get out there and stop me! And while the Doubtfire kids support and love each other, Kevin’s brothers ridicule him. “I don’t take any credit for the success of the movie,” says Fine. “But I do think that’s one of the reasons kids like the movie, because they can relate to those kids.”

That is the secret of Fine’s children’s books: unraveling the complex world of adults for children. She has written more than 70 across all age groups, dealing with divorce, stepfamilies, politics, parenting, and drug addiction, and now, the “terribly difficult subject” of grief in the convincing replicas.

Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire in the much-loved 1993 film based on Fine’s novel ‘Madame Doubtfire’

(20th Century Fox/Blue Wolf/Kobal/Shutterstock)

Fine, who has short graying hair and an irrepressibly cheerful personality, speaks from his home office in Barnard Castle, a market town in north-east England, a famous haunt of Dominic Cummings during lockdown. She lives with her partner of 30 years, Richard, a botanist who specializes in orchids, and has two grown children, Ione and Cordelia.

He grew up in the Midlands and moved to California before returning to Edinburgh, where the idea for Ms. Doubtfire it first came up, after observing a divorced neighbor waiting for her children, who never showed up. “It made me think how horrible it must be.”

Fine, who was named the second Children’s Laureate in 2001 and received an OBE in 2003, acknowledges the film’s benefits: Ms. Doubtfire he paid his mortgage. But it was already her 15th novel and she had been under option for six years until Williams gave her the green light; she was told that Williams was interested in the issue of a child’s easy access to the noncustodial parent due to “personal issues.”

His new children’s book ‘Aftershocks’ deals with ‘the terribly difficult subject’ of grief.

(Old Barn Books)

Now, with 30 copies of all the books she’s ever written stacked on long white shelves behind her, she’s willing not to put mrs doubtfire on a Pedestal Bestsellers include the Carnegie Prize-winning novel Flour Babies (1992), about a group of children given a sack of flour to babysit, and 1989’s Bulging eyeswhich was adapted for the BBC in 1993. The show starred Honeysuckle Weeks as teenage Kitty, who does not get along with her mother’s new boyfriend due to his views against the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

“I was a very active member of the CND,” says Fine, “and was helping to tear down the CND fence [at Greenham Common], and it just annoyed me. I thought, ‘You know, I’m a writer. The pen is mightier than the sword. What am I doing? Why don’t I use my skills to make children aware of the nuclear issue?’”

While Bill’s new dressabout a child forced to wear a pink dress to school, aimed to “eradicate sexism in primary schools”, the latest cat murderer The series about a cat named Tuffy and his family, told by the killer cat himself, was just a wickedly funny look inside the mind of a feline. “Alright alright. So hang me. I killed the bird. For God’s sake, I’m a cat.”

replicas – her most important new book – explores loss and grief at both the “macroscopic and microscopic levels”. He follows Louie, who travels with his engineer father to an isolated coastal region, where he is caught in an earthquake and witnesses a tsunami from a high hill, a year after losing his brother in a car crash.

It is fast-paced and vivid. On page 43, he sees “a huge bank of accumulated water now rushing towards the shore. Unstoppable… I watched it crawl through places it had never been before… thundering down to the huts where fishermen kept their nets and gear, devouring them in an instant.

Fine’s ‘Killer Cat’ series about a cat named Tuffy and his family, told by the killer cat himself, is a wickedly funny look inside the mind of a feline.


Fine had been asked many times to tackle grief and loss in a children’s book, but he had never felt ready. After the death of a close friend, she was galvanized into action, but she still needed to “distance herself” by writing about it. “To be honest, the death of a child or the death of someone close to me is my worst fear… And because of that, I never got close.”

Instead, Louie’s brother’s death comes in flashbacks, or flashbacks, which was much more manageable to write about and more enjoyable for children to read. It’s not until Louie returns to the devastated region to help the villagers mourn their lost loved ones that he and his estranged parents open up about their own grief together. But despite exploring grief from a boy’s perspective, he doesn’t feel like he’s addressing toxic masculinity.

“I’ve been talking to readers, obviously, for a long, long time. And in my experience, there is almost no difference in the emotional breadth and depth of boys or girls,” she says. “Very often I’ve changed the character’s gender within a third of the book, and I’ve never had to go back and do much more than a little cosmetic. Boys have the same feelings as girls, although they are often less inclined to show it… Perhaps for social reasons, many reasons. But it is there. And the thing about books is that they’re completely private. So from the moment you open a book, no one knows what’s going on in your brain. No one knows who you’re identifying with.”

‘Aftershocks’ is published by Old Barn Books on February 10

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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