Interview “Tinkering”

On Sunday the New York Times Magazine ran a profile of playwright Neil LaBute in which readers learn of LaBute’s tendency to tinker with his own words, to revisit and rewrite lines even after they’ve been published and performed. LaBute’s apparent effort to tinker with the words of the interview — to rewrite lines spoken to the reporter— however, did not pan out. Writes Pat Jordan, in apparent disregard for The Rules of Future Access To Famous And/Or Powerful People:

I asked LaBute about his wife, Lisa, a family therapist, and their breakup. (They met at B.Y.U. He refused to say whether they were now divorced.) He told me that the split had a lot to do with the dark nature of his writings — which even affected their two children, who were estranged from him for a while.

Then LaBute stopped. “I don’t want to talk about that,” he said. “And I wish you wouldn’t write about it.” (Later, LaBute e-mailed me through a publicist and said that if I didn’t mention his wife or kids or religion or misogyny that he’d tell me “a doozy of a childhood (personal) story that nobody knows about.”)

Why don’t more reporters include this sort of detail (How The Subject Tried to Tinker With My Article) in their stories? Is it out of concern for future access? Or because more often these types of If you don’t write this, I’ll tell you something even juicier offers aren’t refused? Or…?

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.