Ottessa Moshfegh Says ‘My Year of Rest and Relaxation’ Film Adaptation Is ‘Still Underway’

Novelist Ottessa Moshfegh is still in the midst of adapting her hit novel “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” into a feature film.

The sensational 2018 book follows an unnamed woman who, just after the turn of the millennium, escalates her use of sleeping pills to try and stay mostly unconscious for a full year. So far, it’s only been turned into a 2020 stage play in Switzerland.

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After Margot Robbie’s production company LuckyChap optioned the rights to the book in 2018, rumors swirled of “Poor Things” auteur Yorgos Lanthimos being attached to direct. (IndieWire has reached out to check up on this.) Moshfegh with her partner Luke Goebel more recently adapted her own novel, 2015’s “Eileen,” for the forthcoming William Oldroyd film starring Anne Hathaway and Thomasin McKenzie, out from Neon in December. “Eileen” premiered at Sundance in January and centers on two women who form a dark bond in 1960s Massachusetts.

During an interview tied to “Eileen,” Moshfegh told IndieWire that a film version of “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” which she’s written with Goebel, is still in the works — while suggesting it will of course differ from the original text. It’s a challenging novel to bring to the screen considering the heroine lives in a narcotized stupor in just-pre-9/11 New York City for most of its slim 300-some pages; the character thrives on bad late-night movies and wakes up on the MTA with no idea where she is.

“[With] the kind of novels that I have been writing, especially the ones that are in the first person, which are all of them except for the last one [2022’s ‘Lapvona’], it’s hard to adapt when something is such an interior story and an internal monologue,” Moshfegh said. With “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” she said, the film adaptation is “still underway,” while adding, “I have no idea about the timeline on that, but hopefully sometime.”

“My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” like “Eileen,” unfolds from the first-person perspective of a woman coming apart from her place in life. The privileged, 20-something WASPy narrator of “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” loses her job at an art gallery, has disappointing encounters with men, loathes a friendship with a social-climbing former college roommate, and decides to spend a year on sleeping pills to stay totally asleep with the help of a sketchy doctor.

Moshfegh noted that her creative partners are key when adapting her novels; she co-wrote the “Eileen” screenplay with her romantic partner Goebel after Oldroyd contacted her in the deep days of the pandemic about wanting to make the book into film. But she’s not averse to outsourcing her material — which also includes the novella “McGlue,” novel “Death in Her Hands,” and short story collection “Homesick from Another World” — for future screen adaptations. (Moshfegh and Goebel co-wrote last year’s original screenplay “Causeway” for the film starring Jennifer Lawrence.)

“I wouldn’t just sign the rights over to a novel to anyone. There are people who have some doings around other IPs. I trust them, but that isn’t to say I’m not good at detachment. I don’t actually want to control other people’s work,” Moshfegh said. “An adaptation is just an adaptation. It’s not supposed to be a carbon copy. That’s impossible. It’s a reinterpretation, it’s a translation, and it’s a really creative process.”

Oldroyd told IndieWire that “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” was “the book that I read at the beginning of lockdown because a woman putting herself to sleep for a year felt like something useful to read in preparation. A manual for what we were about to experience.”

Back in 2022, Moshfegh told i-D of Lanthimos’ rumored involvement on the film, “I think that he would prefer I don’t speak about it.”

“Eileen” director Oldroyd told IndieWire that he and Moshfegh are working on a screenplay project about “the last woman in England to be tried as a witch,” which happened in 1943. “She was called Helen Duncan. We’re going to make our own character loosely based on the facts of this woman’s life. She was a spiritualist medium.”

Oldroyd, whose previous feature was the 2016 film “Lady Macbeth” that launched Florence Pugh’s career, said of the Duncan character, “She was contacted by the spirit of a dead sailor on a ship that had been sunk, which the British military Navy had kept a secret because if it was revealed where this ship was, it would be advantageous to the enemy. They dug up the Witchcraft Act of 1735 to try and to nail her as a witch in this trial [at] the Old Bailey, which is so ludicrous if you think about it. There’s an interesting character there. She was a very sweary Scottish woman.”

Additional reporting by Samantha Bergeson. Stay tuned for more “Eileen” coverage when the film releases in December.

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