SOON after the announcement was made last December that Joan Didion would be writing a one-woman play based on her autobiographical book, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” Ms. Didion had a meeting with Scott Rudin, the Broadway producer who first proposed the idea, and David Hare, the British playwright who will be directing the production. One of the topics was casting. It was not a long conversation.
Vanessa Redgrave, said Mr. Rudin, “was the only person we ever talked about. There was no one else ever discussed.” And so after a phone call to Ms. Redgrave, the two women, among the greatest practitioners of their crafts, started the process of becoming, in a sense, one. “I said, ‘My God,’ and I couldn’t speak for a long time,” Ms. Redgrave, 69, recalled in an interview Wednesday afternoon in Ms. Didion’s sunlight-filled apartment. “I’d read the book and given it to all my family.”
“The Year of Magical Thinking” will be the first play for Ms. Didion, 71. It will not be a strict adaptation of the book, she said, because it will cover events that happened after it was published. The book, an account of the fear, despair and exasperation of bereavement, begins on Dec. 30, 2003, with the sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, after a heart attack at the dinner table.