‘Trust us’: how John C. Reilly persuaded Patrick DeWitt to let him adapt The Sisters Brothers

Canadian writers are 'why we always come back to Toronto,' says screenwriter

Joaquin Phoenix embraces co-star John C.Reilly during a press conference for their film The Sisters Brothers Saturday at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. (Fred Thornhill/Canadian Press)

The Sisters Brothers is “a great piece of Canadian literature” that John C. Reilly was sure would become a film, no matter what.

Still, the actor is thankful Canadian writer Patrick DeWitt — whom Reilly and his wife, producer Alison Dickey, met while making the 2011 indie film Terri   agreed to let him adapt the darkly comic western that would become a multiple award-winning novel.

“We know what can happen in this process of books becoming movies. Often times they get twisted into an unrecognizable shape… We said ‘Pat, we’ll try our very hardest to make a great film out of this. We’ll find the very best people we can. Please trust us,'” Reilly explained on Saturday at a press conference during the Toronto International Film Festival.

The Sisters Brothers stars Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as the sibling assassins of the title. The brothers are tracking a chemist named Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed) who allegedly stole from their employer and is on the run toward gold-rush era California.

Acclaimed CanLit

B.C.-born DeWitt published The Sisters Brothers in 2011. It went on to win a Governor General’s Literary Prize, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Stephen Leacock Medal, along with being nominated for both the Man Booker and Scotiabank Giller Prize.

The cadence of the book’s dialogue — which the film also incorporates — can be compared to how DeWitt himself speaks, Reilly noted about his friend.