Readers of nearly three dozen languages have been enjoying Judy Blume’s work since her first book, The One in the Middle is a Green Kangaroo, was first published in 1969. Since then, her books have sold more than 82 million copies. Her readers—stereotypically, but not exclusively girls and young women—comprise multiple generations of passionate fans.
And yet, there has never been a film adaptation of a Judy Blume book. That just changed, with the June 7 release — in theaters and video-on-demand (iTunes, DirecTV and In-Demand) – of Tiger Eyes, a movie based on Blume’s 1981 young-adult novel of the same name.
The movie’s director and co-writer Lawrence Blume—who is also the author’s son—explains to TIME:
First, just because it’s the first Judy Blume movie doesn’t mean it’s the first time the topic came up. “Over the years, various people have come to Judy trying to do something and either they weren’t sure exactly which of her things they wanted to do, so she asked them to come back when they had an idea, or they weren’t the right people, she thought, for the work,” Blume says. “We actually had one of her books set up at Disney for a while, about 10 years ago. It just never worked out. That was Deenie. It’s probably for the better. I don’t think we ever, everybody, had a collective vision of how to do it.” Blume adds that Gus Van Sant once expressed interest in doing a movie of Forever, but that never came together either.
Bringing the books to Hollywood was never a priority. “Judy hasn’t aggressively gone after Hollywood and tried to make her name there,” says Blume, who calls his mother by her first name.
And although a built-in fan base is plus in Hollywood, it’s also reason to take things slowly. “She didn’t want adaptations to be done that she didn’t like herself or believe in or have a part in,” he says. “Some of her books I think are sacred to her, and to her fans even more than her, and she’d rather have no adaptation of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret than something lousy.”
Plus, the whole YA-book-to-movie track wasn’t a thing 30 years ago—and, even today, it doesn’t necessarily help a non-supernatural, non-series book go to screen. Especially a book that takes place in the late ’70s. Blume says the look he went for was a timeless one, but making Tiger Eyes a reality still involved updating the story—there’s a cell-phone call now, and the all-white-and-male make-up of the Los Alamos lab that features prominently in the story is no longer a theme.
But now, says Blume, “the pump has been primed” in the Blume family. So will there be another Judy Blume book becoming a movie in the near future?
Lawrence Blume had wanted to bring Tiger Eyes to screen ever since he first read it as a teenager and says working with his mother was a positive experience, so he won’t rule out another one; he also has his eye on Summer Sisters. As for the other books, he’s happy to help his mother navigate whatever other Hollywood projects she would like to do—but the ultimate decision won’t be up to him: “You’d have to ask her!”