‘The Sisters Brothers’ film gives boost to book by Canada’s Patrick deWitt by Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press Posted Oct 4, 2018 7:28 am PDT Last Updated Oct 4, 2018 at 8:00 am PDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email TORONTO – When “The Sisters Brothers” made its North American premiere at last month’s Toronto International Film Festival, Canadian author Patrick deWitt felt like he was at a giant book club.The Vancouver Island native wrote the darkly comical Western-themed novel that inspired the film, which stars John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as assassin siblings hunting down a man amid the 1850s California gold rush.So when most of the questions and comments from the audience after the screening largely focused on the book, indicating many had read it, deWitt was pleased not just for himself but also for Toronto publisher House of Anansi Press.“You get the sense that a lot of the publishers, especially the indie publishers or booksellers, they’re in the trenches a bit,” deWitt said in an interview the day after the screening.“It’s a bit of an uphill battle with readerships dwindling and all these reasons to not read books, all the devices that we hold in our hands and everything. So when a book comes through for the publishers, it’s a pleasing thing for the author but it’s also nice to just know that their gamble has paid off.”And indeed, it has.Anansi says when “The Sisters Brothers” was first published in 2011, it was “a run-away bestseller.” It also won the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.Now that the film has hit theatres in the U.S. and opens in Toronto and Vancouver on Friday, Anansi says it can’t disclose exact numbers but confirms it has seen another spike in sales of the book.DeWitt said the spark for the story first came to him after he’d published his first novel, 2009’s “Ablutions,” and he was watching a lot of westerns on TV with his father.Curious about the interior lives of the characters, which is rarely portrayed in westerns, he wrote the phrase “sensitive cowboys” in a notepad and the story flowed from there.Reilly got his hands on the manuscript through his producer-wife Allison Dickey when they were working on the 2011 film “Terri,” which deWitt wrote. Reilly and Dickey bought the film rights to the story and became producers on it, asking deWitt for his input.French filmmaker Jacques Audiard makes his English-language debut as a director on the film, which he also co-wrote with Thomas Bidegain.Reilly plays Eli alongside Phoenix as the younger Charlie, who exchange humorous banter as they ride from Oregon City to San Francisco. Co-stars include Jake Gyllenhaal as a detective tracking down a chemist (played by Riz Ahmed) who claims to have developed a formula for finding gold.Reilly said he connected to Eli’s duality — his ruthless reputation but rueful interior.“I asked Pat early on, ‘Were you thinking about me at all when you wrote this character?’” said Reilly.“As soon as I read this guy I thought, ‘I really relate to a lot of his world view’ — minus the murder. I’ve never murdered anyone yet.“All of us have those days when we’re like, ‘Wow, the world is seeing this exterior and inside, if they only knew what was going on,’” continued the Oscar-nominated comedy star.“And then his struggles with self-esteem and looking not like every handsome guy — there was just a lot there for me that I thought I really related to.”DeWitt, a 2018 Giller finalist for “French Exit,” said he feels like the spirit of “The Sisters Brothers” is intact in the film.“It was really ultimately rewarding and I just felt such a sense of relief once the credits were rolling,” said the author, who lives in Portland and spent some of his teen years in southern California.“The reason I felt so good was because I feel like I’d arrived at the same place emotionally that the book brings me to. So even though there are differences in the tone and in the storyline, I think the heart of it is there.”“The Sisters Brothers” opens across Canada on Oct. 12.