Catherine Hand remembers that when she was 14 years old, her father Lloyd Hand, a longtime aide and chief of protocol under President Lyndon Johnson, asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up. She was sure, she said, she wanted to go into the entertainment industry. “Not the law?” he asked, possibly worried about the young woman’s prospects in Tinseltown.
Not a chance — Catherine Hand’s mind was made up and, in fact, she already had a project in mind. But it was only last week, more than 50 years after that conversation, that it finally came to fruition. Even as a child, Hand knew she wanted to make a movie out of her favorite book, Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle In Time.”
The movie, which premiered last week in Hollywood and hits theaters today, has uber A-listy credits, including Oscar-winning director Ava DuVernay and actresses Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling. Hand is a producer, and although her name might not be as familiar as the stars, her family is well-known in Washington, D.C.: Her mother, Ann Hand, is a jeweler whose designs are popular among the political set (her pins have graced some high-profile lapels on both sides of the aisle), and the Hands are a fixture on the city’s social scene.
Catherine Hand has had an epic journey bringing the children’s book to the big screen that almost reads like a movie of its own. Among the highlights was her first encounter with “A Wrinkle in Time,” when a librarian suggested it to the then 10-year-old who felt an instant connection to the story of a girl named Meg who searches through time and space for her missing father, a brilliant scientist who is being held captive.
Meg’s family lived in a big white house, and so did the Hands. Catherine had a crush on a gangly red-haired boy, just like Meg did. And then there was her family — like Meg’s father, Catherine’s father was often away. Catherine’s younger brother had a learning disability, making him different, like Meg’s gifted brother and sidekick, Charles Wallace. “There were so many details that were mirrored in my own life,” she says.
After becoming enthralled by the book, Catherine wrote a letter to her favorite filmmaker, Walt Disney, urging him to make it into a movie. She never mailed it, though, and when Disney died in 1966, Catherine made a promise to herself: She would get the mission done herself.
She finally got her shot years later when, as a 20-something aide to famed TV producer Norman Lear, she tried to persuade her boss to secure the rights. Lear said it wasn’t quite right for him, but Catherine persisted and Lear signed off on her pursuing them herself. Then there was the first meeting with L’Engle at Windows to the World, the restaurant at the top of the original World Trade Center. In the long elevator ride up, Hand says she was so intimidated by the meeting with her childhood idol that she felt like she couldn’t breathe.
(Excerpt) Read more in: AJC