Aaron and Sam Taylor-Johnson Talk 'A Million Little Pieces,' Collaborating and Addiction

Aaron Taylor-Johnson Illustration by Britt Spencer

James Frey's book A Million Little Pieces could arguably be considered one of the most controversial books published in recent history.

The controversy surrounding its semi-fictional memoir-style made it one of the internet's first viral scandals of the publishing world. But beyond the controversy—and the infamous interview Frey did with Oprah Winfrey in 2005—is a story about a person struggling with addiction and desperately trying to find a way out of it. That's the story director Sam Taylor-Johnson told in her new film adaption of the memoir, starring and co-written by her husband Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

"I read it and loved it and went on the journey with James," Sam told Newsweek Conversations. "I continued on the journey with James through what happened with the book and the controversy, public shaming and humiliation."

Loosely based on Frey's own journey, Aaron dived into the character by working closely with Frey, communicating regularly, going on a road trip together and even visiting the rehabilitation center where Frey first sought treatment.

"It was really overwhelming for him to step through those doors again," Aaron told Newsweek Conversations. "He said he hadn't been back in over 20 years. I guess the rawness of it is he was an addict and now, today, he's 26 years sober. It's phenomenal."

Sam and Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Sam Taylor-Johnson attend the Build Series to discuss 'A Million Little Pieces' at Build Studio December 02, 2019 in New York City. Dominik Bindl/Getty Images

For Sam, who previously directed Fifty Shades of Grey in 2015 and Nowhere Boy in 2009, part of what drew her to make the film was a personal connection to someone in her life who struggled with addiction.

"I think subconsciously it was a driving force in making this. To know that we were making a movie that was portraying addiction but in a very real way. We made this on a very small budget and in 20 days. With that comes an authenticity in a way because we were very hands-on. I think that making something in this world that ultimately showed hope was the most valuable thing to both of us. Yes, you're watching a movie about somebody going on a very dark journey, but underneath there's darkness and light, and there's humor, but ultimately the hope was the most important thing. To be able to show there's a community of support," Sam said.

A Million Little Pieces is available in select theaters and OnDemand.

Watch the full interview with Sam and Aaron Taylor-Johnson on Newsweek Conversations.