The true-life story of Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Novalyne Price Ellis (Renee Zellweger, in a pre-Jerry Maguire role) is given an affecting telling in The Whole Wide World, opening Friday. If Novalyne Price Ellis couldn't save Howard, neither could she forget him. In 1986, after her husband died and she retired from teaching, Ellis penned a memoir of their friendship and its achingly tragic end.
Michael Scott Myers, a former student of Ellis', showed his screenplay version of her book to producer Dan Ireland back in 1990. Ireland was fascinated by this tale of a wild-man writer who retreated into the great outdoors and his exotic imagination to escape the dullness of the real world and its real people.
Making a research trip to the dry-bones Texas hamlet where Howard lived, Ireland discovered volumes about the nature of his suffering, and why he found a friend in the perceptive Novalyne Price.