Actor and producer Griffin Dunne joins Zibby to discuss THE FRIDAY AFTERNOON CLUB, a searing and powerful portrait of his unconventional Hollywood family and a reckoning with the tragedies that exploded within it. Griffin delves into his family's painful past, including his sister Dominique’s murder and his brother’s struggles with mental illness, while reflecting on the emotional, cathartic writing process. He also touches on his friendship with Carrie Fisher and his complex relationship with his father, renowned journalist Dominick Dunne. Finally, he shares his best advice for aspiring writers.


Zibby: Welcome Griffin. Thank you so much for coming on Moms Don't Have Time To Read Books to discuss the Friday Afternoon Club Family memoir. It was so good. Oh my gosh. Ate it all up. Every word. So good. 

Griffin: I'm so glad. I like your dog in the background there. 

Zibby: I know. I was just looking. I was like, Oh my gosh, I should probably wake her up.


Griffin: here's mine right there. 

Zibby: Oh, so cute. 

Griffin: Also asleep. 

Zibby: Yeah. Usually she's on the couch, but you never know. Okay. Tell listeners about the book. When did you decide to write this? I know you started off always knowing it would be a family memoir, but when did you decide now's the time to write this and how did you get going?

Griffin: Well, I have a very intrepid agent. He wasn't really, I wasn't really a client of his, but we're friends. And he'd been after me to write a book, uh, for at least 10 years, because he'd heard my stories that I regaled about, about my own mishaps in New York and, and growing up in LA and, and also about my family who had a pretty scandalous and fascinating, uh, past going back generations.

So along the way, without telling David Kuhn, the agent. I've been sort of logging stories, um, and letting them sort of build. Until I felt sort of fecund and about, well, almost really less than two years, I wrote David and sent him, uh, about, uh, 40, 50 pages and he went, Oh, you sneaky, sneaky. This is great. I know how to sell this.

And he drew up a beautiful proposal and, and many publishers were interested. And, uh, soon as, uh, we worked everything out with Penguin, where. You know, I've been reading Penguin books. Um, they have so much, uh, meaning in history to me. That was a place I definitely wanted to be at. I went right to work and I have to say it was, it just flowed.

I was just sort of obsessed. I, I came in well under my deadline. I found, you know, when I was acting in a movie, when the camera would turn around and there'd be a setup, I'd brush back to my dressing room and just pick up from where I left off. And it just sort of went like that for, uh, you know, a year and a half.

Zibby: Now you're making all other authors feel terrible. 

Griffin: I know. I know. It's always, it's not always going to be like this. No, as a filmmaker, you know, people's And it's true, I think, sometimes with books, it just, it, it, it, my first movie just came so easily, and the sophomore effort, because you just know, there's so much expectation, and you're comparing yourself, and you know what to be afraid of, the second work is usually more challenging.

Zibby: Yeah. Well. 

Griffin: That's okay. 

Zibby: I feel mildly better myself. I don't know. One of the things that you do in the book is you make yourself into a character, right? You're you show us how funny you can be and all these times where you're, you're the dark humor and wit and all of that, and all the situations into which you Into it you fall that make you feel like you're in a movie to begin with.

Can I just read this, this passage towards the end? Is that okay? Yeah. This is when you, you've gone to con and you don't, you're, the dry cleaner still has your tuxedo and so you have to get the tuxedo from your security guard, which is so funny. You said, I paced my room in just a bow tie and a shirt, taking no delight in the irony that Paul Hackett's misadventures continued to follow me even after I'd made the movie.

These you're never going to believe what just happened moments have taunted me all my life. It's why Amy thought of me for the role and Marty couldn't imagine anyone else after picking up on my chaotic vibes. Marty being Martin Scorsese, just for those who aren't familiar on a first name basis, but that's okay.

But it can be tiresome to constantly be in stressful situations that an unseen audience finds hilarious. If, when putting my room service tray in the hallway in only my underwear, the door locks behind me, I swear I can hear a laugh track. The 20 that blew out the window of the taxi at the beginning of the movie is something that actually happened to me in the back of a Chicago cab.

I had hoped making After Hours might exercise these laugh track moments of my life, but to date, no such luck. 

Griffin: Yes. 

Zibby: They continue. Is that really the thing. 

Griffin: They do? I'm afraid they do. Just, you know, remarkable. I have a very, uh, uh, hostile relationship with keys. Constantly losing them and being locked in.

And I do find, you know, particularly when you're in a hurry, some very creative obstacles come my way that I do think, oh, this doesn't happen to anyone else. This is only happening to me. I'm sure other people feel that, but it's certainly a way I, I continue to feel. 

Zibby: I, I literally just ordered these tiles, I guess, where you can put them on your phone and your glasses and like things.

So you just stop. I just stop losing things all the time because you waste so much time. 

Griffin: Yeah. Um, I, I am, I, I lost the tiles.

Zibby: That's funny. Oh my gosh. So your book is really divided into two sections. And the first is almost a career memoir. It's a career and family story of how you're, well, more family than career, but how, like your coming of age, so to speak, and how that goes with your whole family and the, you know, the issues within the members of the family and your own, you know, relationships.

And then the second part is much more. Of the trial, and I'm so sorry for the loss of Dominique, I'm so sorry, that's, it's so horrific and you wrote about it with beauty and grace and, and all of that, but anyway, so when you were structuring the memoir and trying to figure out the two things to tell, did you feel this pull of how to divide it and how to tell that story and how to make sure that the trial story didn't sort of take over the rest of the book?

Griffin: That was always a concern of mine because it was, uh, I decided to write it chronologically, which sounds like a logical thing to do, but I'd originally envisioned to move the book, even when I was on my proposal, that it would be a family memoir with chapters with, with, with incidents that would take place, and I was inspired by David Sedaris's, um, Uh, books about his family and, uh, my editor, John Burnham Schwartz, who's also a wonderful novelist as well.

He suggested the boring tact of why don't you just write it in sequence? And I realized the story doesn't begin with, you know, I was born in a manger. The story began in the Mexican revolution with Pancho Villa driving my mother's side of the family across the border to Nogales and the great famine, Irish famine on my father's side.

And. It brought me through their child, my parents childhood and the difficulties that they had. And my father was, had a very, very, uh, abusive father. And, and I just carried their lives along until I was born. And as I'm going along in sequence, I knew that the trial, that the murder and the trial was On my path and I would, I was kind of like dreading that part, but it just, you know, it arrived that sequence of events.

And I, after I, I worked my way through that, it was very, I just, I wanted to the trial in particular, I wanted to get across one travesty, judicial travesty after another that happened to us in the courtroom without, without commentary, without me having to express my feelings because the, by them, the, The people would know the narrator, the readers would know the narrator well enough to know how I feel and that they would be as outraged as we were and as confounded.

And so when I got through that part and then I continued with my career, I realized this is this is book two and it totally. And so I went back and I just put book two, which was the beginning of the trial. And then I took a chapter that I'd written chronologically of, of. The homicide detective, Johnston, uh, Harold Johnston, waking my mother up to tell her that Dominique, my sister, her, her daughter was, uh, had been strangled and was on life support.

And I made that the prologue. And, and then I knew, I knew what my ending was going to be, that I was going to open with death. and end with life, with my daughter being born. So the structure came to me by writing chronologically. 

Zibby: Wow. That's really interesting. You wrote one of the most powerful scenes, I think, was when your brother Alex was institutionalized or these two other people had brought him and you were the one who had to sign him in to stay.

And you were like, I can't do this. I can't do this. And you took him out and you could tell you were just like wracked with. guilt. You didn't want to leave him, but he was having another manic episode. In fact, the whole way you wrote about Alex and mental illness was really nuanced and beautiful and, and shows really clearly what it's like to live with somebody or to love somebody who struggles.

Tell me about that moment and just the takeaways from this whole thing. And I'm so happy that at the end you said he's doing very well because I was really rooting for him all along. 

Griffin: Yeah, no, he's, he's, he's, he's doing great. Just backing up for a moment. You know, I, I, I, I, when I wanted to write the book.

I could not write it without my brother's blessing. And in order to write about my family and, um, I would have to, you know, talk about his, his, uh, his mental struggles at that period in his life. And he said, you can write whatever you want about me. Just have it come from a place of love. And it was a note that I took to heart with everyone, um, who was in my immediate family and beyond.

And so Alex and I were very, very close, are very close. And. You know, having to, you know, see him, you know, locked up in the U. C. L. A. Psychiatric ward was just torture for me to see him like that in that condition and him, you know, begging me to get him out of there. And I just I loved him too much. I didn't have the heart.

I couldn't do it. I just couldn't do it. It was, uh, and I said to the judge, yeah. In this little courtroom, you know, where you have someone mandatorily committed, I just broke down. I said, I can't do it. I can't do it. And I started crying. Alex was, was free. He was not free of his illness that would continue on for some, some years, but that was a, uh, that was a very tough, uh, tough time for both of us.

Zibby: Sorry, did you ever read or see the recent series of I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb? 

Griffin: I sure did. I sure did. And you know, Mark, Mark Ruffalo's a good friend of mine. And I, I get so emotional. I've opened up some vein ever since writing this book, but I had called him. And he knew about my brother and, you know, Mark has had a tragedy in his family with his brother.

And we just talked and talked about that. I just really hit me deep is his performances as himself, as. You know, playing his brother and as well as the central figure, they got it just right. They got it just right. That was, I felt so, I related to that. I hadn't read the book, but I, the series really moved me.

Zibby: So powerful. I always think about that. It was just amazing, especially in the context of yours, but, so you have these very, uh, You know, heartfelt, dark moments in your mother's, you know, MS. And, you know, just so there's so much stuff in here. And yet then we're like, you know, hanging out with all these celebrities.

Like there's just so much you're in this full ride, which is of course your life. Carrie Fisher, by the way. So my husband, Kyle started Morning Moon Productions with Billy and her husband, Austin. So they. Oh my 

Griffin: gosh. Oh my gosh. That's amazing. 

Zibby: Yeah, so I was like there looking at the house that they're rebuilding and all this stuff.


Griffin: yeah, well, I know that house. You know, I've written Billie. I've just encouraged her to read the book and I don't know that she has yet. I think her, uh, her dad might have, you know, sometimes, you know, when the book was about to come out or something that there'd be little tiny gossipy things that would just focus on something that Carrie and I even talked about on camera in a documentary about her, about me.

Taking your virginity and they make it sound so salacious. Like that's what the book was about. So I remember I, I contacted, uh, Billy and the father going, read the book. You're going to, it's going to bring back your mom. And that section was so much fun to write. And, you know, Charlie Wessler was in the book and Carrie had a close knit of.

Friends of myself, a guy named Gavin DeBecker and Bruce Wagner, the wonderful writer and Beverly DeAngelo and they read the book and they just were, that was the ultimate compliment. Like you got her. It was like being in the room with her, which thrilled me. 

Zibby: Wow. 

Griffin: It felt like I was in the room with her when I was writing it.

Zibby: It felt like we were too. It sounded like a very fun room to be in, although perhaps not near that shower, but with the hand or whatever. Uh, you wrote something so beautiful. Nice about her too, you said. In the years ahead I was there for her family weddings and she for many of mine. She loved to pretend she couldn't remember which of my exes was which, but of course she knew, and dug for every little nugget about when and where it all went wrong with the same curiosity she'd had about my proclivities when she was a virgin.

I wish I could remember our last conversation before she left for London on the trip from which she never came home in 2016. It was probably about Christmas plans or our daughter's shenanigans, but I know, despite not remembering what exactly was said, That we laughed very, very hard. 

So good. 

Griffin: It sucks me out, but just hear it.

Zibby: That's so good. 

Griffin: Yeah. 

Zibby: Oh my gosh. Well, this is, I'm sure will be a gift to, to Billy and the whole family, so it's really fun. You also, which has gotten, I know a lot of media attention, this sort of expose, if you will, of your dad and things that we might not have known about him as a public figure in his own right, in addition to your, you know, aunt and uncle and, and all of that.

How do you think your dad having, let's pretend he just read this book, what do you think he would say to you? 

Griffin: I, I think about that a lot and I, and I'm pretty certain I'm right about this answer that he would be really very, very proud and, you know, both, both he and John and Joan did not hold back when writing about their writing about themselves and their own personal journeys.

And, you know, dad had said once to me, we were having conflict about something and he would say. Write it down. Just let me have it. You're going to feel great. Just say whatever the hell you want about me. I don't care. Just get it down. And that rang in my ear. And so I think he, you know, he's very, he was very honest about himself.

You know, he did a documentary. It was a documentary about him. And he talked about a lot of the same things I did about, You know, his, his sort of weaknesses as a, as a social climber and how important it was to give parties and to be at parties and be invited to parties by celebrities and famous people, uh, you know, he really worshipped at the altar of, of, of fame.

And, you know, as a. As a, as children and it kind of made my, my brother and I kind of uncomfortable, you know, Dominique was much younger and you know, it was like kind of, um, you know, I talk about him, you know, when I was young of my, my best friends were their fathers were movie stars and played tough guys.

One guy was Jack Palance, who was the gunslinger and Shane and the other was Howard Keel, who was a lumberjack and. You know, my father was not particularly known for his masculinity and tough guy stuff. That came later, the real tough guy. But at that time, you know, they, these, my friends, Gunnar and Cody would taunt me and go, my, our dad could lick your dad with one hand tied behind their back.

And I said, well, uh, he, he wouldn't, he'd kick both your asses and he wills just soon as he gets out of prison.

And I made up this line. What's he in for? I said, he robbed a bank. And the rumor went around like smallpox. It was like the principal called my dad. And then my dad, when he came home from work, just went, is that something you want me to do? Griffin, Robert, I was so embarrassed and he was embarrassed. You know, it was like, you know, he kind of knew.

He knew I wasn't, you know, proud of him as I came to be. But at that time I was, you know, just a kid who had an idea of what a man was supposed to be. And, and at that time I thought my father didn't fit the bill. Uh, well, he certainly, and that was before I knew, I never knew he was a war hero. You know, and later in life, you know, when he was very well known and, and received all these awards and was recognized on the street, he'd always tell you, and, you know, quite proudly, he really enjoyed his late life, uh, success.

But he never told me about that. He never bragged. He never told me he saved two soldiers lives. In the battle of mints in the toward the end of the war. And so, you know, there was, as I say in the book, you know, I, I wanted to be, uh, you know, I always had this idea of what it was to be a man and, and didn't realize till much later I've been raised by one all along.

Zibby: I love that. So what is success? What does the success of this book mean to you? Like, what would you deem successful? What would have to, what would happen? 

Griffin: Well, 

Zibby: What do you want to happen, I guess? 

Griffin: Well, the first success was finishing it, actually doing it. It was, it was on my bucket list to someday write a book.

I, I, I, I'm a big reader and I've been, you know, taking in the styles of different writers and, you know, seeing how, you know, You know, Philip Roth and writers that I admire how they do it. I've been doing that even subconsciously for a long time, but I think that the success and the praise and I'm just love hearing how much I met and enjoyed where I can, uh, at an age where I can just take in all the love and not be conflicted about it as you know, people are when they're younger and they're Get success very early, but it's different than, you know, coming out in a movie that I directed or was in or produced because this, I did, this is the only thing I've ever done all by myself.

It's, it's been a solo flight all the way along and the landing has been triumphant. I feel like Lindbergh or something, you know? And, and so I have that, uh, I have a real sense of accomplishment of, of having done something by myself. And starting and finishing it and then having it and being proud of the end result.

Zibby: Well, you should be. It's really good. And the way you tell stories is captivating and the pacing is so good. And it's a nice, clean writing style where you're totally in it. And, um, you know, as a book itself, I think it is, it is great. And obviously you had all the stories to fill it. You know, it's like a, you know, I was like envisioning it like a Build A Bear.

I'm obviously spending too much time with my children, but you know, like, like the outside is great, but like, it's this, you know, the stuffing, anyway, whatever, never mind. Anyway, do you have advice for aspiring authors? 

Griffin: Well, I'm a novice writer myself, but I will give advice anyway, that not to censor yourself, just, just keep writing, just, just get it down, just plow forward.

The fun part is editing, but just get it, get it all out. You know, I'd be, I would turn in pages to, to my editor, John, 50, you know, in lumps of 50 or 60 pages. Someone's just, you go, come on, you don't want to say that or, or, you know, just go, I don't know what the hell you're talking about here. And I go, okay, that's a good note.

And then I would just go back and fine tune it and fine tune it. And I, I just, I just didn't censor myself. I, I, one piece of great advice I learned from Joan, not that she told me, I read it, but I took it to heart. Was always leaving something the end of the day, leaving something incomplete that you look forward to picking up the next morning.

That was great advice. And I would go to bed having to resist the urge to get out of bed in the middle of the night and keep, keep on going. Which sometimes I failed at that, but, but that was good advice that I got from her that I'll pass along. 

Zibby: Amazing. Well, thank you so much for the book, for the time. I really appreciate it.

I feel like you need to go start like a sub stack or something because now I need to read. I want to keep following, you know, like now I feel very invested. I'm like, okay, now what? Like, how's it going? What, where are the stories? 

Griffin: I got more. I got more. 

Zibby: Okay. Good. Okay. Good. 

Griffin: Thank you. And thank you for including me when you're with your summer read.

Zibby: Oh, you're welcome. You're welcome. 

Griffin: And, uh, this is fun. Thank you. 

Zibby: Thank you. Okay. All right. Take care. Congrats.


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