HOLDEN — Matthew Quick is a very big deal right now.
You wouldn’t know it, based on the casual way he saunters around his modest home in Holden, near Worcester. He’s mellow and welcoming, and there’s nothing about him that would suggest he’s any fancier than his neighbors. But he’s Oscar bait — or, at least, he’s the writer of a book that was made into a film that appears to be a frontrunner for this year’s awards season.
Quick, 39, is the novelist whose “The Silver Linings Playbook” was made into a movie now playing in limited-release in Boston and opening nationwide on Wednesday. The movie was written and directed by David O. Russell, an Oscar nominee for the Lowell epic, “The Fighter,” and stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence of “The Hunger Games,” and Robert De Niro.
The dramedy, set in Quick’s Philadelphia, has already picked up an audience award at this year’s Austin Film Festival, actor and director of the year awards at the Hollywood Film Festival, and a people’s choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival. That Toronto honor has been known to foreshadow Oscar gold. Past winners include “The King’s Speech” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”
For now, Quick is just taking it all in. When he wrote “Silver Linings” in his in-laws’ basement, not far from where he currently lives with his wife, Massachusetts-bred writer and musician Alicia Bessette, he didn’t bank on the story ever hitting the big screen. He says he’s been accused of writing books that are intentionally cinematic so that they’re turned into scripts (his subsequent books, the young adult novels “Sorta Like a Rock Star” and “Boy21,” seem to scream for screen adaptations), but he explains that it’s always been about the narrative.
“This was just my creation,” Quick said with a shrug, just before heading down to New York for the movie’s big premiere. “I’m just trying to tell a good story.”
Quick is originally from the Philly suburb of Oaklyn, N.J., and graduated from La Salle University in 1996. He went on to work with teens diagnosed with head trauma and severe autism and then at local schools before he quit to write full time. His experiences exposed him to the mental health community that becomes a central character in “Silver Linings.” Quick’s antihero, Pat, must manage his bipolar disorder while reestablishing himself in his suburban Philly town. His family and friends are on top of him. He’s estranged from his daily routine. He’s obsessed with getting his wife back, but there’s a new woman, Tiffany, whom he just can’t seem to shake.
Quick wrote the story — which he originally called “Clouds” — between 2004 and 2007. Literary agent Douglas Stewart, of Sterling Lord Literistic (who reps “Cloud Atlas” author David Mitchell), pulled the manuscript from a slush pile and fell in love.
“There was something very special about the voice that is apparent from the first page,” Stewart said of the manuscript, adding, “The second you start reading about [Pat], you want to follow him wherever he goes.”
Stewart sent the story to a Hollywood agent who sells film rights, and “he immediately went nuts.” It was first optioned by Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, who brought it to the Weinstein Company, but then both directors died. Eventually, the story made its way to Russell.
The author admits that he had some desire to write the screenplay, but he couldn’t refuse Russell, whose work he adored. Their interaction was limited during the filming process. It was friendly and included a set visit, but, according to Quick, “he did not seek my input out at all.” Russell did tell him about one major change between Quick’s manuscript and the movie: that Pat’s family would be Italian, as opposed to Irish.
Russell told Quick that “The Fighter,” “was all about your people,” Quick said, remembering Russell’s amusing explanation: “I want to do Italians this time.”
It was first reported that Mark Wahlberg, Russell’s collaborator on “The Fighter,” would be taking on the lead role, possibly with Anne Hathaway as Tiffany, but Cooper, a Philly native, wound up stepping in.
Quick acknowledges that Cooper’s version of Pat is a bit more digestible than the book version of the character, but that doesn’t bother him. “It made Pat more accessible to a larger audience.”
He also prepared himself for other changes, including the casting of Lawrence, who is significantly younger than Quick’s version of Tiffany. He said he had faith that Lawrence could handle the part; he had been a fan of her since her Oscar-nominated performance in “Winter’s Bone.” “When I saw her, I was blown away,” he said.
He accepted that the movie was Russell’s baby. But when the film was finished, Quick got the strong sense that Russell cared deeply about his opinion. Quick first saw the film at a screening in New York and said that as soon as he told the film representatives that he loved it, they instructed him to call Russell immediately.
“He was really concerned about my reaction,” Quick said. “I think that as an artist, he wanted people to enjoy his film. We talked for an hour. He asked so many questions.”
Even now, Quick is amazed by Russell’s interest in his opinion as a writer and someone who also cares deeply about the mental health community. Quick joined Russell for a Q&A earlier this fall at the Philadelphia Film Festival. The director occasionally deferred to the author for answers, welcoming his thoughts about the story.
“It meant a lot to me because you’d think that as an Oscar-nominated director he wouldn’t be like that,” he said.
Of course, one might not think that a best-selling author, whose list of novels continues to grow, Quick would still be so stunned by his success, but he is.
Just before heading to the premiere, where he walked the red carpet and came face-to-face with A-listers, Quick admitted, after a deep breath, “I’m just so overwhelmed.”
Meredith Goldstein can be
reached at mgoldstein@globe