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Backstory on new movie about jigsaw puzzles, "Puzzle"

The new indy movie Puzzle is getting rave reviews (83% positive on Here's some backstory on it from the famous jigsaw puzzle historian Anne D. Williams: Puzzle Dazzles at Sundance  Dave Beffa-Negrini...

The new indy movie Puzzle is getting rave reviews (83% positive on Here's some backstory on it from the famous jigsaw puzzle historian Anne D. Williams:

Puzzle Dazzles at Sundance 

Dave Beffa-Negrini just alerted me to the new movie Puzzle, starring Kelly Macdonald and Irrfan Khan. When it premiered at Sundance this January, it captivated audiences. 

Puzzle is an American adaptation of the 2010 Argentine film of the same name, directed by Natalie Smirnoff. It received very positive reviews on the whole, although one critic dismissed it as a knockoff of the French Queen to Play (about a chess player). The Puzzle Parley screened Puzzle for attendees on Sunday afternoon in July 2012.

The story is simple, but charming. A middle-aged housewife has spent her life in a self-effacing role, catering to her husband and others. Then she discovers jigsaw puzzles. Not only does she enjoy them immensely, but she also turns out to be a whiz at assembling them quickly. 

Soon another die-hard puzzler convinces her to team up with him to practice for a national jigsaw puzzle contest. In the process she emerges as her own independent person and blossoms in new ways.

As a puzzle enthusiast, I have a special interest in this film. Plus, I have a personal, albeit now distant, connection to it. 

Early in 2011 I got a call from a screenwriter for Olive Productions in New York City. She told me that Olive’s principals included Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, and Steve Buscemi and that they were about to buy the rights to remake the film in an American setting. 
The reason? Streep had seen the Argentine film and had decided she wanted to play the heroine herself. 

The screenwriter then engaged me in a long discussion of the various approaches to jigsaw puzzling. She was most interested in how best to portray the speed and techniques of a champion puzzler.

She revealed that the central character would have to live near New York City.  Apparently Streep insisted on working close to her home in Salisbury, Connecticut.
Even though my contact warned me that fewer than one percent of scripts actually result in a finished film, she assured me that I would definitely be a valued consultant if the project came to fruition.

I guess I didn’t listen carefully to that caveat.  By the next day I was envisioning myself as Meryl’s newest BFF.  Furthermore, I obviously would land a role as an extra in the tournament scenes, join the Screen Actor’s Guild, and get a listing in the credits. Not to mention the fat consulting fee. The screenwriter’s “if” was soon forgotten.

Alas, it was not to be. I never heard from them again. After a year of waiting I concluded the project had bitten the dust. 

Meryl had obviously lost interest. Certainly she was very busy on other films. How could playing housewife Maria in Puzzle compete with such significant historical roles as Maggie Thatcher in The Iron Lady, Emmeline Pankhurst in Suffragette, or Kay Graham in The Post

Although Olive Productions resurrected the idea (sans Streep) last year, they obviously had forgotten me altogether. Did they find another consultant? Or did they decide that accuracy in portraying puzzlers was not that important. I won’t know until I see the movie and the credits. 

Missing out on meeting Macdonald and Khan is a blow. But not nearly as bad as losing the opportunity to work with Meryl Streep.


This article originally appeared in the Jan-Feb 2018 issue On the Table, an online publication of the Association for Games & Puzzles International.  Author Anne D. Williams has written extensively about jigsaw puzzles, including the most famous book on jigsaw puzzle history, The Jigsaw Puzzle, Piecing Together A History.

1 comment on Backstory on new movie about jigsaw puzzles, "Puzzle"
  • Dianne Low
    Dianne LowApril 23, 2021

    Where was Agnes going in the last scene of the movie ?

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