The Fault in Our Stars. Even if you haven’t read the book, you’ve probably seen the trailer for the movie coming out on June 6. I admit – when I was offered the opportunity to interview John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars, I had only heard of the book and faintly remembered seeing the movie announced. (By the way, I haven’t been compensated for covering this interview here).
I got The Fault in Our Stars on Kindle and started reading it over a weekend.
I devoured it.
There is something about The Fault in Our Stars that grips you. It brings the reader right into the middle of the story and the characters. You don’t have to be a teenager like Gus and Hazel. You don’t have to have cancer or know anybody that does…but chances are you do. Chances are, you’ll see yourself or someone you know in the pages of this book. And I can’t wait to see movie, especially after chatting with John Green.
About the film:
Hazel and Gus are two extraordinary teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them — and us — on an unforgettable journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous, given that they met and fell in love at a cancer support group. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, based upon the number-one bestselling novel by John Green, explores the funny, thrilling and tragic business of being alive and in love.
Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Willem Dafoe, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Mike Birbiglia, and Emily Peachey | Directed by Josh Boone | Screenplay by Scott Neustadter, based on the book by John Green | Produced by Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey
Interview with Author John Green
I’m going to start our interview at the end, with the last question – which happened to be my question – because I feel like it answers one of the most important questions that fans of the book will want to know. I had read that John Green was hesitant to sell the movie rights originally. I was curious to hear his perspective on what ultimately changed his mind.
John Green: There is something really magical about a book that doesn’t become a movie.
There’s something magical about the fact the Holden Caulfield is always going to belong to us, that we’re never going to–you know, for the rest of my life, when I close my eyes and think about Harry Potter, I’m going to see Daniel Radcliffe just because the power of the image is such that is overwhelms text. And I thought that would be great. I thought I was okay with that.
I passed on some initial interest in making it into a movie just because just I didn’t want to go through it. This is such a personal story for me. It felt very close to me and it just felt hard to let it go. And I didn’t know really what would be gained by letting it go.
But, two producers, Wyck Godfrey and Isaac Klausner, came to an event that I was doing with my brother in Los Angeles. They talked to me backstage before our event for about 10 minutes, and everything that they said was everything that I wanted to hear. They were absolutely 100 percent committed to making a movie that would honor the story and that fans of the story would care about and respond to.
And I believed them. I don’t really know why I believed them, because lots of people say lots of things in Hollywood, but I really believed them. And they did–the whole time, every decision that they made, every hire that they made, they hired people who cared about the book, that cared about the story, who wanted to make sure that it was preserved, not just the story but the tone, the themes, the ideas in the novel, everything.
It really is tough to make a novel into a movie because they two are such different formats. I was glad to hear John’s confidence that the process worked so smoothly.
Mr. Green also commented, in answer to another question, that one of his greatest fears in making The Fault in Our Stars into a movie was that it would become a sentimental story. He said, “I was trying really hard to write as unsentimental and straightforward a story as I could. I was worried that the characters (in the movie) would be defined by their disability, instead of having disability be part of their lives but not the defining feature of their lives.”
Another question relating to the reaction that fans of the book might have to the movie was how much the dialog was changed from book to movie script. Would fans still hear their favorite “lines” from the book?
John Green: Mike Weber and Scott Neustadter, who wrote the script, have such a deep love for the book. They were really passionate about the book. They wanted to preserve not just the tone and themes of the book but as much of the actual words of the book as possible, and I think they did an amazing job.
Almost every line of dialogue is from the book. If anything, I was like, “Guys, don’t feel so married to the book.” But, they were. They were also very conscious of what lines were important to readers, thanks to the gifts of Tumblr and Twitter and everything else. They saw what people were responding to, making art about, and it was important to them to keep it in.
There were a lot of lines I wanted to preserve if we could make them sound movie-ish and, you know, normal. But I think they did an amazing job. I think everything that fans want to hear they’re going to hear.
No matter how closely a movie follows a book, however, there are going to be changes, if not in the things they do and say then in the way the movie makes you feel. One blogger asked if there was there anything in the book, such as a character or a scene, that the film adaptation made John Green see in a different light. I loved his answer…
John Green: When I was writing the book, I saw the world through Hazel’s eyes. I didn’t imagine the world through Gus’s eyes or the world through Hazel’s parents’ eyes as much. I mean, I guess I connected a lot to Hazel’s dad, so maybe there was some empathy there. But, I was trying to stay narrowly in Hazel’s mind and seeing the world as Hazel would see it.
And so, seeing the movie, I thought very differently about Augustus and about Hazel’s parents, and even about Van Houten. Each of those actors brings to their performance a realness, a sense that they are the center of their own story, just as anyone is.
It helped me to think differently and I guess more broadly about Gus, the challenges that he’s been through before the story begins, how that’s given him confidence but how also that confidence is real and it’s earned because he has integrated this disability into his life. But, it’s also a way of protecting himself. It’s also a way of protecting himself against the things that are harder for him now, or the way that his life has been changed, physically and emotionally by his disability.
And, finally, I loved John Green’s perspective on the casting of the movie. He said he never envisioned The Fault in Our Stars being made into a movie when he was writing it, and so he had never imagined who might play what roles in the film adaptation.
John Green: I’m really bad at looking at faces and understanding faces, I think. I think most of my friends do see specific faces. I don’t really see faces that clearly when I’m writing.
Almost immediately, even when she was auditioning, Shailene became Hazel for me. Hazel just looked like Shailene and talked like Shailene talks as Hazel. In terms of casting, I had a voice. I’m not a casting director. I didn’t direct the movie, so it wasn’t my decision, certainly. But, I definitely got to share my opinion, and I was lucky that, in the end, the cast that I dreamt of is the cast that we got. I think Gus was the hardest role to cast for. When Ansel was with Shailene, he just became Augustus to me.
Connect with The Fault in Our Stars:
- Read the book
- Visit the official website
- Like TFIOS on Facebook
- Follow @TheFaultMovie on Twitter
- Follow on Google+ & Instagram
The Fault in Our Stars comes to theaters June 6, 2014 and is rated PG-13
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