I have a confession to make about today’s interview. I was all set to be on the call with John Green and was beside myself with excitement. I couldn’t even sleep, that was how excited I was. I also bragged A LOT to my book club which I should be ashamed about. When the interview time got rescheduled, I had to make the hardest decision of my life…
Well, perhaps not the hardest decision, but it felt like it at the time because I am a drama queen.
I could attend the retirement celebration dinner for our Pastor OR talk to John Green about The Fault In Our Stars movie.
If you knew my Pastor, you would understand why I begged for a transcript of the call, and soaked in my Pastor’s big day! I am so sad I missed hearing John’s voice and passion for this film, but it does not put a damper on the fact that I get to share this interview with you today and read John’s words.
This is the story of an unlikely group of friends that meet through their Cancer Kid Support Group. Hazel has experienced a medical miracle and her tumor has been shrinking, buying her a few more years, but she finds that she is depressed despite the good news. Her doctors encourage her to participate in a support group which permanently alters Hazel’s path. When she meets Augustus, they quickly form a deep bond that neither could have ever anticipated.
This is the first time we have featured an author whose book is being transformed into a movie, but I definitely hope it isn’t the last time. It’s amazing to hear the process of book adaptation into film, the casting, and what it would be like as a writer to watch your book evolve into this format.
I know you were nervous to give over the rights to the film because the book was just so personal to you. What was your biggest fear in doing so?
Well, I think it’s really hard to make a movie that’s serious or about serious topics without sentimentalizing it. And so, I guess my fear was that it would become a sentimental story, which is what I most didn’t want. I was trying really hard to write as unsentimental and straightforward a story as I could.
I was also worried that the characters would be defined by their disability, instead of having disability be part of their lives but not the defining feature of their lives.
But, the people who ended up getting the rights at Fox 2000 and the producers, Wyck Godfrey and Isaac Klausner, they just promised me that they wouldn’t do that. That was the first thing they said to me when we met, and I believed them. I took it seriously, and they kept every promise. They really did.
What ultimately changed your mind about selling the rights to the film?
Well, I didn’t have a lot of fun in some of my previous movie experiences. And 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 it overwhelms text, you know?
And I thought that would be great. I thought that would be okay. I thought I was okay with that.
I passed on some initial kind of interest in the idea of 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, these producers, Wyck Godfrey and Isaac Klausner, came to this event that I was doing with my brother in Los Angeles. And, 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. They just made me believe them. I don’t really know why I believed them, because lots of people say lots of things in Hollywood, like I said earlier, 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.
And I think they did a really good job, and I think that’s why, for me, at least, it’s such a special movie, because it’s so hard to do that well. It’s so hard to take a tone that’s in a novel and put it into a movie. It’s such a different format. They were just so committed to doing that that I think it worked. I think that was their priority, and it really–at least for me, it really did work.
I wish I could tell you about all the things that I’m unhappy about, but I’m really not.
Many times when books get made into movies really important passages don’t always make it into the script. Where there any passages that you were adamant about staying in for the movie?
No. I was so lucky. 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.
Was there anything in the book, like a character or a scene, that the film adaptation made you see in a different light?
Yeah, that’s a great question. There was a lot, really.
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.
How involved were you in the casting process? And did you envision anyone playing these roles when you were writing the book at all? Did you see it as a film?
I did not see it as a film. I couldn’t imagine a world in which this movie would get made. I never–it’s not something I think about when I write, really, to be honest with you. I mean, they never made a movie out of any of my other books, so I certainly didn’t think they’ve make a movie out of this one.
I don’t really see–this sounds weird and I don’t know how to explain it, ’cause I think most of my friends do see specific faces. I’m really bad at looking at faces and understanding faces, I think. So, 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. You know, 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.
Were you there through most of the filming and what your role was when you were there?
I was there for almost every day. I would say at least 80% of the time. I usually went home on Thursday night so that I could spend a few days with my family.
But, yeah, I was there most of the time.
I didn’t have a role. But, I think it’s nice to have somebody on a movie set who’s not doing anything, because everyone else is so busy and they’re working so hard and they’re talking about, “Did we get this coverage or that coverage,” and, “Did we get it this way? Did we get it that way? Did the light change?” And I could just be like, “Hey, everybody, hold on for a second. This is awesome. Let’s take a step back and realize how ridiculously awesome this is.”
And, Shailene and I would be chatting and she would be like, “I don’t know if I did this” or “I don’t know if I did that.” And I would be like, “Shai, that was amazing. This is incredible.”
So, I was professionally excited on the set. And it’s such a crazy thing, because to be honest with you I always thought of movies as a kind of dilution, that when all these collaborators come in, the thing inevitably weakens and softens. And I think that’s often the case.
But, what I found is that, when people come in and they’re passionate and they really care about the story, it can add to it. It can bring new things to it. So, every day it just felt wonderful on the set. It really did. I mean, I just felt like I was being given such a tremendous gift just to be able to be there and watch them make this movie, make it so carefully and thoughtfully.
I am so happy we got to share this interview with you and am excited for the film, produced by Twentieth Century Fox, to hit theaters at June 6th! Want to learn more about the film? Here are some fun ways you can connect! Be sure to watch the trailer below, get your ticket, and prepare to laugh & cry along to this beautiful movie!
Official websites – #TFIOS
Visit the official website
Like TFIOS on Facebook
Follow @TheFaultMovie on Twitter
Follow on Google+ & Instagram
*This post contains affiliate links! Love our Sundays With Writers series? Check out all of our past interviews here!