EXCLUSIVE: John Green discusses ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ movie, perceptions of YA in mainstream media, and Judy Blume

exclusive
Recently, I had the pleasure of joining nine other bloggers for an exclusive Q&A session with NYT best-selling author of The Fault in Our Stars, John Green. Needless to say, everyone was excited to talk about the upcoming movie adaptation — John Green included.

TFIOS-JohnGreen1“I was professionally excited on the set,” Green said of his role during filming of TFIOS.

What comes across plainly when you talk to Green is how genuinely grateful he is to everyone who has worked tirelessly to bring The Fault in Our Stars faithfully to life on the big screen, and that to this day he remains in awe of the entire ordeal. Green’s enthusiasm for the film is palpable and contagious … I admit, just talking to Green made me feel an excitement for the film that I haven’t up until this point. Confession: I am not a fan of Woodley’s casting, despite Green’s high praise for her, and I’ve struggled to be excited for the film since that decision was first announced. After talking to Green … well, I’m excited.

A Fault In Our StarsIt’s also clear that he’s still a little overwhelmed by the intense spotlight shining on him these days. Green has said before, he’s a shy guy — but he’s obviously overcome that shyness since his writing and vlogging careers took off several years ago. With TFIOS, Green has reached a level of fame where it is both exciting and terrifying. I mean, he has been on the receiving end of Twilight-level of screaming fans during recent promotional appearances for TFIOS.

But Green has also been subjected to some judgements and comparisons from mainstream media (and, let’s be honest, the public as well) that may not be all that accurate, and that Green probably doesn’t want. But that’s part of this experience, is it not? Yeah, Green is going to be called a “prophet” and he’s going to be compared to Judy Blume. And unfortunately, there’s not much Green can do about it.

“I can only say what I can say in interviews,” Green said, when I asked him about how his role in YA literature has been portrayed in mainstream media. In particular, I mentioned the recent Hollywood Reporter article which claimed Green has accomplished what Judy Blume never could – ie, the transition to Hollywood.

“Which is ridiculous,” Green was quick to point out. “Blume has achieved a lot that I haven’t.”

He continued:

That obviously that wasn’t a quote from me. I didn’t say that. I don’t think that, you know?

I can only–every time I’m asked that question, like “Oh, this is such a departure from dystopias or vampires,” I’m like, “Not really,” because really the world of contemporary realistic young adult fiction is very old and very well established. And I am but one writer and not the best, not even near the best, I don’t think, in that world.

And also that I think part of what makes YA so strong is that there’s a longstanding conversation between and within genres. You have sci-fi books and fantasy books interacting with and responding to realistic fiction and mysteries, and one of the things I really love about YA is all that stuff sharing a shelf.

I try really hard to talk about that in interviews, to talk about the way that it looks very different to us from inside the world of YA, that it isn’t about one book or one story, and that there’s hundreds and hundreds of books every year that are read by at least 10,000 teenagers. And that, to me, is the real story about YA, is its diversity and breadth, and finding way to preserve and grow that diversity rather than celebrating single titles.

But, right now there’s going to be a lot of attention on my work in association with the movie. And I’m trying to answer the questions as best I can, but there is a story that people want to tell. And they’re going to tell that story, a lot of times regardless of what I say.

What Green can say is how excited he is for fans to see TFIOS hit the big screen. The Fault in Our Stars opens nationwide on June 6th. See more highlights from our blogger interview with Green below:

*          *          *

A Fault In Our StarsJamie (Perpetual Page Turner): 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?

Mr. John Green: 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.

A Fault In Our StarsKatie (Mundie Moms): Where there any passages that you were adamant about staying in for the movie?

Mr. John Green: 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.

Katie: Okay. That makes me happy to hear that, ’cause I’m excited to see the movie.

Mr. John Green: Yeah. I mean, I genuinely–you know, you don’t have to do this stuff. So, if I didn’t like the movie, I wouldn’t be talking about it. You know what I mean? I genuinely love the movie. I feel so grateful to the people who made it, because it’s one of the most faithful adaptations I’ve ever seen.

Katie: Well, I’m excited to hear that. That makes me feel way better going to watch the movie now. Thank you.

Mr. John Green: Well, now if you don’t like it you can be personally mad at me.

Katie: I’m sure I’ll love it. If they kept true to that, I’m sure I’ll love it.

Sarah (Forever Young Adult): Was there anything in the book, like a character or a scene, that the film adaptation made you see in a different light?

A Fault In Our StarsMr. John Green: 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.

TFiOS official movie posterStacy (Tree, Root & Twig): I’m wondering at what point during The Fault in Our Stars did you allow yourself to think, “This might really happen. This is going to really happen” because I know you’d been through this with some of your other books. Was there a point at which it just felt different and you really knew that it was going to all come together?

Mr. John Green: When they hired Josh to direct it, people said to me, “They don’t hire a director unless they’re going to make the movie.”

But I still–I didn’t believe that, because people in Hollywood say a lot of things. To be honest with you, I flew out to Pittsburgh thinking that they might pull the plug at the last second.

I remember asking the producer of the movie, “What is technically the commencement of principal photography,” because that’s when it gets very, very, very expensive not to make the movie.

And he was like, “We’re going to make the movie. It starts filming tomorrow.” And I was like, “But, this is not technically the commencement of principal photography?” And he was like, “No, that’s tomorrow.” And I was like, “Well, we’ll see.”

So, I mean, I did not let myself believe that it was going to happen until I was on set that morning, that first morning. I saw Hazel and her parents walk out of their house together and the cameras were rolling, and then I knew. And that was a great.

Stacey: What a moment.

Mr. John Green: It was a very special moment. It was almost like they designed that whole first day to be metaphorically resonant for me, to have them walking out of this house that looked so much like the Hazel’s house of my imagination and these people who looked so much like I’d dreamt of. It was like having a hallucination but that happens two or three years after you think the thing. It was very, very weird.

Stacey: That’s great, though. Congratulations that this all came to be. That’s wonderful.

Mr. John Green: Yeah, I just feel so lucky.

*          *          *

Here’s more information about The Fault in Our Stars, in theaters June 6th:

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

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2 responses to “EXCLUSIVE: John Green discusses ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ movie, perceptions of YA in mainstream media, and Judy Blume

  1. Reading interviews with John Green have been so reassuring- it’s always terrifying to watch a film adaptation of a book you love, I can’t imagine being the author and hoping someone gets your story “right!” I’m not even a person who needs the book and movie to be the exact same, but I do really want the adaptation to give me the same emotions as the book! It’s all about the feels!!

  2. I’m excited about the movie, but pretty terrified and this interview has eased that terror a bit. I know it’ll be emotional, but so worth it. You were lucky to get to be part of the interview, I loved your question!

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