Walking onto the suburban Pittsburgh set of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the upcoming movie adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s acclaimed novel, was a bit like going back in time. The early ’90s were alive and well: in the fashion, in the cars, in the hair styles. That moment in time that is so meaningful to me because I lived through it; grew up through it — was alive again thanks to the magic of Hollywood.
Okay, yes, that phrase is a bit cliched. But it truly was a magical transformation: recreating such an iconic time in history; bringing to life such an iconic novel.
The first time I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower,the novel was brand new. Its author was a first time novelist. I was 16-years-old and a junior in high school. I finished the entire book in a matter of hours, then proceeded to pour over every page again. And again. Fast-forward to now, and it’s still my most beloved book of all time.
So when Summit Entertainment invited me to visit the set of the movie adaptation last summer, and interview the cast, I couldn’t say no. I hopped a plane on Father’s Day Sunday and flew across the country to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — where it was cloudy and incredibly muggy.
And that Monday, I had the experience of a lifetime. Myself, along with four writers from various movie websites (Hollywood.com, Buzz Sugar, Just Jared, and Movies.com), were driven to a nearby high school, where we watched author/screenwriter/director Stephen Chbosky bring his critically acclaimed novel to life with the help of his trusted crew and a star-studded cast.
We watched as they filmed students (dressed in early ’90s garb that looked as if it came out of my 6th grade closet) arriving for school. Then it was time for a costume change, and we witnessed part of the graduation scene being filmed. In fact, this newly-released still image from the movie was shot just feet away from where I sat watching the action unfold:
Throughout this whirlwind day, myself and the other writers conducted exclusive interviews with Chbosky and cast members Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Nina Dobrev, and Erin Wilhelmi.
It should be noted that in all of this dazzling excitement, I only fangirled once: upon interviewing Chbosky. I gushed about reading his book. And later, as the interview concluded, and he was dashing back to direct another scene, Stephen pointed at my dog-earred copy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower (the same copy I’ve had since 11th grade), and offered to sign it.
Here now are the highlights from our exclusive interviews:
Emma Watson: I really started reading scripts maybe after the fourth Harry Potter movie, around the age of 15, 16. And really didn’t read anything that I really loved instantly. And then, it was almost like, you know, not that I’d lost interest, but my agent was starting to get stressed. Pretty sure, I was kind of “Bleh, do I have to read it.” And then I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower and it was so beautifully written and so funny and so incredibly moved by it, and I just instantly knew that (a) the movie had to be made and (b) that I had to play Sam. I really wanted to play Sam. I was just really drawn to her. And so, then I met with Stephen, who, when I met with Stephen, we just instantly clicked and I felt like I was meeting an old friend. And then I met Logan, and I knew he was the perfect Charlie.
Interviewer: Now did you read the script first or the book?
Emma: I read the script first, and then I read the book. It was so funny, I read the script, and I came back around and I told my roommates, “I just read this amazing script, The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” and my friends were like, “Ah, that’s my favorite book. I’m so jealous that you get to play Sam! If I was ever going to be in a movie, if I was ever going to play any character ever, it would be Sam.” And I didn’t realize, but similarly to Harry Potter, the books really have this sort of cult following. So that was really interesting, the response that I get from the people who’ve read the books and really identify with it. It’s really intense. It’s kind of amazing to be part of another book to movie product again that has so much love for it in the same way as Harry Potter.
Novel Novice: Do you feel any pressure because there’s such a cult following for the books?
Emma: Oh, absolutely. I was very nervous before we started shooting. I was very nervous about the American accent. I was very nervous about the fact that I didn’t know, apparently, the other kids on this movie have had the experiences that, you know, change their characters’ journey in the story, because they went to an American high school, they know what prom looks like, all these little details that I had no idea about. So I was a little neurotic about. My script is covered in notes about, like, all these American words, all this American slang. I was quizzing my friends about high school prom and everything. And then Steve was like, “Emma, this is great and everything but you need to let all that go.” Because he said he saw me as Sam … I don’t know what it was that he saw in me that made him think that it was me. But when I met with him, he had a book. He made sort of like a Bible of what he wanted the visuals to look like and everything, and this was before I’d even met with him, before I’d even accepted [the part], and he had, like, photographs of me all the way through the book and his ideas of what Sam would look like. I knew he wasn’t bullshitting … so that was a big deal to me. … It really meant a lot to me to know that, there was no one else.
Interviewer: What scene have you enjoyed filming the most? Or emotionally resonated with?
Emma: For lots of different reasons, but there are bunch of scenes that are just Ezra, Logan and I – Patrick, [Charlie, and] Sam – and we ended up adlibbing a lot and riffing off one another. That’s been really fun. And, I would say, there’s a scene where Patrick and Sam dance at homecoming, and I would say that, but I was really too terrified to enjoy it. Because I had to get up in front of, like, 300 extras and do a two-minute … crazy, like, full-on dance. Which was fun, but also terrifying.
Interviewer: What was it like going from a huge franchise like Harry Potter to a smaller film like this?
Emma: It’s different, but I love it. The pace is much faster, the hours in the day are full on, I have no time to get anything else done, other than basically go home, eat, sleep, shower, get ready for the next day. That’s it really. My life is being here and my work. It’s really full on. But everyone gets so close because we’re on location together, and apart from that, you have to fit more into the day. I loved it. I don’t know if I want to go back.
Interview: The scene going through the tunnel, can you talk about that?
Emma: Hands down, one of the best moments of my life. I mean, Summit really didn’t want me to do the stunt. I was not meant to do it to all, but I begged Stephen, “I really, really want to do this.” And he’s like, “All right.” And I ended up doing it seven or eight times. The car was going at 56 miles an hour, [my] hands in the air all the way through the tunnel, coming out the other end. First time we did it, I cried. It was really, really special. And seeing the shot, what it’s going to look like, it’s going to blow your mind. I don’t want to build it up too much, but it’s stunning. It’s stunning. And Steve knew when he conceptualized it, that it would be amazing, but I think he exceeded his expectations to what a great movie moment it would be.
Novel Novice: I know J.K. Rowling was involved a lot in the Harry Potter movies. But what’s it been like having the author of the book actually as your director?
Emma: Best ever. I love it. Stephen’s vision is so pure, he knows exactly what he wants, exactly how it is. I can ask him anything. And I’m a little bit OCD … and I realize, with Hermione, that I was such a big fan of the books, I knew everything. I’m like a Harry Potter dictionary. I could tell you everything and anything. I wanted to be like that with this movie, too. And I could just write down questions anytime I wanted to ask him anything. And he could create new dialogue with me on the spot and we can adapt. And that’s been the great thing about him, too, is he’s realized that he is making something new. It’s obviously going to be true to the book, but he understands that the movie is different, he’s creating something new with actors.
That was the first thing I really felt when I first met him. I really feel like he gets me. So working with him has been amazing. He knows exactly how to get the performance that he wants from me. Even if it’s just, he’ll say to me between takes, “Emma! Emma, don’t smile.” And of course I’ll break out and start laughing … There was a scene that we did where I receive a letter from Charlie where he says he thinks that I’ll get into Penn State. And it’s really moving to Sam. And I’ve been doing it for like four takes, and the envelope’s just empty, I’ve been reading it. And then Stephen wrote to me a letter inside of that. And then that was the take that, of course, he chose to keep. And of course, what he wrote was very meaningful to me. So he’s been like, it’s been … it’s not just been great as an actress … he really cared about all of us having a good time. He said that in the beginning, “I want you to have the time of your life.”
Interviewer: So how did Charlie and the narrative arc in the movie differ from the books, since it’s a different form?
Logan Lerman: Oh, yeah. They definitely had to trim out some of the details. Make it a little bit neater for the movie. Just to fit everything into a film. But, you know, Steve Chbosky, he wrote the novel, wrote the script, is directing it. So it’s very true to the book and I think the fans of the book are going to be really happy with what Steve has created.
Interviewer: Steve said you just innately understood this? The first time he met you, and thought he had found his Charlie. What made you get it so well?
Logan: I guess, you know, I was very similar to Charlie in many ways growing up and I just responded really well to the material. It was just an instant understanding, and I just knew that I had to play the part.
Interviewer: in what ways do you feel similar to Charlie?
Logan: I guess with his awkwardness and trying to figure things out in that time period and how to socialize, fit in. I guess, just the way he … I guess I wasn’t as naïve as him, but I definitely had the morals that he had. So I guess, it kind of … I don’t know, I can’t explain it very well. I’m just very similar to him, I guess. A lot of the experiences or a lot of the situations in the script have actually happened to me in life, so I just connected with him.
Novel Novice: How has working on this adaptation been similar and/or different from Percy Jackson? Both have huge followings, but on different scopes.
Logan: This is much smaller. Much smaller movie. But I guess, the young cast and the fact that we’re all good friends now. You know, just to have that unity, like, with the young cast is similar to what I experienced on Percy Jackson. I’m just fortunate to be working with such a great group of young actors. And they’re all, such really awesome people, so we just hit it off.
Interviewer: Do you have any favorite scenes?
Logan: You know, I do, but I don’t want to ruin anything. Some of them are … would definitely give away plot details. A lot of fun scenes and really epic scenes that we were able to shoot, that people are going to be excited to see.
Interviewer: Charlie loves to read. What books are you reading now and do you have that similar love for reading?
Logan: Yeah, I mean. At the moment, I’ve just been absorbed in this. I’ve been reading the script a million times and the book. But I do love to read.
Interviewer: What are some of yourn favorite books?
Logan: For me, Catcher in the Rye. Great Gatsby is definitely my favorite. Some enjoyable reads, recently. Five People You Meet in Heaven. I don’t know, random ones. I haven’t had that much time to myself.
Novel Novice: Book adaptations are so big right now. There was Percy Jackson and this one, then Harry Potter and Twilight, and now, Hunger Games. Why do you think books are so popular to be turned into movies right now?
Logan: Because they have a fan base. That’s how it gets made.
Interviewer: It’s interesting because it seems young adult books now are appealing to a wide variety of audiences. Like, I picked up Perks of Being a Wallflower and read it in one night, and I’m almost 35. All these books are appealing to a lot of people. What do you make of that? Is the quality improving, or … ?
Logan: The quality of writing? I don’t know. I mean, there’s always great material out there. Great books to read. But yeah, because they have that fan base, it’s a lot easier for them to become films and get adapted and find themselves on the big screen. Makes sense.
Logan: No, no. She’s great. She’s really great person, and easy to work with. Fantastic. … it’s real exciting to see her outside of the [Harry Potter] series and what she’s able to do. She’s not only pulling it off, but she’s blowing people away with her performance.
Novel Novice: You’ve probably done a lot of media interviews by now for this and your other projects. Is there an interview question you always wish someone would ask?
Logan: Oh, I have no idea. I have no idea! I mean … what would you want to be asked in an interview? I really don’t know …
Interviewer: Putting the book [The Perks of Being a Wallflower] on film, inherently provides an alternate perspective from just what Charlie sees. How do you think that affects the story?
Logan: It’s definitely a different perspective. It’s a different story, in itself, I guess because you’re telling it from that point of view. … Seeing it from this point of view, definitely changes the story. But Steve keeps it really true to what the book was, what the book is.
Ezra Miller: I like how, just like vivacious and unapologetic and proud he is. And I like more than anything that he is a real, sympathetic individual and that—despite the fact that the character is gay—that plays really no part in the formation of the human being. I think—I think there’s a—a certain unfortunate—well in the process of this particular—the story telling industry coming to regard gay/queer/bi/trans people on any level, there’s this threat—as there’s been with any demographic coming onto the screen of tokenization essentially—and that’s certainly been happening with gay characters in film—is that, yeah, they become token gay characters because now that’s—that’s expected in media. But Patrick—I just remember reading Patrick and realizing that, ‘oh no. This character has no basis in being gay’—that he’s a fully formed being and that is an aspect of him, as is an aspect of us all. Our sexuality—it’s not the defining quality. It’s just one element.
Interviewer: Did you specifically go after Patrick or did they come to you and were you looking at several different characters?
Ezra: Patrick—when I read the script, the script was sent to me with Patrick’s name on it as the character to read and reading the script, it was—it was very clear that that would be the character that—that that should be the character that God willing please … give me this character!
Ezra: No. I—it’s funny because when I read this book I was 13 years old and I very much, you know, when a 13 year old boy reads that book, you’re identifying with Charlie. And so, initially, there was many some sort of thought of like, ‘oh, I like—that’s the character that I remembered most immediately’ but no. When the script came around, I—it was Patrick and it had to be. No, no, never a real consideration of wanting to play Charlie. And when—when I got the script, Logan-the-Ultimate-Baller-Champion-Lerman was already attached so that was just sort of a thrilling obvious thing. And at that time, there was no way to possibly expect what he was going to do with his character and I already trusted him fully.
Novel Novice: The book has such a strong following amongst it’s like fans and readers. Do you feel any pressure from that group? I mean, when you’re working or do you try to just ignore it?
Ezra: What I feel is a great honor and a great privilege to be able to be involved in something that is so—of such deep seminal importance for my generation. And no, I don’t feel a pressure. I feel a necessity which, as an artist, is what—is what I want. I think—yeah—necessity is the mother of all invention. Like, we need—as artists—we need that mother to validate our actions. If we can—if we can find the necessity then it’s a lot easier to find the tools. And yeah, the very wonderful relationship between the readers of this book and this project—it’s only—it’s a happy flame beneath us. It’s not some sort of massive something that threatens to crush us. Or at least that’s how I felt. I’ve just felt sort of spurred on by the fans, not deterred or intimidated.
Interviewer: In the book, Patrick and Sam have this deep connection so how has it been working with Emma and establishing that connection?
Ezra: Oh man. Far too easy! Unjustly easy! They should’ve thrown me someone a little harder to handle so it could’ve been a bit of a challenge. You know, Emma’s one of the most severely mind-blowing forces of my peer group in acting right now and I think—I think based on what’s come before this, people just have no idea. You know, no idea what she’s capable of. She has become in these short weeks one of my dearest friends—I think that will be the case forever and she is the type of artist who is going to make her true self known in time and I personally look forward to watching an entire population of Harry Potter fans get their minds twisted into small, pretzel-ish knots over what this girl can do. That’s exciting to me. [Laughs]
Interviewer: Were you one of those Harry Potter fans before signing onto this movie?
Ezra: Can’t talk about this, man![Laughs]
Yes. Massive. Massive. Read Harry Potter like scripture or something. I—I—yeah. When I was a kid, I did—I had a ritual which in hindsight makes me look like an unhealthy, unattended kid, which was that—yeah. I must’ve listened to each of the Jim Dale voice recordings of the Harry Potter books maybe like a couple hundred times each. And that means like putting in the hours everyday, and that’s what I did after school, was just like listen to those books on repeat. You know, here’s what it—here’s what I essentially believe. Here’s what—something that’s very exciting about Emma—truly being such a magical artist—is that, that book [Harry Potter] strikes a core of human beings all around—all over this world. Those books do for a very specific reason—which is that like, we all feel innately that we are capable of very, very, very wonderful, magical things and that’s not validated in this culture—in this society—and thus the, you know, the ratio of people who are actually acting upon these abilities that we have I feel like gets smaller and smaller and—but, you know, the reality is that we have those capabilities and that, you know, Emma—who plays Hermione Granger—has those capabilities as an artist. She is what we look at and say ‘magician.’ [Laughs] You know? She is that. So yeah, Harry Potter was important for me but fortunately it’s been—it hasn’t even crossed my mind at any point working with Emma. No, not even for a second because she is quite her own entity.
Nina Dobrev: It’s cool to be in a different environment and it’s cool to be with a new set of young, talented amazing individuals. It’s nice to have a change of pace.
Interviewer: What was it about the script that connected with you first?
Nina: Obviously, we all know that Stephen wrote the book and then he wrote the screenplay and now he’s directing the film, that’s a given. But also, there’s something about Charlie and how wise he is and how quiet, yet observative, and although young, what an old soul he is. I’ve known Logan [Lerman] for a couple of years now and I could see all the pieces come together. It’s going to be, it’s just a really beautiful piece. It’s a passion project. It’s kind of one of those things, you don’t really know, you can’t really pinpoint exactly what it is, but I was just drawn to it and knew that it was a great story and a great project.
Interviewer: Did your previous relationship with Logan help you sort of get into that sort of tumultuous but ultimately very rich relationship?
Nina: Yeah, it’s funny, Stephen was saying that he sort of knew what he wanted the relationship to be between Candace and Charlie, but when he saw it, he kind of started to write more for us. Because we have sort of, like, we just have a really great friendship and he could see it and we can play with it. We’re very brotherly and sisterly.
Interviewer: Were you a little bit mystified by the character, because in the book she doesn’t even have a name?
Nina: Yeah, that’s what’s kind of interesting about. A couple of my friends have called me, “We read the book, but Candace isn’t in it. Like, who are you?” So a lot of people had to connect the dot. But, when you give someone a name, it’s almost easier to judge them, if that makes sense. I think that’s part of why, in the books, [Stephen] just wrote Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother. He wanted it left open for interpretation, he didn’t want judgment, and he wanted a real opinion that was genuine and honest. It was all on the page, but there was a lot for me to bring to the character. And Stephen was really awesome with this whole process. He took us all out individually, separately, we all went out and had lunches or dinners and sat and talked about it and dissected the script and the book. And he really gave us part of his soul and part of his experience with the whole process and gave us insight so we, I at least, the more information, the better, the more I can work with.
Interviewer: Had you read the book before signing on to the project?
Nina: Not before, I signed onto the project, no, I hadn’t read the book.
Interviewer: And the whole cult following for the book, did that intimidate you at all?
Nina: No. After “The Vampire Diaries” … fans of books and the fact that I wasn’t blonde and blue eyed, that was intimidating, people were crazy about that, but this. I’m not intimidated by it because the thing that unites everyone is their love for the book and its message . And Stephen, he can’t go wrong. It’s Stephen’s story and it’s Stephen’s book and it’s Stephen’s screenplay. It’s his vision. So if anyone’s going to do it right, he’s going to do it right. There’s a reason why all of us are here, and it’s because Stephen chose us and he saw something in us that fits with the book and the story.
Novel Novice: Now, in both this project and in “Vampire Diaries,” you play an older sister. Apart from all the vampires and that stuff, what are some of the similarities or differences between Elena and Candace in that older sister role?
Nina: Candace, I mean, they’re very different. Candace is a sort of over-achiever and she’s book smart and she’s a middle child. Charlie is kind of has problems and he had a lot of attention, and everyone’s trying to figure out if he’s okay. And their older brother Chris was sort of the athlete, the star. So she tries to stand out in her own way through books and through being the over achiever and dabbling in everything. She was the president of every club. So she’s that sort of straight-A girl. And another sort of superficial thing, is wardrobe, for sure. Everything I wear is like … Keds, high-waisted, and like, golf t-shirts. I’m very, I’m kind of Katie Holmes in “Dawson’s Creek.” … But I’m definitely one of those people, the wardrobe and the whole thing kind of helps me get into it. So, I’ve embraced it very much.
Interviewer: Were you similar to Candace during high school? Were you an over-achiever, straight-As, and everything?
Nina: Yes and no. I definitely tried to do a little bit of everything, and I did it well. But then sometimes the fact that I was pulled in so many different directions, was one of my flaws. That you can’t do everything. And I’ve learned that. Even now, I want to achieve everything and to be as perfect as possible. Doing the best with what we’ve got.
NOVEL NOVICE’S NOTE: It was at this point in our interview that we discovered Ezra Miller & Emma Watson going to … ahem, EXTREME lengths to distract Nina. It had been going on for some time behind our backs and Nina didn’t flinch, not once, until this point. I’m not allowed to tell you exactly what was going on … but needless to say, it was hilarious and a wonderful example of the camaraderie (and hijinks) on set.
Novel Novice: Has there been a favorite moment in filming for you?
Nina: This right now, what happened. [laughs all around] There’s just so many moments. It’s been a really light, fun, everything. Well, no. All the scenes that I’ve been doing have been very dramatic and sad and heavy – but the set and the people are really cool and we’ve had a lot of great moments.
Mae Whitman: I wanted to play Mary Elizabeth because, I mean, to me, in every aspect she’s one of the most interesting characters. In the book or the script, she has an incredible story arc, and I feel like she’s one of the more tragic, but in the end, perfectly well-off characters. She really goes through the change of finding herself and being okay with certain things. She has so many extremes, and I think she was really able to find a balance through going through a relationship with Charlie and then being so hurt and kind of, coming to being okay on her own and finding somebody that actually cares about her. And I mean, aside from that, she definitely has the coolest wardrobe. She has the coolest makeup. Amazing stuff. I think they got all really excited with my character because they could do whatever they wanted.
Novel Novice: In the book, Mary Elizabeth makes the fanzine for Punk Rocky. If you were to make a fanzine, what would it be about?
Mae: Is it … is it taboo to say Harry Potter? [laughs] The relationship I now have with Emma [Watson] … um, I mean, that’s definitely one of the things that I’m the biggest fan of. Or, like, Lord of the Rings or comic books. I guess it would either be that or food. Food in general. The things I love the most are Harry Potter and food. Or maybe I could combine them, somehow.
Interviewer: So did you freak out then, when you found out Emma Watson was your costar?
Mae: Yeah, I was so excited. I mean, I just. I read every book, like, got them at midnight, when they came out, and dressed up. It was definitely a big deal. I fully released tidbits to [Emma] about how I excited I am, to be working with her. But, I don’t want let it all come at once, or she’ll get a restraining order. It’s going well, going well so far.
Mae: I did. I read the book a while ago. A few years ago. And then, actually, some friends who are on “Parenthood” with me, it’s their favorite book, too. We all would talk about it every day. It’s such a special, meaningful book. It means something to everybody that’s read it. So to be a part of something like that is just really special.
Novel Novice: What is it about the book, do you think, that resonates so much with people?
Mae: You know, just speaking from my own self, I think, really, the book really captured for me, the actual sense of being, feeling that age. There’s a very specific feeling of emotional sensitivity and sort of, what, you’re just very aware and open to your surroundings at that age. And everything really affects you a lot. I think it’s a very specific feeling. And as I’ve gotten older, like, I’m 23 now, and seeing my perspective shift from then to where I am now, it’s just, I think, it’s a really important thing to have nailed down in such an honest way. So I think a lot of people really appreciate it being a coming of age story that’s told in a really genuine way.
Interviewer: We interviewed David C. Ronson, the costume designer, earlier and he’s convinced that you’re going to steal your wardrobe. What’s your number one, favorite piece from your wardrobe?
Mae: I’m so glad that he said that, because I’m definitely going to do it. I mean, everything that I have is amazing. David, he’s literally amazing. And as far as wardrobe designers, he’s one of the best there is. He’s done so many amazing movies. It’s such a fine art of creating a character, but also letting the actor think they’re creating the character, as well. And being comfortable with that. And he’s really done an amazing job. I mean, I haven’t worn shoes that are under five inches. Literally. And at first, I’ve never. You will never catch me in heels, unless it’s an event and my publicist is forcing me to. But I think I’m gonna start trying ‘em out. I kinda like ‘em, actually. But the whole list is too long. I’ll be stealing every dress and every thing that I can possibly get my hands on.
Erin Wilhelmi: Yeah. Um. I, I mean, from the first day, I found surprises. I, like, first of all, having a trailer was so fun. I didn’t know I was going to have a trailer. I’ve been taking pictures and sending them to my mom. And, as far as like the whole movie, just, I guess, I come from a theater background. And so, how I’m learning about the camera every single day, how much is involved, shooting out of order, learning how to do that. Putting everything together. Learning lines, everyday.
Interviewer: What was it like, getting the role?
Erin: Oh my God, it was so exciting. It was, I was actually in a show off-Broadway in New York, and I had to leave the show to come here and film. So it was a little bit sad because I had tell everyone there, and I loved the cast. It was my first off-Broadway show. But, I mean, I’m so happy to be here, and they were really supportive.
Novel Novice: Had you read the book before you signed on, or have you read it now?
Erin: I’ve read it now. I hadn’t read it before I auditioned. I actually, had three auditions, and read it before my very last one. … I was, like, this is an incredible project to be a part of.
Erin: For Alice. I auditioned for Alice first, and then they brought me back. They thought I was too young. Funny, because I’m not. So they brought me back for a different character, and then about a month or so in time, and they brought me back for Alice. And then I had a Skype audition, that was fun.
Interviewer: So what’s kind of the key to Alice?
Erin: I think what’s driving her through this whole thing is getting out of Pittsburgh. I think she just definitely feels like a fish out of water here, and she has dreams of moving to New York, and feels she’ll fit in better there. Which is neat, coming from New York, I’ve been there for a while, I know what it’s like, and I think she will fit in there. But she wants to go to film school, she wants to … she doesn’t seem concerned with the things most high school students are. So I think the key to her is that her friends are all people who know her best. She’s not very outgoing, she has to prove herself … she’ll hopefully break out of her shell in New York.
Interviewer: What do you think of Stephen as a director?
Erin: I knew when I read his book that he would be a good director. You know, because he describes the character so clearly.
Stephen Chbosky: It really is, as clichéd as it sounds, it is a dream come true. I’ve wanted to make this movie … I first thought of the title of the movie 20 years ago this fall. The book and the movie. So I always probably felt that it would probably be both. So, yeah, it really is a dream come true.
Novel Novice: I loved this book. It came out when I was a teenager in high school, so it means a lot to me.
Stephen: Oh, thank you.
Novel Novice: So it’s been 12 years since it came out, where do you think Charlie is today?
Stephen: You’ll have to read the sequel!
Novel Novice: Do you have plans to write another book?
Stephen: I have some plans. I don’t … then again, I would have to love it as much as I loved the first one. Just like I knew with the movie, that I would have to love the movie as much as I would love the book in order to do it. So I’m not 100% sure, but yeah, I certainly have some ideas.
Interviewer: Can you talk about shifting the format of the book, which was letters, to a screenplay, sort of what changes did you make?
Stephen: I didn’t have to make many changes, I just had to be very specific about the execution. You have to see it, it’s hard to describe intellectually, you have to just see it. What I found was, I wrote the book as a series of letters because I wanted the reader to feel intimately connected to Charlie and so it was finding a point of view for the film that lead to the same connection. And luckily, with Logan Lerman, it’s not very difficult to feel that connection.
Interviewer: Is Charlie narrating the movie?
Stephen: You see him write letters. So it’s more of, there’s not a straight narration, it’s part of his character. Just like he would write letters in real life in the book, you see him do it.
Stephen: Yeah, quite a few. The place where we shot “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” that’s the very first place where I saw the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and the first place I saw the floor show. And so, going back there 25 years later, it was incredibly meaningful. I loved it. I loved filming here at Peters Township, I loved filming at King’s, where my parents eat breakfast three times a week. Where else, where else? There’s a little field right down the street from here, about five minutes away, that I shot my – the one movie I made right out of college, a little short film. I had the shot planned for, what is it now, 17, 18 years, and I’ve always wanted to duplicate it. Because I love the shot so much. And I was like, someday I’ll make the ‘Perks’ movie and I’m gonna put my kids in that shot. And we’re gonna do it on Thursday. So, there are a lot of very meaningful locations to me.
Interviewer: How did you know that you’d cast the right people for the roles?
Stephen: You know, I had a philosophy, we all had a philosophy, which is, don’t just cast actors, cast people. So what happened was, everybody basically auditioned and so what you looked for was not just the individual performances, but how they would fit together. And one of the great joys has been watching this fictional group of friends, over the summer at the [hotel] become a really tight family of friends. All of them: Emma, Ezra, Logan, Nina, really across the board. It was just an instinctive thing and how we felt people would fit together. And we have an amazing cast. I mean, across the board, like, there is not a weak link. Not a single one.
Interviewer: Are you aiming for a PG-13 or?
Stephen: Yes, I would very much love a PG-13. Considering some of the issues that the book tackles, it would break my heart if some 14 year old girl that was struggling with something couldn’t see it. So that’s very important to me.
Interviewer: The film sort of relies on this era of mixed tapes and actual phone calls and actual face time. For kids who are maybe gonna experience it for the first time in this era of Facebook and texting, what do you think are those elements that are going to bring them into this era that they’re unfamiliar with.
Stephen: The elements that I think that will bring them in are a love story. A story about a family of friends, and families that are relatable to them, not this fictitious things where parents are complete idiots. Which, let’s face it, really isn’t true. It’s fun in movies, but it’s not true. I think what will bring them in is recognizing themselves and their friends, regardless of whatever device is in their hands or however they choose to communicate.
More from Perks
A huge thank you to Summit for this incredible opportunity, and to all the cast & crew who helped make these interviews possible. A special shout-out to Shannon at Buzz Sugar for sharing one of her transcripts with me.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower will be released in select theaters starting September 21st. Connect with the movie on:
And watch the trailer below: