At a recent screening of The Fault in Our Stars in NYC, the cast along with John Green (author) and Josh Boone (director), appeared onstage afterword for a Q&A. See what everyone had to say on playing terminally ill teens, casting, and creating a love scene that wasn’t sugarcoated or exploitative.
Green kicked off the panel at New York City’s SVA Theatre by saying he was overwhelmed with gratitude to watch the film with such a vocal and emotional audience, especially “because it’s not my movie, I didn’t make it — I was just on set being like, ‘Woo!'” he laughed. “You can have a lot of different experiences in Hollywood as an author, I’ve had a few of them and my friends have had a lot more of them, and this one is almost unprecedented where the whole time, you just feel really grateful because everyone involved in the project is giving of their extraordinary talent to tell the story, and it’s so much bigger than you could have made it on your own.”
The actors noted how they each prepared to play terminally-ill teens. Shailene Woodley, whose Hazel Grace has thyroid cancer with metastasis forming in her lungs, said she was careful about which scenes to showcase her ever-present oxygen tank and cannula. “I thought a lot about it, and after meeting with people who they themselves were stuck with an oxygen tank twenty-four seven, I realize that if I were to actually breathe the way Hazel, if she were a real person, would breathe, it wouldn’t translate visually to the screen,” she said, shortening her breath while answering. “The movie would be really long. It was a hard, tricky decision of what scenes to play out and incorporate the breathing into, and what scenes to not forget about it, but not make it as big of a character as it would be in real life.”
Woodley read the script two years ago, and then the book immediately after. “It changed my life and I realized, after the book, two things: one, I was incredibly depressed that Augustus Waters did not exist in real life, and two, I found myself totally perplexed and completely moved by the fact that one of my new greatest role models was a fictional character, Hazel,” she said. “I didn’t want to do this movie as an actor, like, ‘Look at me cry!’ It was more that the book moved me so much, and whosoever’s hands it ended up falling into were the guardians of this book, and it was our duty to protect it, nourish it and make sure that when it grew up into a cinematic piece, it still retained the integrity that the book had. It definitely was one of the biggest honors of my life to be part of this film — and I don’t say that lightly.”
To play Augustus Waters (whose cancer had him losing part of his leg), Ansel Elgort said, “I learned about him by spending tom with John — Augustus and John are very similar guys.” (Green then told Elgort, “I appreciate you noticing how handsome I am!”) Nat Wolff, who loses his sight in the film, met with cancer patients — “I was really nervous about that because I didn’t want it to feel like I was using them” — and walked around his home and town blindfolded. He also wore plastic contacts while filming his postsurgery scenes: “I walked into the camera a couple times!”
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