Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 6:15 AM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

‘Fault in Our Stars’ writer John Green on Hollywood, teens

An interview with best-selling author John Green, who at first wasn’t eager to see his popular book “The Fault in Our Stars,” about teens with cancer, made into a film.


Associated Press

advertising

NEW YORK — When “The Fault in Our Stars” landed on bookshelves more than two years ago, John Green’s enthusiasm was nonexistent for a screen version of his story featuring teens with cancer.

“I had had some Hollywood experiences before that weren’t great and I felt like Hollywood would struggle to make a movie where the female romantic lead has nasal cannula tubes in her nose for the entire movie,” he said.

Well, hello 2014 and “TFIOS,” the movie, which opens Friday, June 6. It’s the first of Green’s best-selling books to go Hollywood after he was won over by the script’s dedication to his characters in the clutches of adolescence. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that one of the producers was a huge Liverpool soccer club fan like Green.

Already a rock star among young readers, mostly of the teen girl variety, the Orlando, Fla.-raised Green, the guy who looks straight out of central casting as Unassuming Writer, now walks red carpets, clowns on morning TV and banters with new BFF Nat Wolff and the movie’s other young stars, Shailene Woodley and newcomer Ansel Elgort.

In a plaid button-down shirt and conservative suit jacket, it was the bespectacled, 36-year-old Green — not the hunky, younger Wolff — who got the loudest screams recently from several hundred girls who showed up for a panel discussion about the movie during the publishing industry’s annual BookExpo America.

Green leapt off the stage of the stuffed conference hall to bearhug a 16-year-old amputee, Robert Berger of Damerest, N.J. Berger, a high school sophomore with a prosthetic like “TFIOS” love interest Gus Waters, made his way to a microphone and referenced a bedroom scene when he offered: “I’d like to thank you, John, for answering a lifelong question of mine, which is, whether during sex, I keep my leg on or off.”

Green, a father of two, is ever respectful of Berger and his other “nerdfighters,” the community of fans worldwide that has led him to Hollywood’s door and greet each other with his tagline: “Don’t Forget to Be Awesome!” They even have a special thing they do with their arms, crossing at the chest and spreading their fingers in twos. You sort of have to be there.

The writer was vigilant as a presence on the movie’s set, sobbing when the filmmakers got it right and cheering on Woodley, Elgort and Wolff, who is slated to star in the next stop on Green’s big-screen journey for his “Paper Towns.”

So, can Green hold on to his mojo? His is the kind of authenticity among young people that led a headline writer at The New Yorker to dub him the “Teen Whisperer.” Green doesn’t love that term.

“I don’t whisper to teens very often. I think whispering to teens would be weird and creepy,” he joked. “I love talking to teenagers. I love making stuff for teenagers and making stuff with them.”

Green was an early YouTuber. He has a rapid-fire delivery in an ongoing series of videos he exchanges with his brother Hank, who lives in Montana. Their Vlogbrothers channel has attracted millions and showcases Green’s goofy side (like smearing his face with peanut butter) as he weighs in on everything from Hitler’s sex life to how to stamp out bullying.

The brothers also put up “CrashCourse” videos accompanied by cartoonish graphics to help older kids cram for school on the sciences and humanities. They’re now used by thousands of teachers.

But until now, Green’s off-the-page life, including his love of Twitter and other social media, has been exclusively small screen. Does the writer part of his brain now need to make peace with his developing big-screen brain?

“I hope that I’m not developing a Hollywood brain, to be honest with you. I love books. I love writing books. I love movies, too, but I am a book writer and if I’m lucky enough to be able to work with people who are great at making movies then I feel very fortunate, but I have no desire to become a movie person,” he said.

Green won the 2006 Printz Award for his debut novel, “Looking for Alaska,” and his fans have kept all four of his books high on best-seller lists since. This year, Green made Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

He was initially inspired to write “The Fault in Our Stars” through his work as a student chaplain at a children’s hospital and later through his friendship with Esther Earl, a Quincy, Mass., teen he met at a “Harry Potter” event. She died of thyroid cancer in 2010 at age 16.

“Esther had a wonderful gift for imagining others and for imagining them very complexly,” Green said. “That was important to me in thinking about this story, but it was also important to me to come to the belief that a short life can still be a meaningful life, that a short life can still be a good and full life.”



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►