Based on the John Green novel, the movie version of The Fault in Our Stars is creating quite a buzz in social media as it approaches its opening in theaters in North America this weekend. So I reached out to the film’s screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber to see if they would let me ask them 10 questions about the project. They agreed.
I was going to write up a nifty introduction, but a recent feature on the writing duo in the New York Times did a bang-up job, so here it is:
Mr. Neustadter, 37, and Mr. Weber, 36, got their start in 2006 by shopping an original script about a guy who gets his heart smashed after falling for an aloof girl — something that had really happened to Mr. Neustadter. The resulting movie, “(500) Days of Summer,” was Fox Searchlight’s biggest hit of 2009. Last year came “The Spectacular Now,” an indie about love and alcoholism in high school. Adapted from Tim Tharp’s novel of the same name, “The Spectacular Now” was a critical home run, sealing their standing as Hollywood’s go-to channelers of tender teenage angst.
Their fans now include none other than Cameron Crowe, the writer-director behind “Say Anything,” “Almost Famous” and “Jerry Maguire.” “They write characters that are completely free of stereotypes,” Mr. Crowe said in an email. “Their stuff emits a high-pitched signal that says: This is authentic. And funny, too.”
“The Fault in Our Stars,” one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year, arrives from 20th Century Fox on Friday. Adapted from John Green’s best-selling novel, the film is a bittersweet story about two wickedly witty teenagers and their runaway romance. The punch-to-the-gut twist: Hazel and Gus, played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, both have cancer.
Here are two more questions I asked Michael and Scott:
The novel upon which the movie is based has a huge following of ardent fans, mostly young adults, but also older readers. How did you handle the pressure of knowing millions of them were out there hoping the filmmakers did a good job in translating the book into a movie?
WEBER: We didn’t have to. Fortunately for us we were able to adapt the book soon after it’s publication. By the time it became a worldwide phenomenon our work was done. This may worry the hardcore fans, as if we won’t understand their passion. But the thing to remember is we were fans first. We love the book as much as everyone else and approached the job from a place of respect and zealous affection.
In two of your previous movies, (500) Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now, you dealt with death in a more symbolic way: In (500) Days, there is the ‘death’ of Tom’s romance with Summer; in Spectacular Now there is the ‘death’ of Sutter’s belief he can always live in the present. However in The Fault in Our Stars, the story is about a looming and literal death of a primary character. Did writing a story with such a visceral sense of death differ from ones you’ve written with a more metaphorical exploration of death, and if so, how?
Scott: The undercurrent, if you ask me, is actually less about death than it is about loss - losing something/someone you’re not sure you can live without. Tom and Sutter are thinking wholly of themselves – if I lose this thing, what do I have? What will I be? Me Me Me. And that’s their problem. Hazel, on the other hand, is thinking ONLY of others. When I’M gone, when I’M the thing that’s been lost, how can I mitigate the misery of those around me? That was a very intriguing switch in perspective for us.
Here is a clip from the movie The Fault in Our Stars:
Focus Features acquires untitled Amy Walsh spec script. From Deadline:
Amy Welsh, who most recently was supervising producer on the ABC Family series Bunheads, and who has written on sitcoms from Roseanne to It’s Like You Know and Men Behaving Badly. They [Focus] are keeping the logline under wraps.
Welsh is repped by ICM Partners and Benderspink.
By my count, this is the 26th spec script sale of 2014.
There were 48 spec script sales year-to-date in 2013.
In the 6+ years I have been running this site, this is the single longest period of time in which there wasn’t a reported spec script sale: April 17-June 4, 2014. Literally the entire month of May: 0 sales. Hence the precipitous drop from last year to this.
What does this mean?
First, there may have been other spec deals in that time period which were not made known publicly or may be revealed later. This happens. Tracking spec script deals is an inexact science.
After hitting a low point of 55 deals in 2010, the last three years (2011-2013) has been a strong period for sales, averaging 103 per year.
Perhaps buyers have full development slates right now. Maybe the type of material bubbling up through script development circles isn’t hitting buyers’ needs. Or maybe the stories just aren’t all that good. Could this lull in spec script sale activity somehow be tied to the current obsession with TV? Maybe the planet Jupiter is in retrograde.
It’s hard to make any definitive assessment short term. For writers, it means this: As always, we have to strive to write the very best stories we can. There will be competition. The buying market will go up and down. But a truly great script will always find its way.
Since then, literally hundreds (if not thousands) of people have been asking me about Andy’s dad, and I’ve never wanted to address the issue for a few key reasons:
You see, I love talking about theories like Andy’s mom and how all of the Pixar movies are connected because that’s tons of fun to think about. Andy’s dad? That’s just… well, you get it.
But I can see that a lot of you want to know anyway, and it’s really not that complicated. In fact, this is one of the few theories about Toy Story that I can confidently say is totally intentional.
The original theory was first posited by Jess Nevins, an incredibly talented writer who published his take on “Mr. Davis” back in 2010. I’ll elaborate on his theory and build upon it with my own insights.
Nevins claimed that Andy’s parents are…
Eh, not gonna give it away, you’ll have to go here to find out Negroni’s theory. It’s a plausible backstory although it should be noted that in another article featuring an interview with Pixar’s Lee Unkrich, he said this about the Andy’s father:
“It’s an oft asked question, but there is no concrete answer,” Unkrich said. “We don’t mean to be mysterious about it; it’s just never been relevant to the story.”
It’s just always been that way, Unkrich said. “The decision was made really early on in ‘Toy Story’ to have Andy’s dad not be around,” he said. “We’ve never addressed it directly, nor have we given any explanation for where he is or why he’s absent.”
Frankly I find this surprising. I’ve had a number of conversations with Mary Coleman, who heads up Pixar’s story department, about why the company is so great at crafting their stories, and one thing is clear: They ground their stories in characters. One would think that knowing the exact details of Andy’s parental circumstance, both mother and father, would be a critical piece of information. In the case of the Toy Story franchise, evidently not.
Which brings us back to Negroni’s theory which I think works. Indeed, while the Pixar Brain Trust may not have nailed down the precise nature of Andy’s father’s absence, it may very well have been at work at a subconscious level given some of the visual clues Negroni picks up.