The Paper Towns cast are fighting amongst themselves, and it’s our fault.
It started with what we thought was a straightforward question. Beware of a minor spoiler for the Paper Towns movie here: At one point during the film, our trio of Quentin (Nat Wolff), Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith) sing the Pokémon theme song together. It’s a fun scene that wasn’t taken from the book by John Green. All we wanted to know was, whose idea was it?
“Oh no,” says Green, looking down the line of the cast members assembled for the Paper Towns press conference; in addition to Wolff, Abrams and Smith, there is Cara Delevingne (who plays Margo), Halston Sage (Lacey) and Jaz Sinclair (Angela).
“It was mine,” Sage and Smith both say at the exact same moment. “Justice and Halston both claim that it was their idea,” Wolff explains to us, while Green laughs.
We turn to director Jake Schreier for the objective answer of how the scene came about. “The nice thing about making a movie with these kids, and they’re the age of their characters,” says Schrier, “is that you can really turn to them as a resource for what they would reference as their characters.”
“And I think someone had said an idea for the song, to do it from DuckTales,” he continues. “So I said, ‘Alright, let’s see.’ So I went over and I asked [the cast] and they’re all sitting in a group and I said, ‘What do you guys think of DuckTales‘ and they said, ‘Shut up old man, we don’t know what that is.’ Then, as I remember it,” he breaks off and looks down at Smith, adding “Justice, don’t kill me,” before continuing, “Haltson said ‘What about Pokémon‘ and they all started singing it, since they all knew it.”
Smith shakes his head, as Wolff jokes of the conflicting stories, “It’s like the podcast Serial.”
It’s Smith’s turn to share his side of the story. “Everything that happened is correct,” he says, “except for the last part,” causing Green, Schreier and the rest of the assembled cast to burst out laughing.
Smith continues, “So [Schreier] comes over with DuckTales, he says ‘Who’s seen DuckTales?’ We all go, ‘What?’ And then I say, ‘What about Pokémon,’ and Halston says,” he raises his voice, “‘What about Pokémon?'”
It’s up to Green to mediate the disagreement, which has obviously been going on for some time. “In my opinion,” he says, “I think this would be a great topic for the next season of Serial. If Sarah Koenig is looking for something. I also — and Justice, you know that I love you immensely, and I think that you’re an honest person — but my memory is that Halston came up-”
He is interrupted by a heckler from amongst the cast, who demands “Were you there?”
“Of course I was there!” Green insists. “Because for weeks, I claimed that I came up with it!” Wolff nods, telling him, “I thought it was you,” to more laughter from the cast.
‘Paper Towns’ book-to-film changes:
We also ask Schreier and Green to comment on the major change from the book that takes place at the end of the Paper Towns movie (stop reading now to avoid being spoiled). In the movie, Ben, Radar, Lacey and Angela (who was added to the roadtrip) leave for home before Quentin and Margo are reunited.
We wanted to know about the decision to give Quentin and Margo a longer scene together, which occurred at the expense of the resolution Margo and Lacey were given in Green’s book.
“Oh yeah, hang me out to dry,” Schreier notes wryly as Green indicates for him to answer. “I remember loving the book when I read it but thinking the ending was going to be one of the toughest parts to approach,” Schreier says.
Of the changes made by screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, he adds “I felt like they touched on all of the beats that the old ending had, and gave it somewhere to go after that. I felt like structurally that was brilliant.”
For Green, the crucial aspect of the Paper Towns ending is “learning to imagine other people complexly,” and speaking of Lacey in particular he thinks, “We see Lacey chart that journey both ways, in both her relationship with Q and her relationship with Ben. […] So hopefully you see that; you see Lacey’s journey to both becoming better at listening, but also becoming better at being heard, without that ending. So yeah, I liked it when I read it. I mean,” he clarifies, “I like it in the movie.”
“I just felt like when I read the book, the feeling that I got at the end is the same feeling that I got at the end of the movie,” Wolff adds. “And obviously a movie isn’t a book and things have to be shifted and changed, but I feel like that was the main goal, and I feel like Jake and everybody achieved that.”