13 interesting things we learned from John Green
Over the course of the day, John was gracious enough to talk with us for 90 minutes. What follows are several highlights from our chats with him around set.
1) Jake knew all about Nerdfighters before John tried to educate him
John tried to give Jake tips about the world of the Nerdfighters, but he didn’t need them. “He knew going in about Nerdfighteria and stuff, so he was pretty prepped,” he says. “I did send him a long list of videos he could watch if he wanted to watch videos. He wrote back and was like, ‘I know what you do. I know about your work. I watch Crash Course. I know about this stuff, don’t worry.’ So he’s very prepped.”
2) The end is John’s favorite part of the movie
“The scene with the dead body was pretty great,” he says. “The scene that most reminded me of the book, or most felt like the book, was the scene between Margo and Q at the very end of the movie, at the very end of the book. It’s sort of condensed and set in a different place than it is in the book, so there’s stuff that’s different but emotionally it felt the same. It felt — it was a powerful day for me, it felt very good.”
3) He’ll never become a filmmaker
Being an executive producer is the closest John may ever get to being involved with a film. “I could never be a movie director. It’s incredibly difficult,” he says of Jake’s role.
What about screenwriting? “Oh God no,” John says in a hushed voice as rehearsing begins nearby. “I’m a terrible screenwriter. Terrible, I’m terrible.”
“I wrote a terrible script. I had a chance to write a script [for Paper Towns] and I wrote a terrible one — truly terrible. If they made that movie people would’ve hated me. Q ends up with Lacey in that.”
4) John has a cameo… for now
He shot a cameo for The Fault in Our Stars but it was cut by the director. Will he get one in Paper Towns?
“No Jake won’t let me,” he says. “No. I bug him about it every day.”
(But this isn’t true — we later learned he does have a cameo and as of May 22 it’s currently in the movie.)
Paper Towns movie update: I have recorded a cameo. It will almost certainly be cut from the final film, in accordance with tradition.
— John Green (@johngreen) December 9, 2014
— John Green (@johngreen) May 22, 2015
5) The cast was built around Nat
They decided to cast Nat as Q while filming The Fault in Our Stars (in which he played Isaac). With their lead selected so early, from there it was just a matter of building the cast around their star.
“We had lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of people read with Nat, he was very generous with his time on that front. And then Margo was the most important and kind of most difficult casting decision because she’s gotta be both the manic pixie and be able to undermine that. She’s got to be able to understand the experience of being a mirror to other’s expectations. That was something that Cara understood really deeply. Once we saw the chemistry readings it was obvious.”
6) Cara proved herself with one crucial scene
We asked John what scene Cara read with Nat, and we quickly learned that it was an important moment. “She reads the scene at the end where she talks about — [Q’s] badgering her, doesn’t understand, is really angry, he’s come all this way, he’s done his part, like, ‘what the f…’ and he says, ‘Who are you?’ And the way she says, ‘I don’t know, people have always put expectations on me, you end up stuck inside that life, the life of other people’s expectations of you.’ The way she said it was extremely powerful and convincing in that moment, and I think that’s one of the biggest moments for Margo in the movie. So that was the moment where I was like, ‘Oh yeah, she’s… she knows this person. She knows what it’s like to be this person.'”
7) John will never write a book with a potential movie adaptation in mind
John doesn’t feel pressure to write new books as if they’re going to be adapted for movies.
“No, no, no. Because I’m okay with them if they don’t make movies out of my books. There’s something magical about a movie, but there’s also something magical about a book that finds an audience that isn’t ever made into a movie. Catcher in the Rye is unique in our culture partly because we’ll never see Holden Caulfield — he’ll always belong to each of us in a way that Harry Potter can’t, because Harry Potter will always be Daniel Radcliffe in my imagination for the rest of my life.
“So there’s something wonderful about that and I embrace that and I kind of see the benefits either way. But when I’m writing now I don’t think about, ‘This would look great [in a movie].’ I try really hard to think of a book as a book. I don’t think there are any writers today who aren’t shaped by image saturated culture. There’s no way to escape the durability of the image, but I try really hard to think about language as language, and not think about language as a path into image.”
8) Nat is to thank for all the love on the set
There’s no mom-like figure on the set of Paper Towns like there was on Fault. “Laura [Dern] and Shai[lene Woodley] are both very nurturing and maternal,” John says. “So it’s a different vibe but it’s still very huggy and family oriented and love — I think that starts with Nat Wolff. I remember the first time I ever hung out with Nat Wolff, I said goodbye and gave him a hug and said it was so nice to meet him, and I was really excited to be working with him on The Fault in Our Stars, and I was so glad he was going to be Isaac, and he said, ‘Yeah thanks man,’ he got in the elevator and as the elevators doors are closing he said, ‘Love you!’ And I was like, ‘What?!’ And then the elevator doors closed and I was like, ‘Huh?!’ But now I know that that’s Nat, and he means it. We do love each other, it’s really special.”
9) There was crying on the ‘Paper Towns’ set too
John said many times throughout the creation of The Fault in Our Stars that he was crying all the time on the set. Is the same thing happening on Paper Towns?
“Oh yeah, I’ve cried,” he says. “I cried [during the] Q and Margo scene at the end of the movie. I cried on the first day. I cried watching… I was sick the day of the bathtub scene [at Jason’s], and I actually cried watching that in my apartment. It was very moving.”
“People may cry at the end, but it’s not a tearjerker,” he notes. “One of the things I’m excited about is it’s not a genre movie. It’s very hard to make a movie about teenagers that doesn’t fit into like, romantic drama or romantic comedy. Or buddy comedy. This is a broader story about growing up. I feel like we get to make this kind of movie.”
10) John has amazing advice for the Q’s and Margo’s of the world
“You just have to learn to think of other people complexly, and understand just as you’re at the center of your story, they’re at the center of theirs. That’s incredibly hard to do on a minute-by-minute basis to realize other people’s consciousnesses are as real and powerful to them as your consciousness is to you, but it’s the only way forward. It creates a lot of hurt for you and a lot of hurt for other people when you fail to imagine people complexly, whether you’re romanticizing them or dehumanizing them — if you’re not seeing them as a person, you’re doing both yourself and them a huge disservice. That’s what the movie’s about, hopefully.”
11) He needed a couple of lines from the book to be included in the movie
“There’s a few lines that I really wanted to be in the movie,” he says. “There’s a moment where Q really internalizes that Margo is not an object that he has to grasp — that’s a dynamic in romantic movies where the male has to usually find and track down and hold physically the object of his desire and then take it! And there’s a moment in the book where he says Margo was not a miracle, she was not a fine and precious thing — she was a girl. And understanding her as a person was really important to me.”
“[Screenwriters] Scott [Neustadter] and Mike [H. Weber] put a lot of lines from the book in the movie,” he adds.
12) Cara is anything but your average supermodel
“It’s funny, Cara.. I don’t know what a super model acts like, but she doesn’t act like I imagine a super model [would]. She’s very goofy and funny and fun to be around and very relaxed and not at all pretentious or anything like that. She is, like all super models, a person. She sort of has to humanize herself because people are used to imagining super models as objects upon which clothing is put. It’s very similar to Margo. I think she’s very good at that, she’s good at putting people at ease and humanizing herself because she has to be. When she’s here she’s just one of the kids.”
13) If it was up to John, the soundtrack would only feature The Mountain Goats
“I have no say in that,” says John when asked if he’s gunning for any songs to be included in the movie. “If I had a say in that it would be all Mountain Goat songs. The movie would be scored by The Mountain Goats and it would feature only music by The Mountain Goats.”
‘Paper Towns’ opens in theaters July 24, 2015
The next Paper Towns trailer will premiere June 2 during ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars. Until then, check out the most recent trailer below:
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