Spoiler Alert: Paper Towns's Author John Green Talks Movie and Book Differences
There's nothing worse than hearing your favorite book will become a movie, only to be let down by the big screen's contrasting script. Luckily, John Green, the author of Paper Towns, shared some insight on what differences movie-goers can expect to find in the forthcoming film during a conversation with New York magazine’s Margaret Lyons at this year's Vulture Festival. If you can't wait for the movie to open July 24, read on to find out more on the opening scene, Justice Smith and Nat Wolff's friendship, and Cara Delevingne's audition.
You said in one of your blogs that you took a chance at writing the screenplay for Paper Towns and you wanted to open up with a plane crash scene. Is that right?
Right at the beginning you need a special effects shot. I wrote a very different screenplay from the book. Like the main character Que ended up with a different girl. The movie was completely different from the book. It was about a high school yearbook, bad idea, but the plane crash wasn't a bad idea. I lived in Orlando and when I was a kid there was this luggage accident. The luggage compartment of a plane came open and all of this luggage landed in a suburban neighborhood—and I might use this in a book in a few year, so forgive me—but the image was so powerful to me. [For the opening scene] I put these kids in the park and from the sky literal baggage falls at their feet. [It sends a message] to say you must go now.
That sounds like a lot of fun. What was the best moment on set?
[There were] a lot of minivan scenes that were great because everyone was there and they loved each other and still do. Justice and Nat literally lived together. It was amazing! People always say it’s like a family and it is always—I mean always a lie, but we were literally like a family. There was a day we had to stay up all night, and I have not pulled an all-nighter in more than a decade. We had to stay up all night filming the minivan scene on this beautifully lit up highway in Charlotte North Carolina and there was something uniquely beautiful about walking across this six lane highway for me. It’s a place that you never get to explore in that kind of detail. So, just walking around with all of them was just really special. We had some great conversations and it was really good. I have incredible memories of that night and that set.
We’re getting a lot of questions from Twitter that actually fall under duties what you weren't responsible for. So, I’m filtering those out.
I appreciate that. You know the book is the book. I’m going to get critiques and blame for the book. I don’t want to get that much credit for the movie. I try to make that clear in all of my communication, but it’s hard because people are going to associate me with it and of course I’m proud of that. I do not cast the movies. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t. That is not my job. Even if I said I wanted veto power I shouldn't because I would be terrible. All of the people I would want to play in my movies wouldn't fit into the characters. For instance, I love Drew Barrymore, but she’s 38. I think that the performance Nat gave in the movie is great and so is Cara's. I do state preferences and sometimes they happen and sometimes they don’t. The book is the book.
Do you ever think about having a bigger say?
No, no, no. I love online video so much. I love that we can’t afford a second mic. I love scrappily making something with a small group of people. The size and scope and work ethic necessary to make a proper movie absolutely terrifies me. God bless those people.
Is it true that in a lot of ways Paper Towns is about fame and the way that we see people? And is that what resonates with you?
It was what resonated with me at that time. That’s what makes Cara so great. Nobody I’ve ever met in my life better understands what it’s like to have people make assumptions about you based on two-dimensional images than Cara. I didn't know she was a model and I thought it was incredibly powerful when she was auditioning how much she understood that when Que says, 'I love you,' and she says, 'love me? You don’t even know me,' she felt it all the way down. There are times when I feel that way. But I am incredibly lucky to be able to say that to my audience regularly. I think it’s difficult for anybody not to feel objectified or dehumanized, especially online. I try to hear it from them as people and embrace and instead really genuinely be a community.