“The Fault in Our Stars” has begun production in Pittsburgh, and it’s one of the fastest page-to-screen adaptations in recent movie history. Award-winning author John Green’s runaway critical and commercial success (it topped dozens of Best of 2012 lists) was published in January 2012, and the film is scheduled to hit theaters next year. There’s a lot riding on getting this brilliant young adult novel right, because unlike the trendy genre fare, this is a story about teens falling in love while dealing with very real and unthinkable issues — terminal cancer prognoses — and there’s nary a vampire, werewolf or dystopian government in sight.
“The Fault in Our Stars,” unlike some books-to-movies that the audience may not even realize are adaptations until the credits roll, is one of those best-selling, zeitgeist-capturing works like “Harry Potter,” “The Hunger Games,” and yes, even that little vampire phenomenon “Twilight,” that are so embedded in readers’ minds that every casting decision is met with cries of disapproval or skepticism — at least until the author chimes in with his/her approval.
That kind of endorsement is exactly what Green felt compelled to do after it was confirmed that Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort would play Hazel Grace and Augustus, the central characters in the adaptation, and his Twitter followers responded with cries of “no way, not them.”
Why Shailene Woodley is Perfect
“Shailene Woodley is a brilliant actress and Golden Globe nominee. I cannot think of any 18-year-old actress who has received the kind of critical acclaim that she has (she also won an Independent Spirit Award),” Green wrote on his Tumblr blog in May. “Her depth of understanding were immediately obvious in the audition and for me there could be no one else to play Hazel.”
Woodley may not match Green’s physical description of Hazel Grace (who’s supposed to look like Natalie Portman from “V for Vendetta” — petite, brunette, doe-eyed, and with closely-cropped, post-chemo hair), but he wasn’t concerned about that, and he says the book’s fans shouldn’t be either.
“Hollywood can fix that stuff. (Remember when Nicole Kidman became Virginia Woolf) I’m concerned with whether she can embody the voice and experience and life of Hazel. She can,” Green stressed.
After all, 21-year-old Woodley won that Independent Spirit Award for going toe-to-toe with George Clooney in “The Descendants,” is currently earning rave reviews for her performance in the coming-of-age drama “The Spectacular Now,” and recently wrapped a leading role in the upcoming dystopian thriller “Divergent” (which coincidentally features Elgort as her on-screen brother). She’s got the acting range and the love of the book necessary to pull off the nuanced role.
She told Moviefone in May that she was ready to take on the role of Hazel Grace: “I’m so excited for Hazel Grace; I going to chop all of my hair off,” she said. “I can’t wait.”
The hair actually came off last month, and Woodley, who kept her hair long to play Tris in “Divergent,” donated her locks to “Children With Hair Loss,” a charity that provides wigs for kids who’ve lost their hair to cancer treatments and other diseases.
“Not only do I have the opportunity to externally shift my current establishment of self, but I have the blessed gift of donating my long locks to a wonderful organization who will then create a wig for someone in need. WHAT AN HONOR,” Woodley wrote on her Tumblr blog.
If Woodley’s on-screen experience and Green’s approval aren’t enough to convince readers of her ability to play Hazel Grace, take it from the man who co-wrote the adaptation to “The Fault in Our Stars,” Michael Weber (who also co-wrote and produced “The Spectacular Now“).
“She has good taste, is attracted to the material, and she can do anything. She’s just awesome,” he gushed. “There was a rumor going around that ‘Fault in Our Stars’ was just handed to her because of ‘Spectacular Now.’… That is just false.”
Weber explains that she auditioned and beat out over 200 actresses “some of them really big names.” “It was not handed to her, it was not a foregone conclusion by any means, but it is such a joy to work with her again,” Weber told us.
Why Ansel Elgort is Perfect
Weber also spoke highly of Elgort playing Augustus — who is hot and funny and ridiculously smart. Elgort, 19, is a relative newcomer to Hollywood, but he graduated from New York’s prestigious LaGuardia School for the Performing Arts, had a starring role in an Off-Broadway show, and will win over any skeptics after appearing in both “Divergent” and “Carrie.”
“Ansel Elgort is not well known, but I promise America that he is going to rock Augustus,” Weber said. “He’s a brilliant young actor. And his chemistry with Shailene is just remarkable. He’s got that ‘Gus’ special quality.”
As for any awkwardness about the two playing brother and sister in the “Divergent” series and then teen lovers in “FiOS,” Weber reminds readers that if anything, their experience on “Divergent” has been like an extended rehearsal period for their tear-jerker romance.
“I think it speaks to their abilities as serious actors that they can go from brother and sister to this,” Weber said. “As actors who respect each other, they developed a rapport on that set that I know will translate over. Their chemistry is just so, so good.”
Elgort admitted to MTV News that the friendship he formed with Woodley on the Chicago “Divergent” set gave him a good in for landing the role.
“I’m sure it helped … We already were becoming best friends throughout [‘Divergent’], and then I tested in L.A. with her for that, and just the chemistry was perfect, and we’re both so excited to do it.”
Best of friends playing life-changing first loves? Hazel Grace and Augustus would approve. Okay? Okay.