Q+A: 'The Fault in Our Stars' Author John Green

As the film adaptation of his book takes over Pittsburgh, John Green is relishing the chance to be part of the process — and the city.



 

Even in Pittsburgh, it’s not unusual for movie sets to attract the attention of fans hoping for an autograph. While filming The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Emma Watson signed autographs for throngs of devotees on a daily basis. That’s the way it is on The Fault in Our Stars, which has been filming in Pittsburgh for the last month, as well. The only difference: now, the autograph-seekers aren’t after a young actress. They’re trying to find the guy who wrote the book.

Author John Green reached the top of The New York Times Best Seller list for The Fault in Our Stars, the critically-acclaimed story of sixteen-year-old cancer patient Hazel and the relationships she forges while struggling with her illness. Green is a fixture on the film set, providing updates and anecdotes to his legions of social-media followers and signing books for the fans who turn up near the movie’s production offices.

PM visited the set of The Fault in Our Stars, and had a chance to chat with Green about his newfound love of Pittsburgh, his choice of subject matter, and what constitutes a good airport.

 

Tell me about your time in Pittsburgh so far. How do you feel about filming The Fault in Our Stars here?
It’s been great. I’ve become a huge fan of Pittsburgh. My wife is a curator of contemporary art, and she did a [show at the Warhol], so we came here a few times in 2009. So I always liked Pittsburgh; I always thought it had one of the great airports. Not too crowded, free wireless, and that wonderful “Yesterday’s Airport of Tomorrow” display. One of my all-time favorite airport things, and I spend a lot of time in airports.

And a T-Rex.
There’s a T-Rex, yeah! It’s a good, solid airport. But I always thought of [Pittsburgh] as similar to Indianapolis, where I’m from. And it is in some ways. In good ways. But it’s also got lots of topography and beautiful rivers and the amazing ballpark. My experience with the city has just been wonderful.

The Fault in Our Stars is identifiably set in Indianapolis. How do you feel about the movie not being made there?
It’s not realistic to film the movie in Indianapolis because of tax reasons. And Pittsburgh has an amazing community of really talented film professionals that’s been built up over the last 20 years. I’ve been blown away by their professionalism, their confidence, their dedication. There aren’t a lot of cities like that. You kind of have to find the city that can be Indianapolis. And Pittsburgh, even though it has a lot of hills, it can be Indianapolis. We just have to find a couple of flat streets.

As the author, you don’t have to be here on the film set, but you are. What’s motivating that, and what are you getting out of it?
I hope it’s good for the movie to have me here. But the biggest thing I get out of it, personally, is a chance to watch all of these astonishingly talented people give of themselves to this story that I care about. That’s really wonderful, and it doesn’t get old. What I love about writing books is that you get to collaborate with your readers; every time someone reads a book, it’s different. They have to translate these scratches on the page to ideas in their head — and everybody does that differently. I love that collaboration, that sense that the thing is not done until it is read. But you never get to see that collaboration happen; as a writer, that’s one of the frustrations. Here, that collaboration has become discipline; there are all these people who are really excited about the story and want to do well by it. And I get to work with them. That’s so cool.

Tell me a little bit about Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the two writers who are adapting The Fault in Our Stars for film.
I’d seen a movie that they made, 500 Days of Summer, and I had seen the script for The Spectacular Now, which just came out recently.

It’s excellent.
I thought that script was amazing. So when the producers asked me how I felt about [Neustadter and Weber] adapting it, I thought, “They clearly know how to adapt novels about teenagers — because they did such a good job with The Spectacular Now.” I also had a lot of confidence in the producers to make those choices. And I was so thrilled with the script [for The Fault in Our Stars]. Almost every line of dialogue in the movie is from the book, one way or the other. They worked really hard to be as faithful to it as they could while still making a movie.

Recently, there have been a number of great movies — The Spectacular Now, Kings of Summer, The Perks of Being a Wallflower — about teenagers. You’ve written about that age. What do you think makes these emotionally grounded stories about teens relevant right now?
There’s always something intense about adolescence, because you’re doing so many important things for the first time. You’re falling in love for the first time, asking big questions about suffering and meaning for the first time. You’re grappling with grief and loss for the first time — at least as an autonomous being. I think that’s powerful. I also think — and I don’t mean this in a bad way — that we’re a bit of an adolescent country. We have passionate but sometimes not-particularly-experienced political discourse and social discourse. I think that makes [these stories] reflective of something larger. I also think that it’s hard right now to tell those emotionally-grounded stories about adults. Those movies seem to have stopped existing. There are some of them, but not as many.

Does it have something to do with it being a jaded or a cynical moment in history for grownups?
That makes a lot of sense to me.

That your teenage years are the last time in life that you’re embracing your emotions?
Yes, and teenagers don’t create ironic distances between themselves and their experiences the way that adults do. They’re deliciously unafraid of feeling. As adults, we don’t tend to look directly at those questions. It’s like looking at the sun for us. Teenagers are really alive inside the emotional experience of being human. That’s also why I’m not that interested in writing novels about adults. I like reading novels about adults, and I admire people who do it well. But I like to look directly at those questions. I don’t feel the need to couch it.



 

Watch: On Set

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

More From The 412

Photo Essay: A Hockey Night in Pittsburgh (Playoff Edition)

Photo Essay: A Hockey Night in Pittsburgh (Playoff Edition)

Where else but Pittsburgh is fan excitement for a Stanley Cup playoff game equally matched both inside and outside the arena? Photographer Evan Custer takes you Downtown where thousands turn out to watch the Pens on the “Mario's TV.”
Become the Smartest Person in Pittsburgh With Our (Free) New iPhone App

Become the Smartest Person in Pittsburgh With Our (Free) New iPhone App

Get the lowdown on all of the region’s best restaurants, bars and events, right at your fingertips.
Pittsburgh Startup Wants to Send You on Secret Vacation

Pittsburgh Startup Wants to Send You on Secret Vacation

Lawrenceville-based Pack Up + Go does all of the planning, including the selection of your destination.
Ben and the Bus Together Again?

Ben and the Bus Together Again?

The Steelers' quarterback is reportedly scouting locations for his new restaurant in the same neighborhood where former teammate Jerome Bettis opened his own eatery.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

19 Pittsburgh-Area Burgers That We Love

19 Pittsburgh-Area Burgers That We Love

PM dining critic Hal B. Klein spent months eating scores of hamburgers in and around Pittsburgh. Find out how he narrowed his list down to 19 — and see which ones made the cut.
Meet 3 Butchers of the 'Burgh and Pittsburgh's ‘Brisket Boss’

Meet 3 Butchers of the 'Burgh and Pittsburgh's ‘Brisket Boss’

We visit Salem's halal butcher shop, the butchery program at Whitfield restaurant and the Butcher on Butler. Plus, smoking tips from the Brisket Boss.
The Region's Top Dentists 2017

The Region's Top Dentists 2017

Our annual list, which contains 369 dentists in the region, as determined by topDENTISTS.
Showtime Brothers: A Tale of Two Hollanders

Showtime Brothers: A Tale of Two Hollanders

In the 13 years since CBS’ ‘The Guardian’ went off the air, the Mt. Lebanon-raised siblings who inspired and wrote the series, Scott and David Hollander, have continued to export Pittsburgh nationally.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


The Celebrity Voices Who Welcome Visitors to PIT

The Celebrity Voices Who Welcome Visitors to PIT

You never know who you will hear on the tram ride from airside to landside at Pittsburgh International Airport.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
SporkPit BBQ Opens in Bloomfield This Weekend

SporkPit BBQ Opens in Bloomfield This Weekend

Spork's Executive Chef Chris Frangiadis will bring Austin-style barbeque to Pittsburgh.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


Bloomfield Bridge Tavern To Close in October

Bloomfield Bridge Tavern To Close in October

The 32-year-old bar, known for Polish fare and live music, is shuttering due to increasing insurance costs.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Deal or No Deal is a Complex Question for Surprising Pirates

Deal or No Deal is a Complex Question for Surprising Pirates

There’s no reason to be sellers now that the season has taken a turn toward the competitive, but nor should the Pirates be desperate to buy and in the process over-spend.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Ease Your Way Into Style With These Slides

Ease Your Way Into Style With These Slides

Slide through summer with these trendy velvet slip-on shoes from Vintage Grace Boutique.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Valerian and Dunkirk are (Very Different) Winners

Valerian and Dunkirk are (Very Different) Winners

Reviews of "Dunkirk" and "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
 Pittsburgh-Area Couples Get Creative with Guest Books

Pittsburgh-Area Couples Get Creative with Guest Books

These two couples turned their traditional guest books into artistic opportunities.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Downtown Plans: From Parking Garage to Luxury Condos

Downtown Plans: From Parking Garage to Luxury Condos

The proposed mixed-used development would include 185 high-end apartments, plus retail space.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

School trustees voted this week to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

Comments