The kids are all right. Off screen, anyway. But we were a little worried there for a while.
In Fault in Our Stars, Shailene Woodley ( The Descendants, Divergent) and relative newcomer Ansel Elgort ( Carrie, Divergent ) play Hazel and Gus, two small-town teens with a back story. Unlike the plot in many young adult novels, these two didn’t “meet cute” — they’re both part of a cancer support group. Despite the downer circumstances, as John Green writes in the 2012 tragicomic book of the same name, Hazel and Gus fall in love “the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
Sitting around a table at the Mandarin Oriental Miami Hotel, Woodley, her hair cropped short as in the movie, and Elgort look like the hail and happy youngsters they are. Phew. They’re joined by costar Nat Wolff (Nick’s The Naked Brothers Band), who plays pal Isaac and fellow cancer patient, and (believe it) the comic relief.
Let the free-flowing banter begin:
Wow. Intense movie. Did you all bond over the dramatic subject matter? What was the shoot like?
NW: I had so much with these three. They’ve become some of my closest friends. In Pittsburgh, where we shot, Ansel lived right next door to me, and I spent a lot of time at his place because mine was so messy.
AE: He was always there; he refused to leave [laughs].
SW: Pittsburgh was great. Best food ever. Amazing restaurants. In general, just a really cool city. Don’t tell too many people, please.
There was one scene where you all threw eggs at a mean girl’s house that reminded me a John Hughes movie. Do you agree?
SW: I can see that. John Hughes captured teenagers in a very real way.
JG: The screenwriters really structured the film in a way that made it feel authentic. No way could I have written that script. It’s rare to find people who can capture and understand your voice, and they did.
John, how involved were with you the day to day production?
JG: I was on the set most of the time but not in any professional capacity. I was invited to be there, and I really like these guys. I loved being there.
AE: It was encouraging to have him there. As an actor, you do a scene, and you’re not sure if it’s right, which is probably the best way to be. But with him, we could tell, because in a happy scene, he was like, ‘Yes!’ and in the sad scenes he was crying.
SW: John is the captain of the ship before anyone else, and he’s the guy you want to impress.
You guys had props due to your illnesses. Ansel, you walked with a limp. Shai, you had an oxygen tank, and Nat, you wore contacts and sunglasses. Was this challenging?
SW: On the contrary. I think you embrace those things. It’s like in any movie, there are external elements. Like you put on a jacket. The continuity of it was the hardest part. We did a few takes where we’d be filming and they’d yell ‘Cut! She didn’t have her [nose] tubes in!’
NW: I felt like the stuff got me in the mindset, having these specific things, the contacts and glasses, were a pain in the ass, but made it feel more real.
AE: The funny thing is when you turn on a character it becomes a part of you. A month or so later I was down in Texas filming [ Men, Women & Children] with Jason Reitman, and I was sitting at a table, and my leg suddenly got stiff. It was weird.
SW: I can’t believe you didn’t tell me you were working on that movie until like two weeks ago.
AE: Well, if you got a cellphone I could tell you.
Shailene, you don’t have a cellphone?
SW: I used to, but all the texting, my thumbs started to shake constantly and I was like, I’m too young for my nervous system to be going through this. Having no phone gives me more time in my day. I know it sounds counter-intuitive. But it’s like, OK, let’s wake up in the morning and just wing it! A phone was just too distracting.
JG: I agree that the Internet can be a place of engagement, but I think for the vast majority of us it’s a place of distraction. Not that that’s a necessarily bad or evil thing. I don’t have a problem with distraction. But if you spend your whole life [surfing the Web] you may be wasting an opportunity.
What’s next for you all?
SW: Ansel and I will be Insurgent, the followup to Divergent.
NW: I’m working with John on Paper Towns, his next book to go to the screen.
AE: I want to be in that.
JG: I told you I wanted you. Of course you can be there. We’ll get you in there. How about just for one day?
AE: I love that idea.