Jojo Moyes on making ‘Me Before You’ movie: It was ‘awesome’

Jojo Moyes, author of ‘Me Before You’
Jojo Moyes, author of ‘Me Before You’

Jojo Moyes is used to book tours, but life these days has been just a bit more hectic. She has been promoting the new film Me Before You, based on her bestselling book (she adapted the screenplay herself). The film, which opens Friday, stars Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) as Louisa, a young woman who goes to work and falls for embittered quadriplegic Will (Sam Claflin of The Hunger Games).

Moyes, also the author of such novels as One Plus One and After You (the sequel to Me Before You,) chatted via email about making the movie.

How does it feel to see your characters on screen?

I think it was mostly relief that they so closely resembled the ones in my head. We’ve all heard the horror stories of what happens to books that are adapted by Hollywood studios, and I did wonder whether “my” Will and Lou would end up very differently. But from the moment Thea Sharrock, the director, sent me the audition tapes, I realized we all saw things the same way. So the first time I saw Will Traynor walking down a street, I just felt awe and delight, and that has never really changed. It’s an awesome thing to see.

What were the difficulties in adapting the book?

There were lots of things that had to be let go, but it was a very organic process, with Thea and I sitting together for months over the script long before we started shooting. I discovered there were some scenes — the Maze, for example — that simply didn’t translate visually, no matter how many times we tried. And we lost Will’s sister because she just wasn’t necessary to the plot in the way that other characters were. All the time you are having to ask yourself: What is essential to the tone and character and plot? And you have to be flexible about what you let go of.

What was it like having a director and actors have input into your story?

This, unusually, was the bit I loved. I knew that studios were generally reluctant to work with book authors, so I set out basically to not be a nightmare. And the unexpected joy was that I really loved working collaboratively. You can stick up for elements of your story if you do so courteously and explain your reasoning, and the lovely bit was, unlike book writing, you are not on your own with every problem. There are other people who can help solve them. And working as part of a team, under pressure, made me recall my time in journalism, which I loved. Plus there was the whole “getting dressed and drinking proper coffee” every day thing.

How does touring for a movie compare with touring for a book?

It’s a weird mixture of very glamorous and extremely unglamorous. Getting up at 4 a.m. to get to an airport is not glamorous by anyone’s standards. But having someone there each day to do your hair and makeup means that the image you present to the world is at least acceptable — definitely more so than my appearance on a book tour! And I do love the actors, so that part of traveling makes it a lot more fun.

Is Sam Claflin the handsomest man alive?

He is ridiculously handsome. I can also tell you that he smells better than any man I’ve ever met. We used to sidle up to him to sniff him surreptitiously — he was terribly patient about it.

What’s it like working with the Mother of Dragons from ‘Game of Thrones’?

Well, the first thing you notice about Emilia is her smile, not something you get to see often when she’s being Mother Of Dragons. I can say that in 49 long days of filming and 14 days of nonstop promo that smile didn’t waver. She is the most cheerful, hardworking woman I know. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her grumpy.