The Fault in Our Stars is far more than just YA-appeasing schmaltz, deftly weaving romanticism with deeper philosophic undercurrents. Josh Boone’s sophomore effort (post Stuck in Love) is a fairly straight adaptation of John Green’s novel – and keeps with the book’s strange tonal feat at once both tragic yet uplifting. It’s sort of the feel-good movie about dying young; but Boone’s deft touch with the material and the cast somehow makes the juxtaposing tones mesh.
In the following interview with Josh Boone in anticipation of film’s Blu-ray release, he discusses the Extended Cut of The Fault in Our Stars, why he’ll never write a novel, and injecting his authorial stamp onto the adaptation. You can read Boone’s previous thoughts and comments on his upcoming adaptations of The Stand and Lestat – right here. For the full Fault in Our Stars interview, hit the jump.
Josh Boone: Well – Stuck in Love didn’t have much success. That movie didn’t really find its audience until I got Fault in Our Stars — and then all those kids [watched] that movie.
I meant more qualitatively…
BOONE: That movie definitely got me the job to make Fault in Our Stars. I think [the studio] liked that young love aspect and the relationship between those kids translated tonally to Fault.
I know that there was a screenplay [by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber] already in place when you joined Fault in Our Stars…
BOONE: That was the best thing ever. It was really awesome because the hardest thing to do is to write. I was so happy. The hardest part of the job I didn’t have to do. I came in and did a round of notes but I didn’t have to change much. It was a really great script that hewed closely to the book and that’s what I wanted it to be.
What is that process like for you when you’re joining a project where the script is already in place versus something you yourself have written [e.g. Stuck in Love]?
BOONE: It’s sort of like reverse engineering. All the things you need to know, you know by the time you’ve written something. When you step into [a script], it’s like you’re reverse engineering it, where you have to work backwards to find your way into it. If that makes any sense… You end up in the same place. Its just the process is a little different.
How do you make the material your own?
BOONE: …You just have to get to the point where you believe you can hone into it. A lot of the way that was done for me was musically. That’s my way into most of what I do — choosing a bunch of music that felt tonally right to me. I worked from day one to make sure Nat Wolff was a part of [Fault]. I brought my editing team from my first movie. My composer from my first movie. All those things together whether you wrote it or not gives you a way to put your thumb print on it. I think you can watch Stuck in Love and watch Fault — and there are tonal similarities and musical similarities. You just bring as much as you can to it.
When you’re directing a book, how much does the pacing of the book influence your directorial decisions?
BOONE: It doesn’t. Once the script was locked, the script was what I referred to. You have to come to that point where you separate from the book… All I’ve got is what’s on the page that I’m shooting.
There seems to be an existential philosophical outlook in both Fault and Stuck in Love. Does the guise of a date-night film lend itself to exploring such deeper themes?
BOONE: I hope so. I don’t even know if it’s the philosophical stuff so much as it is the time to explore characters that have interesting things to say or think. You try to deal with things you think about in your own life. Things that feel meaningful to you. Everybody thinks about the big issues like love and death and what’s it all mean. People have been thinking about these things since they could draw onto the walls of caves.
Obviously you have a real affinity towards novels – with Fault and The Stand. What began that affinity for you?
BOONE: My dad read an awful lot growing up. He was a voracious reader… He had old paperback copies of Carrie, Salem’s Lot and Christine. I don’t think my dad had read them for years; but they were kind of stuffed down on the bottom [of a shelf]. Those were the ones I gravitated towards. Books were around me all the time. I’ve always loved them. I don’t really like reading screenplays. I much more interested in novels.
BOONE: I don’t think I have the patience for it. So much of what I do is trying to write my way out of a room – so I can do something social and collaborate with a bunch of people. I always find the writing part to be the most painful. I love reading books but they take much longer to write than a script and I already don’t want to be in that room. I only stay there [writing] as long as I have to and then I get the fuck out and make the movie. You’re so stuck in your head when you’re writing. I don’t think it’s a healthy way to be all the time — so to be able to leave that and actually go make a movie and collaborate with people is better.
Is there any original material, you’re currently working on?
BOONE: Yeah — I’m going to make a movie called Pretenders in the next couple years. It depends when I can find a hole in my schedule to make it with Michael B. Jordan, Imogen Poots and Anton Yelchin. It’s a decade spanning love story in the 1980s set in New York City. It’s sort of like Carnal Knowledge meets Unbearable Lightness of Being or The Dreamers. I want to make that at some point with those wonderful actors.
I recently watched the Extended Cut for Fault in Our Stars. Do you consider that a director’s cut?
BOONE: No – the theatrical cut is definitely my director’s cut. I consider the extended cut to be a gift to fans where they can see the rest of the material and enjoy it. I always loved [extended cuts]. It’s nice to have access to that footage. But the theatrical cut is what I think is the best version of this movie.
BOONE: My editors are really close friends of mine. They cut my first movie and we’re all kind of like a big family. They move with me from movie to movie. We’re all in the same frame of mind. We’re all ruthless on story. We’ll cut anything out of a movie if it’s not working or it doesn’t feel like it supporting the whole. We’re all very like-minded and open and honest. We don’t tiptoe around each other because we know each other so well. We’re always challenging each other to make the movie better. The biggest thing that happens is compression. The first rough cut of Fault in Our Stars was like two hours and forty-five minutes. We didn’t cut many scenes out of the movie but you compress them. There’s air and dialogue and things you pull out of the scenes to make them shorter and more honed in. Just try to keep everything moving the best we can.
Music plays such a crucial role in both Stuck in Love and Fault. Is that something you figure out during pre-production or is that more of an editorial decision?
BOONE: In Stuck in Love, almost all those songs are written into the script. Before I ever shot the movie, I got those Bright Eyes guys – Mike [Mogis] and Nathaniel [Walcott] – to agree to score it and to have Conor [Oberst] bring in an original song. All these things were planned in advance. There’s a lot of experimentation once you get into post but you still try to hang onto the tone you had in your head before you ever made it.
The Fault in Our Stars is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD.