John Green talks 'The Fault in our Stars' 

click to enlarge From left, John Green with The Fault in Our Stars actors Nat Wolff, Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley at a May 9 fan event in Dallas.
  • From left, John Green with The Fault in Our Stars actors Nat Wolff, Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley at a May 9 fan event in Dallas.

First off, we intended to couple this new interview with John Green with a review of the film adaptation of his many-million selling novel The Fault in Our Stars, opening Friday (or Thursday if you're a mega-fan; look to the right or click here for details on the simulcast preview screening).

But as can often be the case for a wide-release film with a big marketing budget, the studio behind the film, Fox Searchlight, has asked for an embargo on reviews through opening day.

So because we'd like a chance to review other Fox Searchlight films in the future, we're going to honor that embargo request, and we'll have Ed Johnson-Ott's review on nuvo.net bright and early Friday morning.

Aside from that, I'll note that the first question in this email interview — the answers to which Green somehow dashed off promptly late last month between fittings for red carpet openings — was meant to acknowledge the raft of awards Green has recently picked up.

He was most notably named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World this year by Time, but also well worth mentioning are the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books' Innovator's Award ("given to people and institutions doing cutting edge work to bring books, publishing and storytelling into the future") and NUVO's own Cultural Vision Award.

NUVO: Do you think of yourself as an innovator, a visionary? Might it be fair to say that your visions are less spontaneously generated dreams and more the product of problem solving?

John Green: Yeah, exactly. I don't really think of myself as an innovator so much as I come across something that I want to make and then try to make it. Or I don't know how to feel about something so I make something to try to puzzle through it, and then share it so that other people can help me in that process.

I also think that my fiction is almost aggressively UNinnovative, at least when it comes to form. There are so many fascinating and wonderful things happening with form and genre in fiction these days, and I continue to be completely enchanted with the traditional form of the novel and with playing within very well-established genres, from the Cancer Novel to the Boarding School Novel.

NUVO: Shailene Woodley [who plays one of the leads in The Fault in Our Stars] calls you a "prophet" in her Time 100 piece, and that's a term that carries with it a heavy burden for us all-too-human creatures. How do you deal when moments when you're stressed out or less than optimistic, assuming that those come along every so often?

Green: I'm an anxious person and always have been, so I don't really NEED a stressor to be anxious. But I do find attention stressful at times, although of course it's also amazing (and tremendous good luck) to have so many people interested in my books and other projects right now.

I find it relatively easy to dismiss the exaggeratedly positive things people say about me, but it's harder to dismiss the exaggeratedly negative ones. I think that's true for most of us. But one of the real gifts of having the audience I have is that by and large they are okay with me being down or anxious or scared, as long as I'm open about it.

click to enlarge Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Gus (Ansel Elgort) enjoy an extraordinary meal in an Amsterdam restaurant in The Fault in Our Stars.
  • Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Gus (Ansel Elgort) enjoy an extraordinary meal in an Amsterdam restaurant in The Fault in Our Stars.

NUVO: We hear too much about what's lost in translation when things hit the screen — so what has The Fault in Our Stars gained in translation to film, in terms of key themes and idea, atmosphere, impact or anything else?

Green: The visual tone of the movie is so powerful and so precise; it really takes what I was trying to do in the book and puts it front and center. You see in every scene of the movie that Hazel is living with disability, but she's also living with lots of other things: desire and fear and excitement and frustration. You see her as a complete and complex human for whom "person with cancer" is one identity among many.

Also, I think the ending of the movie is a lot tighter than the ending of the book. If I'd thought of the plot sequence they use to end the movie while writing the book, I would've used it.

READ: A 2013 interview with Green that addresses Green's novels at length, particularly The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska

NUVO: A colleague predicts that The Fault in Our Stars will be this summer's The Notebook, i.e. a kind of not-so-sleeper hit that leaves nary a dry eye. Your thoughts, predictions?

Green: It's so hard to know. I really like the movie, but I also can't imagine a less objective viewer. But I will say that I've seen the movie with an audience several times now, and it is definitely an emotional experience. The cool thing to me, though, is that people don't only cry. They also laugh a lot. I wanted the book to be funny, and I think they've translated that well.

NUVO: What has it been like working with Sarah [Urist Green, John's wife and creator of the contemporary art video series The Art Assignment]? You told the LA Times the series feels "like a return to the early open collaborative days of online video," and I was wondering if you'd expand on that thought?

Green: Back in 2007 and 2008, online video didn't feel like something you made for people; it felt like something you made with people. We've gone back to that with The Art Assignment. Viewers are asked not just to watch the video but to respond to it by executing these assignments created for them by working artists. And they have responded, by the thousand, and then Sarah collects and curates those responses in bi-weekly videos. It's been really fun for me to return to the idea that online video is fundamentally different from TV, that it asks something more of you as a viewer, that it isn't just a one-way street.

SEE: The Art Assignment visit with Florian Rivière and Jim Walker at Big Car Service Center:

NUVO: I was talking with a friend about authors the other day and he said something to the effect of, 'Well, it was his bad luck to live in an era when books no longer mattered,' referring to this era. I didn't have a good reply; that's kind of a conversation-stopper. But what might you say? Do books still matter — and do they matter or in a different way than other media?

Green: Books still matter. Books matter because they remain uniquely collaborative: The reader must turn scratches into a page into ideas that live in their mind. This is very different from film or TV or iPhone games. Audiovisual experiences are so powerful that you can relax and let them guide you into feeling and experience.

But because you must make the book — you must choose how to read (and what to skim), and with the best books must choose how thoughtfully to read — there's an intimacy and depth to the experience of reading that nothing else matches, at least for me.


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