1. TFIOS line “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once” was inspired by Hemingway.
“There’s a similar-ish line from Hemingway: ‘How did you go bankrupt?’ ‘Two ways: Gradually, then suddenly.’ That was my initial inspiration for the line.”
2. John Green originally had a cameo in The Fault in Our Stars, but the scene was later cut.
“The scene I was in takes place at the airport as Hazel and Gus leave for Amsterdam. A girl (I play her father) asks Hazel about her cannula and then tries them on.
This scene happens in the book, but the context and timing are different.
It was cut from the movie not because I was terrible (although I was!) but because the scene really did not need to be in the movie. It created an unnecessary pause between finding out they were going to Amsterdam and actually going to Amsterdam, and Josh felt (I agree) that it needed to flow directly into the trip itself.
That said, I think it is ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS that I got cut from the movie adaptation of my own book, and that’s why I won’t shut up about it.”
Read more about the scene here.
3. John Green’s favorite TFIOS movie scene come to life was the cancer support group.
“The cancer support group days with Mike Birbiglia and all the teens living with cancer were the coolest days for me to see come to life. But really, every day was wonderful. It really was just a dream movie experience — the opposite of what usually happens to authors — and while the movie is not mine in any way, I’m so proud of the people who made it.”
4. There’s a meaning behind Hazel’s name.
“Hazel is an in-between color, and she’s in between a lot of things: In between healthy and sick, in between adulthood and childhood, in between breathing air and breathing water, etc. So that seemed like a small way of communicating the instability and fear (but also excitement) of that time of life.”
5. And the same goes with Augustus Waters.
“Augustus is the name of Roman emperors, right? It’s a grand name associated with traditional notions of greatness. But Gus is a kid’s name. It’s short and cute. In the novel, he makes the journey from strength to weakness, which is the opposite of the usual hero’s journey. He starts out this confident, pretentious kid who’s extremely performative in his every action. And then he becomes vulnerable. He becomes cracked open. For Gus, this is a brutal process. (Remember that moment toward the end when he says to Hazel, ‘You used to call me Augustus?’) But his ability to be in it with her, and to allow himself to love and be loved despite the loss of the self he so carefully cultivated, is to my mind way more heroic than those traditional notions of Great Men Doing Great Things.”
6. Hazel watches America’s Next Top Model because John Green wanted to show that despite her illness, she is still a teen.
“One of the things I really like about teenagers is that they don’t draw a bright line between high culture and low culture. They’re comfortable liking what they like, and don’t see anything incongruous about loving America’s Next Top Model and Emily Dickinson.
I chose ANTM in particular because it is just — and I say this lovingly — exceedingly vapid. And one of the things I always hear from people when they talk about the sick or the dying is, ‘I can’t believe they spent their last days doing THAT,’ referring to watching bad TV or worrying over football games or whatever. But the argument I was trying to make is that people who are dying are not fundamentally other. They are still people. They still like all the same things that people like, including reality television programs.”
7. The Fault in Our Stars was inspired by a girl named Ester Earl, but the character of Hazel was mainly imagined by John Green.
“I was good friends with a young woman named Esther Earl who died of cancer in 2010 when she was 16. And I could never have written TFIOS without knowing and loving Esther. (That said, Esther and Hazel are very different people.) But ultimately fiction is always about imagining and trying to empathize, so I just tried to imagine her as best I could [when creating the character of Hazel]. I’m sure there’s a lot of stuff I got wrong, but the fundamental emotional experience of being a person who is living with illness or disability but not wholly defined by illness … I think that’s pretty universal.”
8. An Imperial Affliction was created to mirror the story in TFIOS.
“With An Imperial Affliction, I was trying to create a mirror to the story in TFIOS, so that Hazel would feel a deep connection to that story. Her fascination with what happens to Anna’s mother is of course really about what’s going to happen to Hazel’s own mother after she dies, and she sees in the ambiguity of the ending the ambiguity in her own life: Hazel will never be able to know for certain that her mom is going to be okay, because she’ll be gone. When I went back to the story (I’d been trying to write something similar off and on for ten years) in 2010, I started thinking that maybe Hazel and Gus could be joined by a book that Hazel found particularly powerful, and that maybe their Wish could be to meet the author of that book. I’m sure that was in my mind partly because I’d been part of my friend Esther’s wish.”
BONUS: Paramount bought the movie rights for Looking for Alaska, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever see it on the big screen.
“It is really, really hard to get people to say, ‘I want to spend $15,000,000 to make a movie out of a book not that many people have read.’
I’m not bummed out that Alaska hasn’t been made into a movie. (It may someday; I don’t control the rights and never will.) There’s something magical to a story belonging to its readers and only to its readers, and I’m very grateful that Alaska has continued to find its way in the world without the boost of a movie adaptation.
Harry Potter will forever be Daniel Radcliffe to me. I can’t remember how I imagined Harry before the movies. But your Pudge and your Alaska … they still belong to you. They are still inside your head, and yours alone. There’s something wonderful about that.”
The Fault in Our Stars hits theaters June 6.
Responses have been condensed and edited for clarification purposes.