John Green Didn’t Want A 'Turtles All The Way Down' Movie — This Is What Changed His Mind

    Warning: This article deals with the topics of anxiety and other mental health subjects. It may be triggering for some readers.

    When John Green wrote Turtles All the Way Down, he didn’t see how it could be adapted for the screen. Unlike The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns, he didn’t know if Turtles All the Way Down, which deals with complex mental health issues, would translate to another medium with ease.

    John Green in a suit speaking into a microphone on stage

    Turtles All the Way Down is a 2017 novel that explores the psyche of Aza Holmes, a 16-year-old girl who’s struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and an anxiety disorder. Over the course of Green’s book, he uses spiralling, first-person, run-on sentences to convey Holmes’ panic attacks. He also uses italics to symbolise her intrusive thoughts.

    Isabela Merced as Aza Holmes

    Green has lived most of his life with OCD and anxiety, and he wanted to convey his mental health experiences in a way that felt honest and realistic. Speaking with BuzzFeed Australia, Green said he wanted to “challenge” himself to provide the reader with an understanding of what OCD actually is, rather than “what it’s like”.

    Book cover of "Turtles All The Way Down" by John Green with large, intertwined orange text on a white background

    However, Green’s depiction of OCD is so entrenched in run-on sentences, italics, and a first-person perspective that he couldn’t see how it would translate to the screen.

    John Green in a blazer and glasses speaking at a microphone with a book in hand

    But these worries melted away for Green when he met with the director Hannah Marks. Beyond directing Turtles All the Way Down, Marks is best known for her directorial debut, After Everything, a story that depicts a young person dealing with a rare type of bone cancer.

    Hannah Marks in a beige jacket, on a set with various decor in the background

    Soon, Green was advocating for Marks to direct a theatrical version of Turtles All the Way Down, with the caveat that Green would retain creative control of how OCD would be portrayed in the film. For Marks, this scenario was a dream come true.

    Hannah Marks and John Green. They stand near a display with various items

    All of this brings us to 2024, the year that the Turtles All the Way Down film is premiering. Turtles All the Way Down stars Isabela Merced (Growing Up Fisher) as Aza Holmes, with Felix Mallard (Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist) playing love interest, Davis Pickett.

    Isabela Merced as Aza Holmes and Felix Mallard as Davis Picket

    As a team, Marks, Merced, Mallard, and Green did a phenomenal job of conveying OCD in a visual medium.

    Isabela Merced as Aza Holmes

    Despite his initial doubts, Green is thrilled with the final film, and is particularly impressed with Mallard.

    Felix Mallard as Davis Picket

    Green was also impressed with how the team handled the moments that surrounded his dive into Aza’s intrusive thoughts and panic attacks. There’s a lot of joy and laughter that can be found in Turtles All the Way Down. While Aza has OCD and an anxiety disorder, these illnesses don’t always define her life.

    Isabela Merced as Aza Holmes and Felix Mallard as Davis Picket

    “The truth of living with illness, with chronic mental illness, as I do, is that it’s hard,” Green said.

    Isabela Merced as Aza Holmes and Cree Cicchino as Daisy Ramirez

    Marks is also pleased that her adaptation of Turtles All the Way Down contains a multifaceted depiction of mental illness.

    Isabela Merced as Aza Holmes and Felix Mallard as Davis Picket

    Turtles All the Way Down is streaming on BINGE from 2 May.

    If this article brings up any issues for you or anyone you know, or you think you may be experiencing depression or need support with your mental health, please contact your GP or in Australia, contact Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) or Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636), all of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7.