Healing and ‘The Fault in Our Stars’
by Scott Neustadter
My dad and I were very close. He died on January 19th, 2012 – a year after being diagnosed with cancer and a week after learning he was going to be a grandfather. We named our son Michael in his honor.
Losing a parent is tough for everyone but it’s especially tough for those of us who try to make a living being creative. I don’t report to anyone. I have no office. There’s no structure to my day. We strive to be productive but, let’s be honest, that’s unpredictable even in the best of times.
And these weren’t those.
And then this book came out. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It was very well-received and got a lot of people talking but, at least initially, it was not the phenomenon it would later become. An executive at Fox 2000 who had optioned the book (and did not know of my personal circumstances) thought my writing partner and I might do a nice job adapting it. She sent it to our reps for us to consider.
Under normal circumstances, they would have sent it to us that day and we would have read it that night. (No one loves to read more than we do.) But, because of my present situation, they debated long and hard whether to send it to us at all.
After much internal debate, they decided to go for it. The book sure sounded right up my alley: coming of age – check; first love – check; unhappy but uplifting ending – check check check. Send away, I said, can’t wait to read it!
Oh but there’s one other thing – pretty much everyone in it has cancer.
They thought I might balk at this last thing, but the truth was – that’s all I was doing anyway. For the last year, I ate, slept, and dreamed cancer. It was the first thing I thought of in the morning. The last thing I thought of at night. All cancer, all the time. Couldn’t be avoided. So, at the very least, reading this book could at least feel like working again. I jumped at the opportunity.
And then the strangest thing happened – I loved it. Like, really loved it. Like everyone now loves it but no one knew at the time.
I didn’t just want to adapt it, I needed to.
For me, for my dad, for my family, for everyone who had gone, has gone, and will go through this awful experience. Weber and I were all in – the only question that remained was: how do we get the privilege to do this?
To this day, I don’t know about that last part. Meetings were held. Things were said. Far more impressive screenwriters than us were vying for it. We simply went in, talked about what we loved, what we thought needed shaping, what I was going through, and then (half-jokingly) promised a draft in two weeks.
We wrote it in one.
The film comes out on June 6th. On the eve of its release, I’m pretty excited. I hope it does justice to the wonderful source material. And I hope people going through difficult times can look to it for solace the same way I did the book in those very dark days. My son Michael is 20 months old now and one day, when the tough questions come, we’re gonna watch this together and talk about things. I can’t imagine a prouder moment.Tags: Adapting a book for film, Cancer, Father-son relationship, Fox 2000, Hollywood, Michael H. Weber, Scott Neustadter, Screenwriter, The Fault In Our Stars