‘Paper Towns’ screenwriters adapt to John Green’s novel approach

24 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cara Delevingne: My acting career isn’t a fluke.

“Paper” stars Nat Wolff as Quentin, a high school student who is entranced by his neighbor Margo (Cara Delevingne). Paper Towns, based on the 2008 novel by John Green, is the story of Quentin Jacobsen (Nat Wolff) and his unrequited love for the mysterious Margo Roth Spiegelman ( Cara Delevingne).The filmmakers knew going in that it might be judged simply in comparison to last year’s “The Fault in Our Stars,” since both films are based on novels by YA author John Green.

Cara Delevingne, 22, landed a number of high-profile roles including “Suicide Squad” in which she plays Enchantress and the leading part in the big screen adaptation of John Green’s “Paper Towns” and she believed she got the roles because of her talent. Cara Delevingne, a confident tangle of lanky limbs and messy hair, tattoos and ripped black jeans, arched her eyebrows and popped her eyes wide as she excitedly described her habit of filming her meteoric, globe-trotting rise. “Watching Lars Ulrich play a Metallica show from behind the drum kit!

One night, Margo sneaks in through his window (a thing she regularly did before she became the coolest kid in school) and gets Quentin to drive her around town in a mission to exact revenge on her cheating ex-boyfriend. It could have fallen victim to all the limitations of the multiple genres it attempts to blend: The movie is part coming-of-age story, part road-trip comedy, part love story. Nine years after their childhood friendship drifted apart, Margo climbs through Quentin’s window and convinces him to join her on a night of revenge against her cheating boyfriend and her friends who knew about it. Instead, “Paper Towns” smoothly navigates what could have been treacherous waters, emerging as its own film, one that treats teenagers as people and their problems as simply human.

And the studio behind Green obviously has confidence in his stories: the writer recently got a first-look deal with Fox 2000, which is part of 20th Century Fox. Quentin then sets out to look for her after finding a series of clues that she has left behind, embarking on a road trip with his best friends in tow. Quentin (Nat Wolff, who played the blind cancer survivor longing for robot eyes in “TFiOS”) has been neighbors with Margo (British model Cara Delevingne in her first major role) since childhood.

Weber and Scott Neustadter, the screenwriting team behind Fault, adapted Paper Towns and will also adapt the upcoming film version of Green’s first novel Looking For Alaska. One of their adventures brought them face to face with the corpse of a man who committed suicide, a formative experience which the careful Quentin pegs as the moment he and the risk-taking Margo achieved some deep, unbreakable bond.

Green was a force of nature in the young adult book world before “Fault” hit the screen – young adult bestseller lists are still dominated by his work and he hasn’t released a book since “Fault” in 2012. Green, who served as executive producer of the film, has long-since endorsed the changes, acknowledging them in a video on YouTube. “Yes, the Paper Towns movie is like the book but also, you know, it isn’t.” Green said in April. “What I really want from an adaptation is to feel the feelings I felt while reading the book, right?

Just a simple, fun, and straightforward tale that takes you back to those few days before high school graduation, when you begin to lose your grip on the now as the thought of the future finally starts to creep in. The two drifted apart, though, and now, on the brink of graduation, Margo is the It Girl of their high school, while Quentin and his friends (Justice Smith and Austin Abrams, in the film’s best performance) find their safe space in the band room.

Moreover, in Hollywood, where nearly every lead actor, male or female, is also a fashion model — often making far more money on commercial endorsements than cinema — models are regarded with unease, and often for good reason. That’s like showing up to a Cleveland Cavaliers game and watching Lebron James play in the first 3 minutes of the game, and the last 3 minutes of the game. Nat Wolff and the supporting cast are perfectly fine actors, they’re just not given much to do besides act like the most annoying teenagers on Earth. She recalls running into fellow supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley at the Met Ball, shortly after she was cast in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” “She was like, ‘Well, I just kind of got offered it!'” Delevingne recalled on a May afternoon in the lobby of the Mercer Hotel in SoHo. “I love Rosie, but I was like, ‘I would bite someone’s head off to do that!'” In her tryout scene, Quentin (Q for short), the neighbour played by Nat Wolff, confesses that he has loved Margo for years, even though he has primarily observed her escapades from across the street. “You love me?” Margo answers. “You don’t even know me.” Schreier asked Delevingne to deliver that line, but then improvise the rest of the scenario as herself, and the actress’ knowing ad-libbed performance struck such a nerve that both she and Wolff left the audition crying. In the wake of the success of young adult dystopian and fantasy franchises, fewer studios are betting on tales of normal teens, too, making Green’s movies more of an anomaly.

In the book: Margo’s Walt Whitman poster on the back of her curtains leads to a song called Walt Whitman’s Niece, which leads them to highlighted text in the poem “Songs of Myself” in Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which Ben finds wedged between two yearbooks in Margo’s room. It feels familiar yet refreshing to see the tandem of Neustadter and Weber employ a direct, tight plot –as opposed to the non-linear storyline seen in “500”– to forward Green’s simple but poignant message on how there is more to people than the labels or quick impressions we give them. No one is particularly worried — she’s done this sort of thing before — but Quentin, deeply in love in that tormented-teenager way, is convinced she wants him to find her. In high-profile releases, this summer’s teens on screen have included Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” two young adults with superpowers, and Casey Newton of “Tomorrowland,” who travels to a strange world.

It would be cliche to say that “Paper Towns” shows us how life is more about the journey, except the movie embraces this, with its funniest, most moving scenes arriving only once the rubber hits the road. I don’t know if it’s an attempt to add emotional weight to scenes like the one where Radar tells Angela “I’m not afraid of you, I’m afraid of losing you.” WHAT? The easy chemistry between the three boys — plus the two girls (Halston Sage and Jaz Sinclair) who join them along the way — carries the film when everything else starts to drag.

Director Jake Schreier (“Robot & Frank”) and Delevingne neither idealize nor demonize Margo, allowing “Paper Towns” to explore the universal question of why we fall in love with people who are, at times, incredibly selfish. The book centers on teenager Greg, who tries to not draw attention to himself in high school, works on making movies with his friend Earl, and gets to know a peer who was diagnosed with cancer. It is easy to write off “Paper Towns” as cliche or to overlook it considering the sizeable competition from Marvel’s “Ant-Man” and the upcoming “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.” Ultimately, all journeys end. “Paper Towns” is about coming to terms with things that are over — youthful crushes and pop quizzes in English and childhood itself. Her mother, Pandora, is working on a memoir about her long-term heroin addiction. “I went through so much therapy as a kid, and I hated it, and because you get so used to saying the same thing over and over again, it just becomes a story,” she said, adding later: “I always wanted to act, from when I was 4 years old.

It’s about finding that balance between fear and freedom, and its spot-on depiction of that process is what ultimately makes “Paper Towns” a trip worth taking. Another exception is the teen comedy “The DUFF.” The movie, which was released this past February, did okay at the box office but wasn’t well-received by critics. Her rise couldn’t have been more swift or seemingly exuberant, with Karl Lagerfeld calling Delevingne — known for making faces and sticking her tongue out — the “Charlie Chaplin of the fashion world.” Delevingne said the work “was killing my soul.” She developed acute psoriasis, which she attributed to stress and exhaustion. “It’s the lemon effect,” she said, shrugging. “I’ll pick you up, squeeze everything I can out of you and throw you away for the next one.” While modelling, she took an acting course in London with “this Russian man who was a student of a student of Stanislavsky, and it was basically therapy,” she said. Her first screen role, as a princess in “Anna Karenina” (2012), was the equivalent of playing the tree in the school play. “I didn’t speak and spent hours getting into hair and makeup for this big wide shot,” she said. “I got so nervous.

In the movie: We see Radar and other characters using Omnictionary, but there’s no mention of Radar’s involvement, and the shot is so quick that it just looks like Wikipedia. As someone who just watched robots time travel in Terminator Genysis, the most improbable thing I’ve seen in film all year is Margo’s friend Lacey asking Ben to prom.

Radar goes by OMNICTIONARIAN96 and Ben’s reads ITWASAKIDNEYINFECTION, in reference to the “Bloody Ben” nickname he earned from a disturbing kidney infection that left him peeing blood. Delevingne has booked her next lead in Luc Besson’s big-budget science fiction “Valerian” and has recently been playing the supervillain Enchantress in David Ayer’s DC Comics 2016 tent pole “Suicide Squad,” for which she has prepared by silently imagining ways to kill her friends. “I’ll be in a group of people, thinking as this evil, twisted woman, of people exploding, or cutting them up,” she said, curling her lip into a comical snarl, before breaking back into a grin. “It works.” With “Paper Towns,” her romantic life has become a matter of even more intense public scrutiny. She has openly discussed her bisexuality, defended same-sex marriage and spoken about her relationship with musician Annie Clark, who goes by the stage name St. Delevingne, who said she found the protest flattering, although she saw “nothing malicious” in the article itself, said: “My sexuality is not a phase. There’s a scene where the kids make a stop at a gas station and run around like a bad episode of Supermarket Sweep, grabbing snacks while a Radar voice-over goes on and on about how much time they have.

It’s like taking that feeling and turning it on so nothing else matters when you’re looking in another actor’s face.” Delevingne said she hoped to follow in the footsteps of Charlize Theron, who also began her career as a model. “People can put you in whatever box: model, whatever,” she said. “But if I just keep going and actually do it well, which I hope I can, then I hope people will give me more movies — and I’ll win an Oscar!” Quentin grabs large t-shirts for Radar and Ben, which he doesn’t realize until later are sporting the Confederate flag with the words ‘HERITAGE NOT HATE.’ They also get in a car accident, almost hitting some cows, but spin off the road as Ben turns the wheel to save the group.

Having Angela on the trip gave everyone involved a fun opportunity: For Radar to lose his virginity, for the world to meet Jazz Sinclair and for Green to admit he wishes he’d included her on the road trip in the book. They confront her about disappearing; Margo disses Lacey’s choice to date Ben; Margo gets mad at Quentin and the two duke it out over everything, including his idealization of her. Then Margo admits that she’s kept a journal of stories about a fictional version of her 10-year-old self who had a crush on a fictional version of 10-year-old Quentin and she explains her desperation to get away from where she grew up. She’s surprised he found him and calls him out for idealizing her. “You love me?” Margo tells Quentin. “You don’t even know me.” Quentin is disappointed in the reality: Margo tells him she didn’t leave the clues as bread crumbs, but so he would know she was okay.

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