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“The Fault in Our Stars” Cast (plus John Green) Talk about Bad Driving, First Love, Auditions, Cutting Hair, Inspiration for the Book, and More

Paige Solomon ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor

John Green, Ansel Elgort, Shailene Woodley and Nat Wolff at The Fault In Our Stars Q&A in Dallas, TX. Photo Credit: Tumblr.
John Green, Ansel Elgort, Shailene Woodley and Nat Wolff of The Fault In Our Stars. Photo Credit: Tumblr.

The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. On Friday, May 10, the cast of The Fault in Our Stars joined an audience of 3,000 fans at Gilley’s Dallas to answer questions about the movie and each other.

The night started off with a special ten-minute clip that John Green brought specially for the fans, which brought to life some of the most talked about scenes from the book. Some of the scenes included the metaphor scene between Gus and Hazel, the car-egging scene with Isaac, Gus, and Hazel, and the scene where Gus shares his unused Wish with Hazel Grace to go to Amsterdam.

After the clip, Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, and John Green took to the stage where Shailene sported a tiny cowboy hat and sang, “These Boots are Made for Walkin’,” which received a Texas sized welcome. Throughout the night, the cast danced, joked, cried, and answered some of the most buzzed about questions surrounding the film from fans in the audience, on Twitter, and from Popsugar.

Q: From Summer (Mansfield, TX): Your character is enamored with this idea with wanting to be remembered for something. So in your real life, if there was one thing you could be remembered for, what would it be?

Ansel Elgort: First, I want to say the lesson that Gus learns in the movie, which is that you don’t have to be remembered because at one point in time, as Hazel Grace perfectly put, oblivion is inevitable. So, I mean I think I just want to be remembered by my friends and my family, and the people who care about me as being someone who is creative and excited about learning new things and trying new things and just loving life.

Q: From Popsugar: What scene are you most excited for the fans to see?

John Green: I am so excited about the car scene.

Shailene Woodley: Gas station car scene or driving car scene?

JG: So you guys are not going to enjoy the gas station scene.

AE: You guys just saw the egg-throwing scene. That was pretty cool, right?

SW: I’m excited for everyone to see the Van Houten scene because that is a really epic moment in the book and Willem Dafoe killed it.

JG: Willem Dafoe was amazing! I’m also excited for people, finally, to hear the Swedish hip-hop that America deserves to know.

SW: Oh, it’s so good.

Q: From Promise (Garland, TX): In TFIOS, you describe that Imperial Affliction doesn’t have a proper ending. You explain that it ends mid-sentence. Have you ever considered ending The Fault in Our Stars in that manner? Like have everyone guess what happens afterwards?

JG: That’s a great question, and uh, yes I did think about it. Well, I mean I thought it would be very clever and I like to be very clever.

The crowd begins to cheer. John looks around, confused as to why everybody is cheering.

SW: I think Nat waved.

JG: Nat, what did I tell you about waving at people? Don’t wave at people.

Nat Wolff: I’m just standing here.

Nat then waves at the crowd, sending them into a craze. John Green laughs and continues to answer the question.

JG: So in the end, I thought about it, and I think I agree with Augustus that that violates the contract between reader and writer. Now a lot of people will say that like why didn’t we find out what happens to Hazel or what happens to Hazel’s mom? You have to end a book somewhere or else every book would end with the extinction of the human species. So I chose to end it where I could, but I tried to give it enough of an ending that I wouldn’t violate that contract between us, ya know?

Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in The Fault in Our Stars. Photo Credit: James Bridges/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in The Fault in Our Stars. Photo Credit: James Bridges/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Q: From Twitter: What did making the movie teach each and every one of you?

AE: Well, I mean like making the movie kind of taught me how to be an adult because like I was 19 when I was making it. It was like one of my first times out of my house living without my mom and dad so it was sorta like how do I do like laundry and stuff?

JG: Ansel learned how to shave. He literally learned how to drive.

SW: Literally!

AE: That was a little scary.

SW: It was really scary at first.

NW: Don’t get in a car with Ansel!

JG: Gus is such a bad driver, and that’s why we picked Ansel for the part. He just had it. He had that bad driver magic. Ya know what I learned, I kind of went into this process pretty nervous that they were going to make a movie that didn’t honor the book. That it was going to be exploitative and that it was going to be sentimentalized, which are all the things I did not want the movie to be. And what I learned is that when a group of really passionate people come together, they can do things that one person alone can’t do. So I see the process of making a movie as the process of watering down the story as more and more collaborators venture into it, but for The Fault in Our Stars it was a process of more and more collaborators venturing into it and the movie becoming better and better and better. I am just so grateful to them for their talents and for sharing their talents with this little story.

Q: From Sarah (Shreveport, LA): Since Issac is more of the comic relief in the story, how is it to walk the line between comical and silly?

NW: That is a really great question. Um, for me the hardest part about playing Isaac was that I was worried. He was so funny in the book that I didn’t want him to be a joke, ya know? I met with a real blind guy named Ethan and he really helped me out, and I realized he was really angry and in pain from going blind, and he really did get dumped when he was 19 by a girl, just like Isaac. But he was super funny. He was really funny and he had this cynical edge to him. That’s the key to the character, is that I want him to be a really funny character, not a joke. It makes it way easier to be good when your working with unbelievable actors like these two. It could not be lovelier working with these two. I’m not just saying that. I feel like I’m going to cry. This is our last stop on the tour. I love these people so much. And I love John so much. Working with material like The Fault in Our Stars, it can’t get better than that. Unbelievable. Thank you guys so much for coming out here.

Q: From Abby (South Lake, TX): This is for John Green. As a male, how do you write a story from a teenage female’s perspective?

JG: Well, I mean, it’s also weird for me as an old man to write from a teenagers perspective of any kind because I don’t know what kind of music you guys listen to. Like The Fault in Our Stars soundtrack just came out and I was so excited, and like no offense to any of those people because sure I love the soundtrack, I think it’s awesome, but I’d never heard of any of them. I have no idea what music you listen to. I only listen to one band, they’re called The Mountain Goats. They’re great. They make all the music I want to listen to and then sometimes I listen to my brother, sometimes I listen to Nat, Nat and Alex. Sometimes I listen to music with Ansolo [Ansel], sometimes I listen to Shailene singing “These Boots were Made for Walking”. That’s all I need. But yea, I don’t know the slang that you all use or anything. So in writing, I’m imagining the emotional experiences.

Shailene places her cowboy hat on Ansel’s head.

JG: That hat was made for a man with your head width. So when it came to writing Hazel, when I thought about abstractly writing from a girl’s perspective, I was like aww I kind of hated it, but when I got really deep into the writing from Hazel’s perspective, then it was fine because Hazel was just one particular person and I wasn’t trying to make broad sweeping statements about, ya know, what it means to be 16 in 2014 because I don’t know. But I did feel like I could write from Hazel’s perspective.

Ansel puts the cowboy hat on John’s head.

NW: Ya know, there are a lot of times that John just reminds me of a 16-year-old girl. Do you agree?

JG: Uhh yea, I mean in a lot of ways. I will say that there is no joking with being a 16-year-old girl while I have this tiny hat on my head. The thing that I love about teenagers the most is that they are able to experience emotion without irony and without like trying to protect themselves from it. They have authentic emotional experiences. I know this sounds ridiculous from me with a tiny hat on my head, but I love that. I love that they are falling in love for the first time, and it’s intense and it’s real and even when adults don’t acknowledge its realness or acknowledge that it matters, it does matter. And I love that they are grappling with questions like what the meaning of life is, and why we suffer and all that stuff they are doing without irony and without fear and with great openness. And in that way, I am a 16-year-old girl. Also I like the smell of lavender.

John puts the hat on Nat’s head.

NW: We’re going to get lice.

Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in The Fault in Our Stars. Photo Credit: James Bridges/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in The Fault in Our Stars. Photo Credit: James Bridges/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Q: From Twitter: What is your favorite quality about each other? This is for Shailene and Ansel.

Ansel grabs Shailene’s hand and spins her. They dance together for a second and then end their dance with a hug.

SW: Ansel is an amazing dancer.

AE: I’m not dancing again.

SW: Okay, I’ll go first. Ansel is the most, single-handedly the most artistic person I know. As soon as I feel like I know all of the things he does, he just whips out another creative process and blows me away. He paints those tiny miniature things and they are better than any you could find in any toy store. It’s insane. He also is one of the best singers. He sounds like James White if you know who that is. And uh, Ansel enters a room with wide eyes and a more authentic sense of enthusiasm than almost anyone I’ve ever met in my life. I love complimenting him to his face. When he walks into a room, he lights it up simply by being himself because he opens his eyes to the world and he’s so excited to learn and he’s so curious and he’ll never stop learning. You teach my everyday buddy.

AE: I always blush when I’m around Shailene. She is so unique. She is always herself. She doesn’t let anyone bring her down. She doesn’t let anyone tell her who she is, that’s really unique. And she’s such a powerful woman for that. She always inspires me to try new things and do new things, and it always seems like its okay to try new things and I’m never scared when Shailene’s the one showing me that. And she’s always happy and she always wants to go on an adventure. So who could find a better friend?

SW: We make a pretty good team.

JG: Let me tell you my favorite thing about you, Nat.

NW: It’s something about your body that I love.

JG: Since it’s our last night on tour, and I rarely get a chance talking in front of like 4,000 people, this is probably the last time. So Nat and I have been interviewed together ten million times in the last four days and Nat’s gonna star in Paper Towns. And I am just so excited to get to spend a few more months with the funniest person I think I’ve ever been friends with. It’s so fun. Can I tell you my favorite thing about Shailene? Shailene is more, Ansel said this but I’m going to repeat it, Shailene is more herself than anyone I’ve ever known. It is hard when there are so many people in your life screaming nice things to you. It is really, really hard to hold onto your sense of yourself and you might feel weird about it. Shai is so deeply open to loving others and to accepting their love, and that’s been a huge inspiration to me and our friendship. So I love her very much and I am so, so grateful that she is my Hazel. And my Ansel, my beloved Gus, my dear, dear friend, my beautiful, awesome, supremely talented friend. He is an absolute revelation in this movie and he will blow you away because he is a very good break-dancer.

Nat begins to beat box while Ansel breakdances—spinning on the floor and doing the worm with his upper body.

JG: Anyway, our friendship is completely fake. It’s just for the camera.

Q: From Caroline (Argyle, TX): I read The Fault in Our Stars before I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in January, and afterwards, the story took on an even greater meaning to me. How do you hope this story affects those who are struggling with cancer and are trying to find the beauty in living again?

John Green walks over to Caroline and hugs her, and Shailene, Nat, and Ansel follow. They all hug her as she starts to cry. Shailene hugs her a little longer before giving her the cowboy hat.

JG: So what I’d say in answer to that is that the most important thing about the story to me is that no one walk on egg shells around you, because being sick can be so socially isolating so you are dealing with this physical illness, but at the same time you are dealing with people that are really uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say to you, they don’t know how to ask and that’s really, really hard. It makes it harder. My hope is, that through the story and through other stories like it, people will see that people who are living with illness are people. They aren’t fundamentally different from other people.

SW: It doesn’t define you.

JG: It’s just this meaningful, invaluable and full of love and hope and joy and fear and anger and all this stuff that everyone else feels, and your disease has not in any way changed that. It hasn’t taken any of that away from you and it never can.

Q: From Renee: How was your experience on set affected by the presence of the lovely John Green?

SW: We’re gonna be here for five more hours because we have a lot to say.

AE: He was so important to me in figuring out who Gus was just because John Green in my opinion is sort of Gus.

JG: But less hot.

SW: Oh come on now John.

AE: But no, his wit, his intelligence, the way he cares for others, I really saw Gus in John and he really helped me understand who Gus was just by hanging out with him. I think if John hadn’t been on set, I would’ve had a much harder time bringing Gus to life. So I always thank him for it, but in front of thousands of people its official.

SW: For me, John Green is single-handedly, other than my mom, actually my mom is pretty much like this as well, but other than her you are the most empathetic, compassionate, I’ve told you all of this before but compassionate person I’ve ever met in my life. When John looks at you he doesn’t just see you and he doesn’t just hear you, he’s there with you. He shares the same soul with you for a minute because he is looking dead into your soul and your spirit and he is giving you everything. And then when you respond he absorbs it and he responds again. I’ve never met a human being who has the capacity to do that. Even right now, the way you are looking at me. You are so with me right now. That sincerity, I’ve learned so much from him. Sometimes when I’m listening to somebody I’m like I’m listening to you but I have no idea what you are saying and I think a lot of us do that, and I have never felt like that with you and I’ve never observed you do that with anyone else. And also you’re so brilliant in your ability to be there for other people is completely out of this world. You teach me something each and every day whether I’m around you or not.

JG: This is great. This is just like the movie, we are all crying.

NW: I really do feel like John is one of my best friends, and I really feel like in the last year I’ve gotten an education from being around him. Just like these guys. And I really love these three people.

SW: You also do so much. It kind of boggles my mind. I’m like how do you even have time to brush your teeth because you do so much.

Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in The Fault in Our Stars. Photo Credit: James Bridges/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in The Fault in Our Stars. Photo Credit: James Bridges/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Q: From Katherine (Prairie View, TX): While auditioning for Hazel, what did you do to stand out to the casting director?

JG: I can answer that, too. She did two scenes. The scene I saw first was the eulogy-some infinites are bigger than others. She was like I’d seen that eulogy performed by many hundreds of very talented actresses, but four words into it I was like I can’t believe I replied to that email months ago from Shailene Woodley saying that is very nice but I’m not a casting director and I was like Oh God. What do we have to do? So I called the producer, it was just so beautiful. She sounded like Hazel. I mean she was Hazel. She had become Hazel for me immediately and has been a visual manifestation of Hazel for me ever since. Without fail, everything that she has said. She even had the pattern of speech down like I had it in my mind. Like almost a supernatural ability to understand this person that I had imagined. The most amazing thing to me was what was happening in her eyes when she wasn’t talking. Like the little pauses when she was gathering herself. Her eyes were doing what the book was trying to do with words. It’s weird. I don’t know how you do that. She’s got weird, talented, crazy eyes. I watched the audition and I called the producer of the movie and was like what do we have to do to get her to do it? Should I call her? Should I go to her house? And he was like, don’t do any of those things.

Q: From Sabrina (McKinney, TX): Society puts a lot of emphasis on women and their hair. How hard was it for you to cut all of your hair off?

SW: Aw man, I love this question. I, for a long time, had really long hair because of my Native American roots and I thought it was this cool sort of strength for women to have long hair and grow it out. According to Native American tradition, hair is a symbol of strength and power and a commitment to self and so for a long time that’s why I never cut my hair and then this opportunity came about and it was so beautiful for me and I was like wow I’m being selfish hogging all this hair. And the fun thing about hair is that most of the time, if your lucky, it grows back, which is kind of funny that it has the ability to do that. So I thought it would be really neat to cut my hair and to give it to somebody who maybe didn’t have the ability to grow it back. But the super cool thing, which if you haven heard about this yet maybe I would ask you to consider today, is we started this thing called Hair for Hazel which basically we sent out through social media encouraging others around I guess the world, social media is crazy that way, around the world to do the same thing. It was really liberating for me and now I’ll never have long hair again because it’s so much fun to have short hair. But if you do have long hair and you don’t feel that attached to it and you want to go on a little hair adventure, cut it off and donate it to some amazing place.

Q: From Deedee (Dripping Springs, TX): What was the process that you had to go through to play someone with cancer, knowing that you’d never gone through something like that before?

SW: For me, it wasn’t that hard because I don’t believe that cancer defines a person. So I wasn’t playing a 16 year-old who had cancer, I was playing a 16 year old who was falling in love for the first time and who was going through the process of kissing a guy and going to Amsterdam with him and dealing with loss and grief and excitement and adventure and all of these things that we all go through in that beautiful time at that age. Then I met with some people who have something similar to what Hazel had, just to bring the physicality of what it would be like to breathe with oxygen or have to breathe with oxygen. But other than the physical aspects of what Hazel had, I completely disregarded it because again it doesn’t define who you are and so that was sort of my process.

Q: From Daniella (The Woodlands, TX): Hazel picks Amsterdam as her destination of choice. Where do you think Ansel, or Nat, or Shailene, or even John would want to go and why do you think so?

SW: Ansel would be in like Ibiza or somewhere where there is a lot of electric dance music.

AE: That’s totally right.

JG: For me, I think Shailene would probably live in a cave in El Salvador but I think she’d go on a sailboat between Hawaiian islands.

SW: That’s a pretty fair assessment.

JG: With Ansel, I agree. Some kind of cool EDM, did I say that right? Some kind of cool EDM, three-day concert, but where you can also stay so your not camping out with a fairly nice hotel. And with Nat…

NW: John’s house.

JG: Yea, my house. And I think for me, also my house. That’s my favorite place because that’s where my kids hang out.

Q: From Twitter– Cancer is a very tough subject, so we wanted to know what inspired you to write the book?

JG: I was good friends with a woman named Esther Earl. [The crowd cheers for several seconds] That’s great. You guys should not feel weird about cheering for Esther, that’s awesome. I was really good friends with this girl named Esther who was a really important part of our community and when she died of cancer she was 16 in 2010. I was heartbroken. I was devastated and I was also kind of brought back to a lot of the anger that I’ve had many years before when I worked as a student chaplain at a children’s hospital in Ohio and I couldn’t not write the story anymore. I couldn’t not write about the people I had known and cared about as I’d known about them and cared about them. People who were complex and had rich lives and short lives that were so meaningful, short lives that were still good lives and I wanted to try to show them, as Shailene and Ansel and Nat have all talked about, as people that are not defined by their disabilities. People who are not equivalent to their disability. Disabilities are apart of their lives, it’s apart of a lot of our lives, but it’s not the only thing that’s happening in a disabled person’s life.

Make sure to check out The Fault in our Stars, which hits theaters June 6, and look out for Nat Wolff in the movie adaptation of Paper Towns, set to come to theaters in 2015.

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