Tagline: One sick love story
Shailene as: Hazel Grace Lancaster
Duration: 121 minutes
Written by: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, John Green (novel)
Directed by: Josh Boone
Other cast: Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Nat Wolff
Release date: June 6, 2014
Production budget: $12m
Total worldwide gross: $307.1m
Filming locations: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Amsterdam, Netherlands
Hazel and Gus are two extraordinary teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them—and us—on an unforgettable journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous, given that they met and fell in love at a cancer support group. The Fault in Our Stars, based upon the number-one bestselling novel by John Green, explores the funny, thrilling and tragic business of being alive and in love.
Hazel: Why stop there? Really, just keep them coming. I’m like the Keith Richards of cancer kids.
Michael: You don’t “take” pot.
Hazel: Well, that is the kind of thing I would know with a fake ID.
Hazel: What, do you think that that’s cool or something? You just ruined this whole thing.
Gus: The whole thing?
Hazel: Yes, this whole thing!
Gus: Oh, man.
Hazel: And you were doing really well, too. God! There’s always a hamartia, isn’t there? And yours is even though you had freaking cancer, you’re willing to give money to a corporation for the chance to acquire even more cancer? Let me just tell you that not being able to breathe sucks! It totally sucks.
Hazel: It’s a fatal flaw.
Hazel: Well, they’re not so much cold as just under-oxygenated.
Gus: Hazel Grace? I love when you talk medical to me.
Gus: Thank you. It’s the first time I’ve ever worn it.
Hazel: That’s not the suit you wear to funerals?
Gus: No. That one is not nearly this nice. When I first got sick, they told me I had an 85 percent chance of being cancer-free. Great odds. But that meant a year of torture, the loss of my leg, and, still, a 15 percent chance it might fail. Just before the surgery, I asked my parents if I could buy a really nice suit.
Hazel: So, it’s your death suit.
Gus: That’s what it is.
Hazel: I have one of those. I got it for my fifteenth birthday. A dress. I don’t necessarily think I’d wear it on a date, though.
Gus: So, we’re on a date?
Hazel: Hey, you watch it.
Hazel: But Van Houten will get it. There are, like, fifty Magritte references in An Imperial Affliction.
Frannie: “This is not a pipe.” But it is a pipe.
Hazel: But it’s not. It is a drawing of a pipe. See? A drawing of a thing is not the thing itself. Nor is a T-shirt of a drawing of a thing, the thing itself.
Hazel: Go fu*k yourself.
Hazel: I don’t think you’re dying, Augustus. You’ve just got a touch of cancer.
Gus: Don’t get mad.
Hazel: I am mad. I’m mad because I think you’re special. And is that not enough? You think that the only way to lead a meaningful life is for everyone to remember you, for everyone to love you. Guess what, Gus. This is your life, okay? This is all you get. You get me, and you get your family, and you get this world, and that’s it. And if that’s not enough for you, then I’m sorry, but it’s not nothing. Because I love you. And I’m gonna remember you.
Quoting: Shailene Woodley
on her character: Hazel is somebody who knows who she is and understands at a young age that life is fleeting and that none of it matters really and that we’re all insignificant. She realizes that to waste your time worrying or stressing about anything, or trying to make a mark on the world is just a waste of time, because there’s no way to guarantee anything. So she lives for the small moments and she appreciates those moments. I think it is a huge thing for someone to understand that at such a young age. I found the character very inspiring. And I really related to her sarcasm and dry wit.
on her passion for the film: It was truly one of the biggest honors of my life to be a part of this project. Both the film and novel explore the most powerful and universal themes. The story taught me that all is fleeting, that nothing is guaranteed, and that however long or short a life you live, it is the small moments that mean the most. I wanted the role so badly I sent John Green a long, long email about how much I loved the book, and how I had to play Hazel. So I sat down with the studio executives and producers and said, ‘I’ll be a P.A. or an extra, just please, please let me be a part of it!’
on the film’s themes: It is a cancer movie that’s not about cancer. It doesn’t focus on death, it celebrates life. We wanted to bring light to a situation that is often looked at in a dark way. Hazel meets Augustus at a support group, and they immediately have a beautiful connection and recognize something in each other. Obviously they are both going through a hard time physically, but they’re both witty and they’re both strong and opinionated. They instantly have an argumentative, combative love affair. I think that is so important in a relationship. They connect because they have a lot of similar beliefs, but they also have a lot of different beliefs and that allows their love to blossom.
on the most challenging scenes: One of them was this eulogy scene and Ansel was sitting there with pale makeup on and even though he was off screen, he was crying with me or he was locked into my eyes, and to have him in that position and to see him in that vulnerable state was really emotional because it felt so real. And the gas station scene where Ansel had to cry and lose himself, I just remember being there for him and that’s something really special about the way we work together, we can both be present for each other.
on filming in Amsterdam: Amsterdam was amazing. I love that city. I think Dutch people are so much fun and so cool and unique; I really enjoyed being there. I had been there before; I went backpacking through Europe when I was 18, right out of high school. But it was great to go around the city with Ansel, because it was his first time there. Amsterdam has an amazing history. Going to the Anne Frank House was fascinating because everything that Anne Frank went though is still happening in the world today.
on the Anne Frank House scenes: For me, in the book, that was one of the most powerful scenes that he described and visually, interpreting it in my own mind, I saw it the way it was written, and then the way that they filmed it in the movie was exactly the same. Anne’s story and Hazel’s story are so synchronistic, in a way—the theme of how you don’t have to live a long life to have a powerful and meaningful one—and Anne Frank had her first kiss in that house, and Hazel did, too. And then having the ability to film there and the history of what those walls held was powerful in those scenes. Hazel’s thinking, “This might be the last time in my life I’m here, and if I have to die going up these stairs, I’ll die going up these stairs.” She’s also thinking, “If Anne Frank did it, I can do it.”
on the script: When there’s a script that’s so perfect and a book that’s so perfect, it was just for me, knowing your lines, showing up on set and actively listening, because the worlds were so truthful, the moments had to naturally unfold.
on preparing for the role: We met with some people who were going through similar things that Gus and Hazel were going through. I had never really spent that much time around people our age — younger, older — who were cancer patients. It was funny cause once we started hanging out quite often we never talked about cancer, we never talked about what that was like, it was more the realization of like ‘Oh wow you are going through what normal 16 year olds are going through: I just kissed my first guy, I just got my period, whatever it is. They are just normal people going through an extreme situation in their lives but who are emotionally feeling the same things that everyone else inherently feels on the planet. […] The only preparation I did was physical, like learning how to talk without a lot of oxygen, because Hazel has trouble breathing. I also learned how to pull around an oxygen tank everywhere. It helped me empathize with Hazel. I realized that to breathe naturally is such a gift. But emotionally, acting is always about learning the lines and then just listening to what the other actors are saying and reacting honestly to whatever they’re doing. It is about authentic listening.
on working with co-star Ansel Elgort: Sometimes when you’re around people who have been on movie sets a lot, people seem to lose the excitement versus the art, and the ability to be on a film set. Ansel came in with these fresh eyes and this beautiful innocence and excitement for what it meant to be making a movie. We instantly connected, and before Fault even came around for him, we struck up a really close friendship and instantaneously became very brother-sister. We have such deep reverence and pride for one another. We’re completely different in almost every way, but are very intrigued by each other’s differences, so when Fault came around, there was a fault in Hazel and Augustus’s stars, but there wasn’t a fault in our stars because we had that deep respect for one another. In real life, I look at him with such admiration and such love, and when you apply that to the rules and regulations of what it is to be in love with somebody, the natural chemistry is able to exist. […] Every single day Ansel looks at the world with a new set of eyes. He is the most creative person I’ve ever met. This dude is a producer. He paints miniatures and wins contests painting miniatures, which is insane. He’s a ballet dancer. He is literally the most creative person.
on working with co-star Laura Dern: She is the best. It was great getting the opportunity to meet her and work with her. Laura is pretty much the same mom with Hazel as she is with her own kids. The character is great. Hazel’s mom doesn’t treat her like a sick kid with cancer. She treats Hazel as a normal teenager going through normal things, who just happens to take pills every few hours. I love the fact that Laura played Frannie as a mom who is supportive of her daughter’s relationship and is supportive of Hazel having great experiences, because she knows that Hazel doesn’t necessarily have that long to experience a lot in life.
Quoting: Cast and Crew
Co-star Ansel Elgort: She’s honest with people, there’s no BS and she’s not fake, she’s a real friend because of that to me. I learned a lot about her because she’s so open. She’s a totally open soul to me and I’m a totally open soul to her. And I learned, especially when seeing the movie, I was like, ‘wow, this girl is an amazing actress!’ […] I’m very glad that so many emotional scenes were with Shailene because she is so emotionally available. We’re so comfortable with each other. It’s sort of like when you cry and your mom gives you a hug and you cry harder, because we’re such good friends, in the scene we can feel the emotion even more because we’re so comfortable with each other.
Director Josh Boone: We read close to 150 actresses for the role, and I saw about 50 of those. Within ten or fifteen seconds of Shailene’s audition, I knew she was Hazel. She held up her script pages and just her eyes were peeking over them. Shailene has these incredible, expressive green eyes, and she could do so much with them. She was emotionally available and creates such nuanced and subtle work. I don’t know how she does it; it’s like some kind of magic. […] Shailene wrote a very long letter to John and she wrote a very long letter to Wyck Godfrey, one of the producers. I didn’t become involved until much much later. So she had wanted the role for quite a while and I love Shailene Woodley. I think she’s one of the best actresses out there. I had seen The Descendants and I thought she was wonderful in The Spectacular Now. She’s just so tall and athletic. There was this moment of hesitation, where it was like, yeah she’s definitely one of the most amazing actresses on the planet, but is she credible as a 16 or 17 year old girl with cancer? So when we went out there and looked at everybody and at the end of the day when I went and met her after I had seen 200 girls and I had not heard Hazel’s voice. I hadn’t heard it. I had heard a lot of good performances, interesting takes, but nobody where it sounded like I heard it in my head when I read it. And I went up to Chicago to meet her. She was shooting Divergent. We had dinner and I walked out and was like, “I love her. She’s so fantastic. I don’t think she’s Hazel.” And then the next morning we went in and she came in to audition and she came into that room and the minute she started doing the metaphor scene when Gus takes out the cigarette and she also did the eulogy scene where she’s in the church. When she started staying those words, she just has the most beautiful expressive eyes and she just was Hazel. And I just looked over at my casting director and was like “Why did I make this so hard on myself?” She was incredible. So I was so happy to have her. And we hired her immediately.
Author John Green: Shailene understands Hazel so deeply. She gives a raw, honest and totally unselfconscious performance. I’m so grateful for what she’s done with the character. […] She sounded like Hazel. She had the cadence that I imagined in my head as I was writing Hazel, which seemed impossible to me. And that continued the entire time we were on set. Every sentence that she said sounded like Hazel to me. She clearly had a deep, innate understanding of this person. The way she breathed. The places she paused. And you know, Hazel is an uncommonly empathetic young person. She’s able to imagine what her parents must be feeling. And I think that came naturally for Shailene. I think that’s a big part of why … I mean, she’s a genius, but it’s also the empathy. And I called them back, and I said, “Is there anything I can do to help make sure she takes the part?” Like, “Should I call her? Who do I need to talk to, to close this deal?”
Claudia Puig, USA Today:
One of the movie’s biggest assets is its spot-on casting. Woodley, so superb in last year’s The Spectacular Now and 2011’s The Descendants, comes across as a fusion of soulful, wickedly funny and vulnerable. Gus says adorably romantic things like, “It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”
Kimber Myers, The Playlist:
Woodley is becoming one of the go-tos for the atypical heroine, and you’ll get no complaints from us. She captures Hazel’s strength and weakness equally well, playing a complicated, imperfect character who is captivating.
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out:
The film’s linchpin is young Shailene Woodley (already the savior of several iffy projects, including Divergent), an actor whose effortless way with real-girlness and soft, exhausted voice turns her oxygen-tank-rolling Hazel into a fully fleshed-out teenage creation.
Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal:
It is Ms. Woodley’s movie at almost every moment she’s on camera. She has the precious gift of simplicity, whether she’s observing the people around her with a cool eye or filling the screen with a warmth that seems to come naturally. Others in the cast work at being winning; she wins by seeming to be herself. This young actress is the real, heart-piercing thing.
Richard Corliss, Time:
Woodley, who graduated from supporting roles (George Clooney’s rebellious daughter in The Descendants) and indie leads (the bookworm in The Spectacular Now) to her own YA movie franchise (Divergent), has the gift of acting internally: she makes you watch her watch something, lets you read the mind of her character like a good book. Often photographed in dermatological closeup, Woodley’s face is its own engrossing movie — an autumnal symphony of darker and lighter browns. She makes Hazel the ideal narrator and receptive audience to Augustus’ agreeable showmanship.
Tom Shone, The Guardian:
This is probably the role that will seal it for Woodley, who, since first drawing praise in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, has proven a shy performer – helpless in the face of a direct compliment, those eyes wide like a deer, her lines readings always diminishing in volume, as if she’s fading right in front of you.
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone:
It’s a fresh, lively love story, brimming with humor and heartbreak, and lifted to the heights by Shailene Woodley, 22, a sublime actress with a résumé, from The Descendants to Divergent, that pretty much proves she’s incapable of making a false move on camera.
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle:
Woodley starts slow, in what seems like a largely reactive role, but as the movie wears on, her performance deepens. At times, she has a quality of looking like both a young girl and an old lady, as if she has crammed a lifetime’s worth of maturity into just a few years. In a key scene, she has a speech, in which she tells Augustus everything he means to her, which she does with such simplicity and a fullness of feeling that it’s wondrous. There’s no minimizing that: It’s a beautiful moment.
Awards and Nominations
Below is a list of all accolades Shailene has received for her role in the film.
NOMINATED: MTV Movie Awards – Best Duo (with Ansel Elgort)
NOMINATED: People’s Choice Awards – Favorite Dramatic Movie Actress
NOMINATED: People’s Choice Awards – Favorite Movie Duo (with Ansel Elgort)
NOMINATED: Young Hollywood Awards – Fan Favorite Actor (Female)
WON: Hollywood Film Awards – Best Breakout Performance: Actress
WON: MTV Movie Awards – Best Female Performance
WON: Teen Choice Awards – Choice Movie: Chemistry (with Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff)
WON: Teen Choice Awards – Choice Movie Actress: Drama