Genre: Romance/Drama
Premise: (from IMDB) A cancer-stricken teenager falls in love with a young man who inspires her to seek answers about a mystery she’s been dying to figure out.
About: You gotta give it to Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber. These guys have found their niche, and they’re pretty darn good at it. That’s really all you can ask for as a professional screenwriter, to be the ‘go-to’ guys in a particular genre. Starting with 500 Days of Summer, about the realities of relationships, they moved to The Spectacular Now, which was about alcoholism, then this, which is about cancer, and next will be a another high school movie, about suicide. Young demo fare that has a little extra kick to it. And “Stars” looks like it’s going to be their biggest hit to date. As I noted in my newsletter, the book the script is based on has over 15,000 reviews on Amazon. The Holy Bible has 11,000 reviews. Hallelujah, John Green.
Writers: Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (based on the novel by John Green)
Details: 115 pages (second draft – June 11, 2012)


How this freaking screenplay got me, I have no idea. I went into this fully expecting to hate it. Cancer never works in movie form. It just doesn’t. It’s too depressing. I think that’s why it took people so long to jump on the Breaking Bad bandwagon. They had to hear from at least 5 people that it was an awesome show before they finally, begrudgingly said, “Okay! I’ll watch your freaking cancer show!”

The number of cancer scripts that are written despite this is staggeringly high. People like to write about cancer! There were like 8 Black List scripts covering the C word last year. I think it’s because writers assume their script is “deep” if it’s about cancer. Their script is going to be taken seriously because it’s, like, tackling serious stuff ‘n shit.

This always backfires though. That’s because cancer is, almost by definition, melodramatic. And nearly every one of these movies hits a tired formula: A guy hates his life, meets a cancer chick. She shows him how to live every day to its fullest. Then the cancer hits her hard. Man Cry. Then she dies. But it’s okay because he’s learned something from her. Ahhh! Kill me now (no pun intended). That’s what I thought I was up for here.

But damn you, novelist John Green. You got me. You got me good.

16 year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster has had cancer since she was 13. Luckily, one of the 1 in a million experimental drugs worked on her and is currently keeping her cancer at bay. The problem is, the cancer has decimated her lungs and she requires oxygen tanks wherever she goes or else she faints.

Hazel has a pretty good attitude about the whole thing, but it isn’t until she meets Augustus that she realizes how much better it can be. Augustus comes to a cancer support group to support his buddy Isaac, and that’s where he sees Hazel and instantly falls in love with her.

Augustus is no stranger to this ugly disease though. He once had cancer himself and they ended up having to chop his leg off in the process. Now if you’re anything like me, you’re looking at this and going, “Who the f*ck doesn’t have cancer in this story? Does the dog have cancer?  Does the goldfish have cancer?” Guys, I don’t know how they did it. But despite all the coincidences, they somehow make all of this feel natural. And while it was never specifically stated that the goldfish didn’t have cancer, I’m pretty sure he’s cancer-free.

After getting to know each other, Hazel and Gus get onto the topic of their favorite books. Whereas Augustus, being a 17 year old guy, loves the adapted novella of his favorite video game, Hazel likes some obscure book about a girl dying with cancer. Augustus rolls his eyes at this. Really?? But she insists it’s good. And when he reads it, he agrees, except for the ending, which ends in mid-sentence! Since it’s from the point of view of the girl, it ends when her life ends.

He’s furious and desperate to know what happened to all the other characters. She says it’s pointless. She’s written to the author numerous times but he lives in Amsterdam and is a recluse. Augustus is one determined dude though, and somehow gets through to the guy. When the author invites them to his home, Hazel is floating on air. She gets to go to another country with a guy she’s falling in love with AND get the answers to her favorite novel of all time from the author himself!

However, as you might expect, the trip to Amsterdam doesn’t go as planned, and it gets even worse when they come back. Something truly shocking throws Hazel’s life into disarray. And it’s not that her cancer’s back. It’s much worse.


(huge spoilers to follow) When you look at The Fault In Our Stars from the outside, there’s no way it should have worked. It’s a story about two people with cancer falling in love. There are more schlocky melodrama pitfalls in that idea than any other story idea I can come up with. I mean it’s bad enough that ONE person has cancer. But two???

But here’s how John Green and the Neustadter/Weber team got it right. They focus on making these characters “people” first. They strip away the cancer and ask who they are. What they like, what they hate, what they fear, what they dream, their personalities (basically the exact opposite of what Godzilla did with any of its characters).

I think that’s where everybody gets it wrong with cancer stories. They try and define the characters by their cancer, which is not only depressing, but disingenuous. These people had lives before they got diagnosed, and by seeing that, we start to connect with them like we would connect with any character.

Hazel and Augustus are fun. They don’t sit around and discuss how shitty their lives have been. They laugh. They joke around. They enjoy each others’ company.

Also, The Fault In Our Stars did something really clever. They created an actual story here. We have a mystery and a big goal for our characters (get in touch with the author and find out what happened at the end of that book). Sure, we could’ve watched these misfits fall for each other within the confines of a high school that ostracizes them. I’m sure there’s a story there somewhere. But the book goal made this feel bigger. It gave the story a sense of adventure.

I also learned something really powerful while reading this script. When you’re dealing with these really overly-emotional subjects (it doesn’t have to just be cancer – it can be depression, suicide, addiction, whatever), the best way to do it is to make the reader laugh at first. And make them laugh for awhile.

The first half of “Stars” is a lot of fun. And we love that because we go into this expecting the opposite – a lot of “the cancer is back” lines or really depressing trips to the hospital. “Stars” just shows these two characters having fun and falling in love, ingeniously baiting us into a false sense of security.

Then, when we get to the final act, and you DO start bringing out all the heavy-handed stuff, you’ve got us so far wrapped around your finger that it works. These are things (the cancer being back) that would never work if you heavy-handedly dropped them into the first act. They only work once you’ve made us feel good for a really long time.

About the only thing I didn’t love in “The Fault In Our Stars” is when they met Van Houten (the author) in Amsterdam. This is always a tricky screenwriting thing to pull off. You’ve built the whole story up to this meeting. And you can’t just give the characters what they want. You can’t have them walk in there and the author go, “Oh yeah, this is what happened in the novel.” That would be too easy. There’s no conflict in that, no drama.

So I get why Green had the author be a jerk. But for me, it was too much. It wasn’t just the opposite of what we were expecting, it was the EXTREME opposite, and whenever you use extremes in writing, you’re treading on dangerous waters because you risk the reader seeing through the illusion.

With that said, Green redeemed himself with the author’s surprise reappearance at the ending. It’s a testament to how good of a writer he is. Even with the character I hated most, he still arced him, still changed him, allowing me to feel better about how he treated our protagonists earlier.

The Fault In Our Stars is one hell of a miracle. It manages to find the humanity in a story that’s so often oversaturated with drama. The character work here is great. The story is really really good. I did not expect this at all. But this was a really good script.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Undercut dark moments with unexpected humor. This is the best way to write these types of movies. The audience is expecting lots of depressing talk, so you can have fun with that and play with their expectations. At one point, Hazel is in her back yard, on the phone with Augustus, and everything just sort of hits her at once. The doctors won’t let her go to Amsterdam. She’s got another test tomorrow. Her father is depressed. She’s staring out at this swing set that her father made her when she was a little girl, when she didn’t have cancer and there was actual hope in the world. It’s so depressing. So how does Augustus respond to this? Does he go into some deep monologue about the philosophical meaning of life and all that dreck. No. He pauses and then says, “I demand to see this swing set of tears.” He later comes over. The two agree they have to get rid of this depressing ass swing set and sell it on Craigslist. With these movies, you can’t strangle us with insufferable depression. You have to have fun. And this is a great way to do it.

  • astranger2

    Very nice, Carson…

  • Shaun Snyder

    I read the book, and like you Carson, I was worried at first that I would be walking into melodramatic, Nicholas-Sparksish territory. I was surprised to find out, then, that there was no melodrama, and I completely fell in love with the characters. I’m glad to hear that the script was great, too!

  • Midnight Luck

    Well there have been quite a few really good Cancer movies.

    Terms of Endearment
    My Sister’s Keeper

    I even liked that Nicholas Sparks movie A Walk to Remember (please shoot me)
    and Bucket List (but then I am a Nicholson, Freeman and Rob Reiner fan too)

    They can be done without all the schlocky stuff. (A Walk to Remember excluded)

    • astranger2

      “My Sister’s Keeper” was a little too chilling for me. (Especially since I have a close friend who lost a son to cancer, and whose family was deeply involved in stem-cell research and their possible ramifications.) — I thought about deleting that paragraph since it seems too somber for this board, but then thought this is what Carson’s article is about. Sort of.

      Since my friend actually works as a producer, I remember wanting to discuss how differently the film and book ended. Of course, I was supremely insensitive, and it wasn’t a topic he wished to discuss. Growing live stem cells is not the same as raising an in vitro “Frankenstein” child from which to harvest organs.

      Reminds me of the famous Einstein quote: “It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.” Like Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun” — “My Sister’s Keeper” is indelibly etched in my mind. And, in my mind anyway, that Cameron Diaz character will always be more hideous than Mary Shelley’s creation…

      • Midnight Luck

        So sorry to hear about your friend and their son. Life is rough for sure.

        I really liked My Sister’s Keeper. It was out there, it was dark, it was harsh. Like I have said before, I am a dark soul, and I am a realist. I know the world is tough, I have lived it. I enjoy deep stories that touch those truths, that don’t pretend everything is pretty and wonderful.
        I was not a Disney child. I wanted something dark and nasty. I had read every Stephen King book by the time I was 12, and there were a lot. I loved Nightmare on Elm Street (the first one). My teachers were worried about me because I did art and drew a lot of Freddy Krueger and dead bodies and dark scenes.

        I liked what they did with the family in Keeper. You could understand aspects of everyones actions and reactions. Every point of view made sense on different levels. I thought it was beautifully done.

        good Einstein quote, I agree 100%. Especially in America it seems we have no Humanity left, it is all about getting paid, Showing me the Money.

        • astranger2

          I suppose from an “entertainment” aspect My Sister’s Keeper definitely did its job. And I liked it initially until I discovered it wasn’t a true story – for some reason the author “creating” this matronly monster torqued my chain.

          The idea of a mother having a child for the sole purpose of harvesting her organs seemed grislier than anything Leatherface would do. If you think about it, Dr. Frankenstein actually took spare body parts and created a being. Cameron Diaz was reversing the process. I’m telling ya, suburban soccer moms are the worst.

          I don’t know if you’re familiar with Johnny Got His Gun, but the premise is a soldier is blown apart in WWI, leaving him “alive”, but a quadruple amputee without ears, eyes, or a nose. The doctors
          think he’s brain dead and go Josef Mengele on him.

          Eventually, however, he communicates to a Jennifer Agutter-type nurse in Morse code that he’s a sentient being. (Of course the doctors initially argue with her that it’s just a nervous reflex.) He
          tells the nurse, by tapping his eyeless head, that all he wants is to be laid out in the sun so at least he can feel the fresh air and sun on his skin – or be put to sleep.

          The doctors, however, had unwittingly performed all these procedures on him, and don’t want their handiwork
          showcased. No merit badges for what they’ve done… and before the nurse can euthanize him, they do what he feared the most. Shove him into a dark, dank room without light or warmth.

          The film is noted for being an anti-war film, but I always thought it just an anti-human film. How can man treat his fellow man this way? (I know it’s fiction — but not like our government hasn’t performed their share of atrocities on the indigent minorities – the LSD and syphilis experiments not that long ago are well-documented realities…)

          I’m not saying My Sister’s Keeper wasn’t moving – I’m actually saying it’s too moving. You didn’t think the Cameron Diaz character was insanely cruel? She made Mary Tyler Moore from
          Ordinary People look like Mary Poppins.

          To know the ONLY REASON YOU WERE BORN is to serve as some kind of biological Auto Zone as a replacement part center
          for the Cadillac daughter? Tell me that girl won’t spend years
          either on the pipe or the couch.

          The novel ended drastically different. In the book, the attorney and younger daughter get into a head on collision, and because he has power of attorney over her organs, he uses it for a transplant to save the older daughter.

          My friend’s oldest daughter actually came down with leukemia prior to their son’s passing. His family has been in and out of hospitals and McDonald’s Foundations for decades. But to he and his wife’s credit, they have always been steadfastly resilient, and charitable. They may be the only real Christians I know. They aren’t the weekend worshipper types. It gives me hope for the rest of us…

          I’m not worried about you, M… Coincidentally, I was watching the end of Carrie when I ready your response. No matter how many buckets of pig blood society may try to dump on you – you’ll
          push on. Anyone that loves Stephen King characters, Freddie, Jason, and all those other misanthropic misunderstood misfits… AND rom-coms… well, that means you have a true heart, and are one of those that are gonna eventually lead us all out of the darkness… with an Oscar-winning screenplay… ; v )

    • witwoud

      Here’s another: ONE TRUE THING with Meryl Streep and Renee Zellweger. It’s that rare thing, a weepy without an ounce of sentimentality.

      • Midnight Luck

        I don’t believe I’ve seen that one amazingly. I’ll have to check it out, though I may have just forgotten it. Thanks for the callout.

    • Randy Williams

      I think you have to write cancer movies differently these days as you would an AIDS story. There is so much more confidence now, especially in young people glued to their smartphones in what science and technology can do and does do for us.

      Unfortunately, if you are a man, nature has seen fit to inscribe prostate cancer in us, and no matter how long you live, unless there is some gigantic breakthrough, if nothing else takes you, IT will.

      • Midnight Luck

        I agree about being particular in how you write these stories. The increase in Cancer has skyrocketed. So you have to be very cautious with how people will react to what you are writing. I thought 50/50 was just beautifully done. And to know the writer and friend of Seth Rogen actually went through it, was just heartbreaking. Luckily he is still alive.

        I can’t imagine writing an Aids story in the late 80’s early 90’s. It still amazes me that Philadelphia got made with such big players and did so well.

        Well I have strong feelings about things like Prostate and Breast Cancer (along with all the others, but those are biggies), however it is its own conversation. People already have strong feelings about my way of talking about scripts, well, health, nutrition, disease, I would find it hard to voice my opinion here as, well, a crazy fight might break out. Words, chairs, and typewriters might get thrown. So, maybe outside of SS I would talk about it.

        My Grandfather died of Cancer, he was 87. Something has to take us all. He had a pretty good life, smoked when he was younger, was in WWII, caught shrapnel from a shell in his knee that tore it to shreds. Had to have it put back together. I think he got some heavy metal poisoning from the shell pieces in his leg. Anyhow he had a triple bypass heart surgery at 60 I believe. Had all kinds of various issues, had the beginnings of Polio, but overcame it. Anyhow, long story short, he went through a lot. So 87 and dying of Cancer wasn’t too bad. So, his Cancer started in his leg where he caught the shrapnel, then it spread everywhere quickly. They could never figure out what caused it, or what kind it was until it hit his lymph nodes and exploded across everything in his body. Anyhow, I believe it was toxins / heavy metal burden years later. Poisons from breathing during the war, poisons from the junk in his leg, age, etc and his body couldn’t fight it anymore. We ingest so many poisons nowadays with all the industry dumping stuff in the water and air. With pesticides covering and inside our food, GMO’s, the list goes on forever and we barely even know the tip of it.

        Ok I’ll stop. Sorry for the book.

  • koicvjr

    Carson, you’re always going on about cancer not being such great content for a script. But any content can be good. It’s not the content, it’s how it’s structured. Because cancer affects almost everybody. It’s a reality of life. Yes, people want to escape from the negative aspects of their life and be entertained. But we want to escape to a world they we connect with. Cancer is a reality. We want to be able to take something negative like cancer and find hope in it. 50-50 is great example of a good movie dealing with cancer.

    Furthermore, we can’t keep going on about structure in the same way. It’s not just a bunch of elements like mid-point shift or character arc that need to be learned. That’s just the beginning and the traditional way of looking at structure. More screenwriters need to start looking at structure as impinging on the content. The story is the way it’s told. That’s what gets people into seats. This is what is most interesting about screenwriting. Structure over content. The best screenwriter can take any content and make it work. So no to: “That’s really all you can ask for as a professional screenwriter, to be the ‘go-to’ guys in a particular genre. This view of the screenwriter is the view of the past, the tradition, and only of the industry as it has been.

    • carsonreeves1

      I don’t understand your definition of structure but am intrigued. Can you give a detailed definition?

      • koicvjr

        I can post a description here to go along with a script I can send you that makes the description concrete. Would you like that?

        • mulesandmud

          Ha. Nice move.

          As any pickup artist will tell you, though, never end with a question that gives someone a chance to say no.

          • koicvjr

            Unless you’re not really sure you want them to say yes. But haha–I’ll cut it! Thanks! Even if it’s a moot point (too late) I can’t help but blur the distinction between practical writing and creative writing.

          • mulesandmud

            Too true.

      • Eddie Panta

        I believe the definition of story structure above suggests that how you say something is more important than what you say. That structure trumps content. But also. that story and structure are inseparable. It’s all about “How” something happens is the story, rather than “what” happens.
        What happens is CANCER, but that is known, that is the content, how that content is delivered is the story. Koicvjr will correct me if I got it wrong.

        • koicvjr

          Well said, Eddie. People don’t talk in this way enough. These ideas need to be developed to make them less abstract and more practical, which isn’t easy. It’s important for the future of screenwriting. And I like to think of CONCEPT as structure rather than content, too. Doing so will help with increasing profits for blockbusters and all movies.

          • koicvjr

            And I would add (because like you said, they’re inseparable) that it’s not so much that structure trumps content (because it’s not a competition) but that structure is content. Or that structure drastically improves content when content is approached from this perspective.

          • Eddie Panta

            Right. I get it, but I still believe there is content exists separately of structure, the time, place, setting. etc..

          • koicvjr

            Of course. What we’re talking about are just tools to help us. It’s not like any metaphysical realm exists where these concepts are actual things. We construct these ideas to help us achieve our purposes.

          • Logic Ninja

            What an awesome way of thinking! By your logic, the tools studios generally use to craft most tentpole films are worthless. You can’t toss in content–like cancer, or war, or ghosts, or magic–and expect the movie to do well because “market research suggests our target group responds well to blah blah blah”–it’s all in the WAY that content is presented. It’s all in the finesse. Preach it!

          • koicvjr

            Hollywood isn’t much more than a hundred years old. People just aren’t as smart as they or anyone thinks they are. There’s a lot of room for the way things work to evolve. But it’s a collaborative endeavor at which we want to work together within the structures already in place. It’s not a battle. No revolution required. We construct conflict and drama to sell to audiences but there’s no reason we need to create it in the real world.

            We do want to include target group information in the notes we give to writers and other relevant development people, but everyone should know that it requires work and an actual creative process to make it work in an authentic way and to maximize quality and profits.

            BTW, i love your attitude, Logic Ninja! Let’s be on the same team–haha.

          • koicvjr

            People need to be both creatively-minded and commercially-minded to garner the best results. They’re not opposed unless we think they should be. We shouldn’t think they should be.

          • Logic Ninja

            Haha works for me! And I think you’re dead on about the evolution of the structure–interesting to see where that will lead in the future! I hope we increasingingly work in an industry where Spielberg-level creativity can produce Spielberg-level box-office numbers.

          • Paul Clarke

            It’s all about the structure, but the structure of the content. And that content is what’s used to attract people to the movie. You can’t attract them with good structure, because it doesn’t have any effect until you watch the movie.

            The content will bring them in. Good structure will move them and leave a lasting impression.

            A great understanding of structure allows a good writer to write a movie about a little girl who want to go to a stupid beauty contest, and still make it riveting and engaging.

            Structure encompasses all elements of the story. There’s no right or wrong way, there’s simply a hundred different ways to structure any story and some of those ways will be more dramatic and emotionally engaging.

            It’s not one structure fits all, but there underlying principles because it all comes back to the PSYCHOLOGY of the audience. While psychology’s not an exact science (yet) it doesn’t mean there aren’t psychological laws and principles at work. People built buildings for a long time before we knew the laws of physics.

          • koicvjr

            Of course, if we’re talking plain talk then it’s the structure of the content because that’s just the commonsense way of looking at it.

            But what we want to do is look for the best, most effective way of looking at it. The content will not bring them in. That’s the mistake. Realizing this mistake provides a way in to capitalizing on a massive opportunity.

            Content does not generate buzz. It just doesn’t.

    • Eddie Panta

      And this is what is most interesting about screenwriting. Structure over content. The best screenwriter can take any content and make it work.

      So if I understand you correctly, a screenwriter should be able to write in any genre because the content is not what is important, but rather the ability to deliver the content in a structure that best suits the concept.

      Is that correct?

      • MaliboJackk

        Goldman used to say
        he wouldn’t know how to write a big action, superhero movie.

        • koicvjr

          The big action superhero movie needs to be transformed. The bar must be raised for all blockbusters. Without sacrificing anything. We just have to be better. We have to relearn how to eat our cake and have it too.

        • koicvjr

          Goldman also used to say (as we all know) that nobody knows anything. And this is still one of the most profound items of wisdom ever uttered about Hollywood. There’s much to gain by pondering this idea.

        • Eddie Panta

          You might think that the idea above is flawed because one writer would not have the know-how to write in a Sci-Fi world or a Superhero fantasy world. That they don’t have the geek factor necessary to alleviate all the logic questions that would arise from let’s say how a spaceship travels at light speed.

          But then again, these logic questions, these details aren’t really supplied in J.J’s STAR TREK movies. In fact, it is the story structure itself, the non-stop twisting roller coaster, the smash of “content” that distracts you from ever asking the logic questions in the first place.

          The story structure is what makes the world possible. Exposition is never does, not on it’s own. The structure, executed properly would make the exposition a known factor, a product of the past, The exposition that the viewer is chasing will, if done correctly, become the same thing that the lead/s reject themselves, as a lie, or a conspiracy. Thereby rendering the knowledge of that exposition useless. The truth, often simple enough to be told in dialogue, by someone with a throaty voice is all the “content” that is necessary for the lead to be motivated and the audience to “understand”. When and how this content is placed within the story, defines the structure.

          In INCEPTION Michael Caine delivers the content, the what is really happening, in speech form, to the lead, while at a podium.

          .In THE PRESTIGE, it’s done differently Michael Caine delivers the exposition, throughout the story, in bits and pieces, really acting as the narrator. A device, a metaphor is used for explaining. The bird in the cage. And we believe him. And we watch it without questioning the logic behind Tesla’s machine. What he was after all along, the answer, was a lie.

          • koicvjr

            Yes! Because the reality of the movie is always an illusion no matter how realistic it’s supposed to be. It’s a psychic reality.

            Structure (when and how) allows for content…. (exposition to be a known factor, as you say.)

            And that mysterious when and how–finding the perfect when and how–is a sort of mathematical magic.

            Inception’s structure could have been better. The coolness factor of the concept brought in the big dollars for that one. But in a weird way, I think some of the unsuccess of the structure allowed for its success through mystery. [There are accidents or mistakes that allow for profits, too.]

            And damn I do love those devices like you described. Finding the perfect balance, the perfect way to use them is such an exhilarating challenge.

          • Eddie Panta

            Yes, me too. In the latest star trek movies, the throaty voice exposition guy is actually “Old Spock” Leonard Nimoy’s character.

      • koicvjr

        Industry being what it is, it’s a big challenge to write across genres unless you’re a star of some level with a reputation that allows you to do so. However, the future of screenwriting and the health of the business requires that the development of ideas crosses genres. As already happens. Genre is more of a traditional (and obviously still functioning) organizational tool. It lost its usefulness but we haven’t figured out a better alternative yet.

        • koicvjr

          Although I wouldn’t quite go so far to say that a screenwriter should be able to write in any genre. There is a great deal of expertise required. But I would say that one must be able to draw from various genres to construct a concept that is not simply of one genre even if it is marketed (more or less) as such.

    • Eddie Panta

      It’s funny that this would be the first line in the script..

      HAZEL (V.O.)

      You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories.

      • koicvjr

        I didn’t think using the word “depressed” or some variant of it so often in the first few pages was a good idea. Unless the purpose in doing so was to totally spin it on its head. I haven’t read past the first couple pages so I don’t know.

        I’m always curious to know if choices like this are made on purpose or not. In this case if it’s not made on purpose then this script hasn’t had as much effort put into it as it could have had.

      • Unfinishe

        Lemme guess, on the last page she says something about how it’s NOT a sad story.

        • carsonreeves1

          lol, the cool thing about this script is you always think they’re going to go with the cliche but they usually don’t.

        • Eddie Panta

          Probably, I didn’t see, the first few pages really through me off, it was so obviously screenwriter speak.

  • carsonreeves1

    Now I’m not saying I’m a John Green convert or anything. But suppose I did want to pick up one of his books after this, would you guys say any are worth reading?

    • ripleyy

      Looking for Alaska.

      • Linkthis83

        I enjoyed this book as well.

    • Wheatman

      Looking for Alaska is better than the Fault In Our Stars and will make a better film.

  • Citizen M

    The script is online. You can google it.

    And I learned a new word. “Hamartia” — a fatal flaw leading to the downfall of a tragic hero or heroine.

    • ThomasBrownen

      “Hamartia.” I love this word. I first encountered it when I read JRR Tolkien’s essay/speech “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.”

      Tolkien was a literary professor, and this essay puts all his knowledge and skills on display—basically, he singlehandedly resurrected Beowulf as a piece of art and a masterful story, not just a historical document. There’s a Wikipedia article about it ( and I think you can still find the essay online with a bit of searching. It’s dense and hard to read, but you finish it wishing you could have had Tolkien as a professor.

      There’s a line in it that’s always stuck with me. Tolkien wrote that “Doom is held less literary than hamartia.” He had already discussed the concept of “doom,” which he treated as a form of fantasy, filled with prophecy and monsters, if I remember correctly. He was criticizing stuck-up literary critics who were too obsessed with “hamartia” and a character’s internal flaw, that they ignored the art and meaning of monsters like Grendel and dragons in Beowulf.

      Anyhow, I always associate that word with Tolkien’s essay. Fun word.

    • mulesandmud

      Another great one from Aristotle’s Poetics is ‘anagnorisis’, which is that moment when a hero realizes that everything (s)he thought about a situation was wrong.

  • ripleyy

    I’m…actually really shocked he liked it. When I think “Carson” and “Fault in Our Stars”, I don’t think impressive, I think a ranting review about how cliche it felt.

    I remember getting the book pretty close after it was released and I liked it, though I did have my battles with it. I hated the ending with a vicious, unflinching anger. It just seemed to go ON AND ON AND ON and I bailed, but the rest was pretty riveting, if not a little bit cliche.

    Luckily, you may ask, that the script is better, but it’s not. I get adaptations but I did think it added or took away anything. Adaptations usually do add something.

    I have the script if anyone wants it (it’s first draft, may 1st 2012 edition). Just e-mail me at ellisrh(at)outlook(dot)co(dot)uk.

    • Kirk Diggler

      Here’s something that i consider an anachronism. Hazel at the Doctor’s office responding to the Doctor prescribing an anti-depressant.

      Keep ‘em coming. I can take it. I’m like the Keith Richards of cancer kids.

      No 17 year old girl, no matter how hip or cool, would reference Keith Richards. But a male writer in his 30’s or 40’s would. Not a huge deal or anything, doesn’t kill the read, but it’s something that immediately jumped out at me and made say “Uh, no” If the line made it to the film I’d be shocked.

      • ripleyy

        Yeah, I guess that’s true. I don’t even remember the doctor scene in the book, that was just something they added (I could be wrong).

      • IgorWasTaken

        Often when I think that about something, that “No seventeen year-old would know that,” I’ll ask one and discover, about 40 percent of the time, that they actually do know “that.”

        • Kirk Diggler

          I’m not saying it’s impossible this 17 year old girl wouldn’t know about Keith Richards long history of drug abuse in order to make the reference she does, it just smells of the first choice of a writer of a certain age. I’m not sure what she would say in it’s place, I just doubt a 70 year old guitarist from a band she probably doesn’t listen to would spring to mind.

  • carsonreeves1

    Ah-ha. Very interesting.

  • gazrow

    Sent. :)

    • Casper Chris

      Hi Gazrow. Could you send them to me as well? I think I’ve lost them.
      csprchrs at gmail

      • pmlove


  • romer6

    Wow, I didn´t see that coming. Whenever I hear about this book I cringe. I guess a little prejudice can take us a long way… I have this same feeling about cancer, it seems such a heavy theme in itself I bail out even before I start. Not only cancer, but depression and other diseases. Well, I loved “Harold and Maude” and if I can think really hard I´d find other movies on this theme that I liked. But it just doesn´t make a whole lot of sense for me to PAY a fair amount of money to be depressed in a dark room for two hours. I´d rather pay to see giant lizards (even if they show up only for a couple of minutes) than this kind of movie. It IS prejudice and I know it. And I´m glad people are able to make movies to make me change my mind. But I don´t think it will be an easy thing to do.

  • Linkthis83

    Jumbled thoughts:

    -I recently read the book (last week). I agree that Green should’ve used Van Houten differently in the end. Sounds like this was addressed in the script which makes me hopeful. I have a feeling that in film format, utilizing his character more appropriately will truly make a bigger impact than in the book.

    -” Now if you’re anything like me, you’re looking at this and going, “Who the f*ck doesn’t have cancer in this story? Does the dog have cancer? Does the goldfish have cancer?” Guys, I don’t know how they did it. But despite all the coincidences, they somehow make all of this feel natural.”

    This cracked me up. She was meeting people at a cancer support group. So I’d say the chances were fairly high that the other characters we’d care about could/would have cancer. Not so coincidental. :)

    -While reading the book, I could see Christopher Mintz-Plasse playing the character of Isaac. He would’ve been great for that role if he was younger.


    When participating in the most recent Writer’s Store logline contest, it was a requirement that the main character had only thirty days left to live. Since I had made mine about an 8th middle school hall monitor, I had a challenge on my hands on how to deal with it. I even had echoes from this site regarding cancer. I also had the thought “Everyone is going to have cancer.” However, for my story, it made the most sense.

    So I embraced my character, Tommy Tucker, having cancer. I challenged myself though to make the story about something else. Cancer was going to be the thing in the background. And I was only going to use the word once. After that, it would always be neuroblastoma or other references.

    I say all that to address the Breaking Bad reference and the fact that cancer is considered to be melodramatic. First, BB isn’t about cancer, it’s just an element of the story. The necessary one to set Walter White on his path. Regarding cancer being melodramatic, I think this just truly comes down to how the writer handles the story.

    I think this reaction is based more on how much we KNOW about cancer. What that diagnosis means and what is to follow. It’s melodramatic for US because we already anticipate that we are going either be drug through someone’s tragic demise, or we are going to fall in love with the character and be absolutely devastated. However, I feel that taking that approach loses sight of the bigger story.

    If the story being told is about a character’s regrets and the choices they didn’t make and blah blah blach…then yeah, it’s melodramatic and from where I sit right now, I don’t want to sign up to watch that. If I’m honest with myself though, I know there could be a great story to watch in that.

    I think I say all this because I feel too many of US (readers/writers) have tendency to become desensitized to certain story elements/choices. Not only because they’ve been used a lot, but also because they’ve been used a lot ineffectively. However, there’s no way we should take these attitudes towards them.

    I don’t want these things to feel like cliches. Like stories that implement a soldier who is either in the middle east, just come home, or suffering from trauma suffered over there. To someone that shit is very real. Just like the cancer. I know they are heavy stories, but I guess I still want to be respectful of these elements and not discount their usage. Just because others have used them previous, doesn’t mean there aren’t great stories still to be told with those elements.

    Maybe this is all selfish. Maybe I’m just thinking that in the future, when I finish my script about the kid with cancer, I still want people to be open to reading it and not automatically dismissing it because they can’t see how somebody could pull off having an 8th grader with cancer and make it entertaining. Well…that’s my challenge and I accept it.

    Whoa…so sorry for the epic! Seriously. Are you still reading? Props to you!

    • ripleyy

      It frustrated me so much when I found out Woodley was Hazel, at first. I always thought Abigail Breslin would be a perfect Hazel, but I came to think Woodley worked better (on a side-note, the fact Abigail Breslin is 18 and grown-up is so weird when you watch Little Miss Sunshine)

      • Linkthis83

        I dig Breslin. I thought she’d have more of an A-lister career by now. She was great as Bo in Signs. I assumed her and Chloe Grace Moretz would be competing for these roles. Woodley came out of nowhere to me.

        I recently watch Janie Jones with Breslin. She seems like she has the talent. Perhaps she doesn’t.

        • ripleyy

          I haven’t gotten around to Janie Jones, but I’ve heard it’s good. It does seem strange that she hasn’t had a huge success than she should have. Chloe has had a slightly better success but I still think she should have a bigger one.

          I can’t really say much about Woodley. I haven’t seen her in anything yet, but from what I have heard, she’s a really good actress and already has a fan base.

          • Linkthis83

            I saw Woodley in The Spectacular Now and she was amazing.

            I like when I see movies with actors that I’ve never seen before (and who subsequently make the movie better).

            And when I see established actors do something completely different and deliver:

            Steve Carrell = wow.

          • Eddie Panta

            WOW is right.

          • Linkthis83

            I know!

          • ripleyy

            I love it when actors just go 180 and do something drastically different. I really can’t wait to see how he plays out in Foxcatcher.

          • Kirk Diggler

            She’s really good in The Descendants too.

          • Randy Williams

            Can’t wait to see this. Always been fascinated by the Dupont family. When I was a child, my mother unexpectedly became acquainted with a member of that family. I played several times with her son who was my age. The mother was suffering and probably dying of throat cancer at that time. The sense of misery and unease in their upscale home was palpable, my playmate so unhappy. So different from my easy going, happy with our lot, family. I think I only went there to see their Christmas tree, awed by its mechanical device that continually sent “snowflakes” through the branches.

            I really hope that little Dupont grew up to be happy.

          • Midnight Luck

            She was THE standout in The DESCENDANTS. She was just awesome. That was the first I saw of her, but could just tell she was going to be a star. Stood toe to toe with Clooney no problem.

            Had no idea she was in a TV show before that. But, isn’t surprising since I hardly ever watch real TV.

            Definitely check out her work, after that she was fantastic in The SPECTACULAR NOW.

  • Scott Strybos

    I think even good word of mouth will not change people’s opinion of this film. Even with Carson’s it-really-isn’t-as-horribly-melodramatic-and-awful-as-you-think-it-will-be-I-swear-review, I probably still wont watch it. There is just something about it, every fibre of my body is telling me there is NO WAY this can be good. (All I can still think is Nicholas Sparks.)Which is a tragedy considering, as Carson has suggested, this is an impressively good story.

    • Citizen M

      I thought the script was fairly good. A sweet teen romance that didn’t shy away from some of the nastier aspects of cancer (my mother died of cancer; it wasn’t fun). But definitely melodramatic. A 4-kleenex weepie that will have them sobbing in the aisles.

      • kenglo

        All I can go by is what the sixteen year old says, and she is looking forward to this one having read ALASKA. I thought SPECTACULAR NOW was quite boring, but hey, who am I to say?

  • mulesandmud

    Part of what irked me about this book (and the trailer) is how proud the material seems of itself for realizing that its characters are more than the sum of their illness. I certainly agree with the sentiment, and you can’t be mad a story for knowing that characters should have a complexity than goes beyond just one quality, but I’m not sure that realization deserves a prize all by itself.

    On the other hand, young adult stories tend to have a built-in component that teaches the audience very basic life lessons, and ideas like ‘people are multifaceted’ and ‘reality is complicated’ are certainly lessons worth learning. I hope the movie pulls it off without feeling preachy, or drowning it all in teary sanctimony.

    One of my pet peeves is the way that films (not just in Hollywood) tend to infantilize people and the world we live in for the sake of ending with a neat and tidy theme/lesson. Stories about young people get a bit more leeway on this, since, well, they’re more infantile. Still, once your characters start to announce that things are messy in the real world, they’re writing a big check that the filmmakers better be able to cash, or else the movie ends up feeling simplistic, hollow and hypocritical.

    • koicvjr

      Messy in the middle. Tied up in the end.

  • klmn

    If you want to read a good novel, read Solzhenitsyn’s CANCER WARD.

    • ThomasBrownen

      I love One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

      At first, I was like, “Why am I reading this?? Is there even a plot?? Oh well, at least it gives me a good first-person view of the gulags.” But when I got to the ending… damn. Ivan is one of my all time favorite tough-guy, never-give-in, and above-all-survive characters.

  • kenglo

    Off topic – Some of you (or maybe none of you LOL) may know Paul Undari (NY – Chinese guy with a friggin’ African name??? Wazzup wit dat??) had won the Creative World Awards Comp last year, and they gave him financing for a trailer/short and will be financing the feature soon. But big SHOUT OUT to this guy, rubs like grendl (if you ever got notes from Paul, Daaaamn!), but, like grendl, knows his chit….Congrats my brutha from another mutha!!

    The People v. God (trailer):

    Password: peoplevgod

    There is hope for us!! Peace out!

    • MaliboJackk

      What’s the vimeo password?

      • kenglo


  • RoseAngelus

    Read the book. Cant wait for the movie. Great review

  • GoIrish

    OT: I would just like to thank Carson for ruining my movie-going experience. I saw Chef, which would have otherwise been an enjoyable movie (regular people clapped at the end). Instead, (SPOILERS) I wound up focusing on how there was not one single challenge for Carl once he got to Miami (approx. p. 61 of the 96 page version of the script I found). The entire third scene was smooth sailing (it felt even longer than that in the movie). There were two tiny little hiccups that were so easily resolved that I don’t even think they count (the cop telling them to move a block down the street and an incredibly forced scene with the son on top of the van). Everything was tied up in a nice little bow. It received fairly positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. It was certainly an entertaining movie, but I think Favreau may have enjoyed a little extra leeway based on the message he conveyed through his main character’s experience with critics (M. Night should be taking notes – don’t kill the critic!).

  • Jarman Alexander

    If anyone has a copy of this script I would eat a shoe to get it! J.Jarman.Alexander at gmail dot com

    • kenglo

      It’s at…..most anything is….

  • David Sarnecki

    50/50 is one of my favorite movies of all time.

    This sounds like The Spectacular Now only with cancer instead of alcholism, is that fair to say? Especially the visit the father, which seems to essentially be the visit to the author.

  • manjowithane

    Hey, could someone send me the script please? Would be very much appareciated! Thank you!