When production designer Molly Hughes first started learning about the legions of fans devoted to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, she saw something familiar. "It’s interesting because I worked on the Harry Potter movies so it’s like the same fans grown up, kind of," she told The Wire in an interview last week. "So I was sort of fascinated by that and the absolute love of this book."
Thanks in part to Hughes' work on those blockbuster films, Harry Potter has snuck its way into The Fault movie. It's in Hazel's room and on the cover of An Imperial Affliction, the book Fault protagonists Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters love. It makes sense: after all The Fault in Our Stars is as much about two teens dealing with cancer as it is about two teens who are enormous fans of literature. And Green and his brother Hank, his partner in video blog crime, haven't exactly been shy about their love of J.K. Rowling's series.
TFIOS even inspired collaboration between movie studios. Despite the fact that TFIOS is distributed by Fox, Warner Bros. allowed Hughes to use Harry Potter items in the film. "Even the publicity people over there are obsessed with this book," Hughes said. "So they were so happy to help and help me."
But there's also a poignancy to Harry Potter's inclusion in the film. The little bits of Potter paraphernalia also honor Hughes's friend Stephenie McMillan, who died of cancer while Hughes was working on TFIOS. "The decorator of the Harry Potter movies who was a dear friend of mine, passed away from cancer while we were dressing Hazel’s room," Hughes said. "So we put a few things for her in the room. Hermione’s Time-Turner is hanging on the bedpost and there’s a Triwizard Cup by the shelf, and she has all the Harry Potter books."
Hughes wanted to make Hazel's room like a "nest," explaining that she learned from meeting with children and parents of children who have lived with cancer that sleeping, due to the effects of medication, is a big part of daily life. "[Hazel's] room has those bookcases around the bed and she reads a lot," Hughes said. "So that was kind of her comfort, surrounding her with her books and her most important things."
In the movie, Hazel's most important thing, aside from the people in her life, is the (fictional) book An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. To design a Magritte-inspired cover for the text, Hughes went back to her work on Harry Potter, bringing in designers Eduardo Lima and Miraphora Mina. "It felt like they could tap into a kind of classic look," Hughes said. "We also felt it would be nice for the fans of the book to know that the Harry Potter graphic artists designed this book too." On their blog, Lima and Mina write: "For those of you familiar with John Green’s best seller ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, we had the privilege to design the hero prop for the film adaptation which is out next year."
But, aside from the Harry Potter references, we at The Wire also got a chance to talk to Hughes about translating Green's book to the screen more broadly. "She created Gus and Hazel's world just as I had dreamt of it and it meant so much to me," Green told us in an earlier interview. "I loved being in those sets because I felt like I was inside my head." Here are some elements that fans may want to take note of:
Fan art: Hughes paid attention to fan art, and even enlisted one young woman, who had made artwork as a "a kind of emotional response to Gus and Hazel," to create something for the film, resulting in "beautiful" scrapbooks. "They're gorgeous and they're poetic and her art is beautiful and there are very simple drawings in them too," Hughes said. "So we cut out some of the pages and put them around her room and then we had the books on her desk where she sat at her computer, also."
Cigarettes: Gus has a habit of sticking cigarettes in his teeth, but not lighting them. To him it's a metaphor: "You put the thing that does the killing right between your teeth, but you never give it the power to kill you." Not wanting to promote a brand of cigarettes—the movie, Hughes said, strayed from product placement in general—Gus got his own brand: Golden Hare. "I think they just needed to be unique. I think that’s all we talked about," Hughes said. "There’s something about a rabbit, a golden rabbit that seems so unusual and strange to put on cigarettes, so that’s kind of why we went with it. I don’t think it was a metaphor for Gus as much as it was one more prop that was unusual and you couldn’t identify." She added: "We wanted to pick something that would be so uncharacteristic, it’s not macho, it’s more artistic in a way, and more playful I think."
V for Vendetta and The Hectic Glow: Gus has a poster for V for Vendetta in his room, an homage to the fact that in the book he invites Hazel over to watch the movie, saying she reminds him of "V for Vendetta Natalie Portman." Also both Gus and Hazel have posters for The Hectic Glow, Gus's fictional favorite band. "I think Gus has a different Hectic Glow poster in his room," Hughes said. "More boyish. It’s stuff like that, that was in the book, that we had to make sure we introduced."