If you’ve turned on a television, tuned in to a radio station, or checked in on Hulu lately, you’ve surely heard about the new movie called The Fault in Our Stars. It’s going to be a pretty big deal. Trust me. I found the book accidentally a few months ago and as soon as I finished it I was so moved I had to sit down and share my thoughts with you in a review. And now it’s a movie. With a movie trailer that is the most liked movie trailer in YouTube’s history. That big.
I somehow drew the lucky straw last week and got to be a part of an interview session with the author of the book, John Green. I joined a handful of other bloggers as we threw our best questions at him. I had a unique line of questioning for one of my favorite YA authors.
Being the resident amputee mom around here, my first question had to be about the character Gus, and how his prosthetic leg is handled in the filming. I’m thrilled that prosthetics are a much bigger part of mainstream media these days, but because I’ve lived with a prosthetic leg for over a decade now, I’m very sensitive to how accurately amputees are played on television and in the movies. There are plenty of us “out there.” There is no reason for a director to get this wrong, and getting it right is very important to those of us missing limbs. We live normal lives, but we live adapted lives. Please give us the courtesy of portraying our lives accurately.
In doing research I knew that Mr. Green is a friend of Josh Sundquist. If you don’t know Josh, you should. He is an amputee, but he’s so much more than that. He’s a young, active, hilarious guy who happened to lose his leg, high at the hip, to cancer when he was a kid. The fact that Mr. Green had access to a guy like this, to represent amputees, is a blessing. I have little doubt that their friendship solidified in Mr. Green the fact that amputees are just real, authentic people who happen to have “less than four.”
So I asked the question, during the interview last week, “Were you concerned specifically about getting the details right, like in the everyday life things that the character Gus went through?”
He said he’d spoken with Josh, and with others, and then said, “The prosthetics are really good…as I’m sure you know.”
We shared laugh as I said, “Yeah, I know. I’m wearing one.”
He chuckled, then continued. “Exactly. You know, they’re really good now, and I wanted him to be at a place physically where it’s integrated into his life. The thing that I was worried about is the things like sitting all the way down on the grass in a big open field, and then figuring out how to get up.”
“But when we were filming the movie, we worked with this guy, Tanner, who had the exact same amputation as Gus. He worked a lot with Ansel and also was our stunt double, I guess.”
“And Tanner, he’d learned his balance so that he could just jump up almost like you couldn’t tell, from a seated position or from sitting on the ground without anything to pull himself up (on), which kind of astonished me. But, he’s super strong, and it happened early in his life (as it did for the character Gus), so he just kind of integrated it into his life.”
Great answer, Mr. Green. You’d think this might not be his first rodeo.
I haven’t seen the film, so I don’t know if this scene from the book made it into the movie, but I also took the chance to let Mr. Green know that I’d been surprised and pleased by a simple situation that played out in the book. The amputee character Gus is not feeling well and is laying on the couch. His friends come into the room and it is decided that they need to go somewhere to help Isaac, another character (it involved eggs and a lot of stress relief—look it up on page 226 of the latest release of the book—it’s brilliant). And, as casually as if he’s saying, “Pass the peas,” Gus says, “You’ll find my leg under the coffee table.”
YES! Mr. Green gets it. Gus is a regular guy. You barely remember the detail about his missing limb as you read the book. But when he’s not feeling well, he takes off his leg. Just like I do. Just like almost every amputee does. It’s a genius detail that made me believe, wholly and fully, in this writer and in the authenticity of this story.
The movie opens on June 6th. You might want to pre-order tickets if you plan to see it in its first week of release.
Here is the take away for those of you who won’t wear a prosthetic into the theater next week—keep an eye on Gus. Watch how he maneuvers in the world. See if you can tell that the character is an amputee and see if the actor Ansel pulls off the movements of a young man with an amputated leg. Keep in mind that the character did lose his leg early in life. Youth and youthful resilience have their advantages. Just ask Josh Sundquist.
Here’s a big question I’ll have for you—did you leave the theater aware that there had been an amputee character, but not distracted by it? Did you fall in love with Gus for the same reason Hazel Grace does (because true, deep love doesn’t care about function, or dysfunction)? I have a feeling you will. You will walk on your two good legs out of that theater, with red puffy eyes and a pocket full of wet tissues, but your outlook on life will be changed. You’ll appreciate every deep breath you are able to inhale. You’ll appreciate every confident step that leads you out to the parking lot. And you’ll be thankful, so very thankful, for every single day. Thanks to a guy named John Green and his story that got the details right.