Posted on 17-08-2012 | Tags: perks of being a wallflower, sam
Walking onto the suburban Pittsburgh set of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the upcoming movie adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s acclaimed novel, was a bit like going back in time. The early ’90s were alive and well: in the fashion, in the cars, in the hair styles. That moment in time that is so meaningful to me because I lived through it; grew up through it — was alive again thanks to the magic of Hollywood.
Okay, yes, that phrase is a bit cliched. But it truly was a magical transformation: recreating such an iconic time in history; bringing to life such an iconic novel.
The first time I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower,the novel was brand new. Its author was a first time novelist. I was 16-years-old and a junior in high school. I finished the entire book in a matter of hours, then proceeded to pour over every page again. And again. Fast-forward to now, and it’s still my most beloved book of all time.
So when Summit Entertainment invited me to visit the set of the movie adaptation last summer, and interview the cast, I couldn’t say no. I hopped a plane on Father’s Day Sunday and flew across the country to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — where it was cloudy and incredibly muggy.
And that Monday, I had the experience of a lifetime. Myself, along with four writers from various movie websites (Hollywood.com, Buzz Sugar, Just Jared, and Movies.com), were driven to a nearby high school, where we watched author/screenwriter/director Stephen Chbosky bring his critically acclaimed novel to life with the help of his trusted crew and a star-studded cast.
We watched as they filmed students (dressed in early ’90s garb that looked as if it came out of my 6th grade closet) arriving for school. Then it was time for a costume change, and we witnessed part of the graduation scene being filmed. In fact, this newly-released still image from the movie was shot just feet away from where I sat watching the action unfold:
Throughout this whirlwind day, myself and the other writers conducted exclusive interviews with Chbosky and cast members Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Nina Dobrev, and Erin Wilhelmi.
It should be noted that in all of this dazzling excitement, I only fangirled once: upon interviewing Chbosky. I gushed about reading his book. And later, as the interview concluded, and he was dashing back to direct another scene, Stephen pointed at my dog-earred copy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower (the same copy I’ve had since 11th grade), and offered to sign it.
What attracted you to this role?
I really started reading scripts maybe after the fourth Harry Potter movie, around the age of 15, 16. And really didn’t read anything that I really loved instantly. And then, it was almost like, you know, not that I’d lost interest, but my agent was starting to get stressed. Pretty sure, I was kind of “Bleh, do I have to read it.” And then I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower and it was so beautifully written and so funny and so incredibly moved by it, and I just instantly knew that (a) the movie had to be made and (b) that I had to play Sam. I really wanted to play Sam. I was just really drawn to her. And so, then I met with Stephen, who, when I met with Stephen, we just instantly clicked and I felt like I was meeting an old friend. And then I met Logan, and I knew he was the perfect Charlie.
Now did you read the script first or the book?
I read the script first, and then I read the book. It was so funny, I read the script, and I came back around and I told my roommates, “I just read this amazing script, The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” and my friends were like, “Ah, that’s my favorite book. I’m so jealous that you get to play Sam! If I was ever going to be in a movie, if I was ever going to play any character ever, it would be Sam.” And I didn’t realize, but similarly to Harry Potter, the books really have this sort of cult following. So that was really interesting, the response that I get from the people who’ve read the books and really identify with it. It’s really intense. It’s kind of amazing to be part of another book to movie product again that has so much love for it in the same way as Harry Potter.
Do you feel any pressure because there’s such a cult following for the books?
Oh, absolutely. I was very nervous before we started shooting. I was very nervous about the American accent. I was very nervous about the fact that I didn’t know, apparently, the other kids on this movie have had the experiences that, you know, change their characters’ journey in the story, because they went to an American high school, they know what prom looks like, all these little details that I had no idea about. So I was a little neurotic about. My script is covered in notes about, like, all these American words, all this American slang. I was quizzing my friends about high school prom and everything. And then Steve was like, “Emma, this is great and everything but you need to let all that go.” Because he said he saw me as Sam … I don’t know what it was that he saw in me that made him think that it was me. But when I met with him, he had a book. He made sort of like a Bible of what he wanted the visuals to look like and everything, and this was before I’d even met with him, before I’d even accepted [the part], and he had, like, photographs of me all the way through the book and his ideas of what Sam would look like. I knew he wasn’t bullshitting … so that was a big deal to me. … It really meant a lot to me to know that, there was no one else.
What scene have you enjoyed filming the most? Or emotionally resonated with?
For lots of different reasons, but there are bunch of scenes that are just Ezra, Logan and I – Patrick, [Charlie, and] Sam – and we ended up adlibbing a lot and riffing off one another. That’s been really fun. And, I would say, there’s a scene where Patrick and Sam dance at homecoming, and I would say that, but I was really too terrified to enjoy it. Because I had to get up in front of, like, 300 extras and do a two-minute … crazy, like, full-on dance. Which was fun, but also terrifying.
What was it like going from a huge franchise like Harry Potter to a smaller film like this?
It’s different, but I love it. The pace is much faster, the hours in the day are full on, I have no time to get anything else done, other than basically go home, eat, sleep, shower, get ready for the next day. That’s it really. My life is being here and my work. It’s really full on. But everyone gets so close because we’re on location together, and apart from that, you have to fit more into the day. I loved it. I don’t know if I want to go back.
The scene going through the tunnel, can you talk about that?
Hands down, one of the best moments of my life. I mean, Summit really didn’t want me to do the stunt. I was not meant to do it to all, but I begged Stephen, “I really, really want to do this.” And he’s like, “All right.” And I ended up doing it seven or eight times. The car was going at 56 miles an hour, [my] hands in the air all the way through the tunnel, coming out the other end. First time we did it, I cried. It was really, really special. And seeing the shot, what it’s going to look like, it’s going to blow your mind. I don’t want to build it up too much, but it’s stunning. It’s stunning. And Steve knew when he conceptualized it, that it would be amazing, but I think he exceeded his expectations to what a great movie moment it would be.
I know J.K. Rowling was involved a lot in the Harry Potter movies. But what’s it been like having the author of the book actually as your director?
Best ever. I love it. Stephen’s vision is so pure, he knows exactly what he wants, exactly how it is. I can ask him anything. And I’m a little bit OCD … and I realize, with Hermione, that I was such a big fan of the books, I knew everything. I’m like a Harry Potter dictionary. I could tell you everything and anything. I wanted to be like that with this movie, too. And I could just write down questions anytime I wanted to ask him anything. And he could create new dialogue with me on the spot and we can adapt. And that’s been the great thing about him, too, is he’s realized that he is making something new. It’s obviously going to be true to the book, but he understands that the movie is different, he’s creating something new with actors.
That was the first thing I really felt when I first met him. I really feel like he gets me. So working with him has been amazing. He knows exactly how to get the performance that he wants from me. Even if it’s just, he’ll say to me between takes, “Emma! Emma, don’t smile.” And of course I’ll break out and start laughing … There was a scene that we did where I receive a letter from Charlie where he says he thinks that I’ll get into Penn State. And it’s really moving to Sam. And I’ve been doing it for like four takes, and the envelope’s just empty, I’ve been reading it. And then Stephen wrote to me a letter inside of that. And then that was the take that, of course, he chose to keep. And of course, what he wrote was very meaningful to me. So he’s been like, it’s been … it’s not just been great as an actress … he really cared about all of us having a good time. He said that in the beginning, “I want you to have the time of your life.”