John Green's 'Stars' Shines Bright On The Silver Screen The Fault in Our Stars hits cinemas this week, causing mass outbursts of tears. Author John Green based the character on a real-life girl with cancer — and his own feelings of growing up an outsider.
NPR logo

John Green's 'Stars' Shines Bright On The Silver Screen

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
John Green's 'Stars' Shines Bright On The Silver Screen

John Green's 'Stars' Shines Bright On The Silver Screen

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Let's hear about an author who might find it hard to top these last two years. John Green wrote a book. It hit the young adult jackpot - sold 10 million copies. Then Hollywood actors were fighting for parts in the movie. The film adaptation of "The Fault In Our Stars" comes out this week. NPR's Neda Ulaby met up with the author.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: You know what writing a book is like? John Green says, it's like playing a lonely game of Marco Polo.

JOHN GREEN: In which you're in your basement alone for years and years, saying, Marco, Marco, Marco, Marco. And then, like, if you're lucky, someone writes you and says, Polo.


ULABY: That's the sound of hundreds of teenage girls saying Polo. They're at a sneak preview of "The Fault In Our Stars" at a theater in New York City. When John Green comes out to introduce it, they scream his name. Green's novel came out two years ago. It's been 132 consecutive weeks on The New York Times' Best Seller List, half at number one. The story's about a teenage girl with cancer who meets a boy who's recently cancer free. He shocks her, in the movie, by sticking an unlit cigarette in his mouth.


SHAILENE WOODLEY: (As Hazel Grace Lancaster) Even though you had freaking cancer, you're willing to give money to a corporation for the chance to acquire even more cancer?

ANSEL ELGORT: (As Augustus Waters) Hazel Grace, they don't actually hurt you unless you light them.

ULABY: The boy, named Augustus, says the cigarette is a metaphor.


ELGORT: (As Augustus Waters) You put the thing that does the killing right between your teeth, but you never give it the power to kill you.

ULABY: Author John Green never had much power growing up as a kid in Orlando, Florida. He was an outsider, he says - a nerd and a poor student.

J. GREEN: I had a lot of emotional problems. I had a lot of behavioral problems. But I was still very nerdy. I was just not that smart.

ULABY: Now 36-year-old John Green and his younger brother call themselves nerdfighters. They don't fight nerds - they are nerds. They explain it on their hugely popular YouTube channel.


HANK GREEN: Nerdfighter is, basically, just the community that sprung up around our videos. And, basically, we just get together and try to do awesome things and have a good time and fight against worldsuck.

J. GREEN: What's worldsuck?

H. GREEN: Worldsuck is kind of exactly what worldsuck sounds like. It's hard to quantify exactly, but, you know, it's, like, the amount of suck in the world.

ULABY: In the videos, the brothers talk about politics, philanthropy and they host an online book club. Right now, they've got thousands of people reading a nonfiction book about life in the slums of India. Green says their videos are meant for young people who sometimes feel alone.

J. GREEN: And the great thing about these tight-knit Internet communities is that you don't have to feel alone anymore.

ULABY: The quest for communities led Green into fandom. In 2009, he went to a Harry Potter convention. There, he met a teenage girl with an oxygen tank. She had thyroid cancer. She also kept a video diary on YouTube.


ESTHER EARL: I feel happy that I'm still alive. But I feel kind of ashamed that I'm not doing that much with my life.

ULABY: Green became her friend and her fan.

J. GREEN: I was a fan of her humor and her openness.

ULABY: And the girl, named Esther Earl, became the model for the heroin in his novel, "The Fault In Our Stars."

J. GREEN: The superficial connections between Esther and Hazel have been talked about a lot. But the main thing, for me, actually, had very little to do with her illness. For me, it was that Esther was an uncommonly empathetic teenager.


EARL: I feel like I'm fooling you all because I'm not always amazing. And I'm not always awesome. And I'm not always strong. And I'm not always brave. I get angsty. I cry. I hate my cancer. I yell at my parents.

ULABY: Esther Earl died in 2010, soon after turning 16. The story she inspired causes copious weeping at the screening of the movie "The Fault In Our Stars."

SAMANTHA TAN: (Sniffling) I cry.

ULABY: Twenty-year-old Samantha Tan won a fan competition that brought her here. Obviously, she loves the book. The movie exceeded her wildest expectations.

TAN: By a billion-thousand percent.

ULABY: Tan says she just doesn't see a lot of fictional heroes like the girl in "The Fault In Our Stars."

TAN: This isn't, like, some stupid teenager. This is a smart girl, and I could definitely relate to her.

ULABY: A girl not defined by her disability - an outsider to cheer for. "The Fault In Our Stars" seems to find the inner nerdfighter in us all. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

GREENE: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.