On the outside looking in, "Paper Towns" seems to be a love story surrounding Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne. But those of you on the inside (aka book readers) know John Green's tale is more about an epic bromance between three high school buddies.
The film adaptation of Green's beloved YA novel will impress teen audiences around the globe, primarily because the story's central characters -- Quentin, Ben and Radar -- are perfectly cast. Wolff plays Quentin Jacobsen, the film's protagonist who searches for his neighbor-turned-love-interest, Margo Roth Spiegelman (Delevingne), after she goes missing following their prank-filled night out on the "paper town." Austin Abrams and Justice Smith play his best friends -- Ben and Radar, respectively -- and join Q on the quest to locate his one true love. But despite the search party, the movie's true focus is on a trio of pals who realize that, in the end, their friendship is what really matters.
"The three guys -- me, Austin and Justice -- became so close on the movie that we didn’t have to act. We really loved each other," Wolff told The Huffington Post.
Wolff was cast early on in the film's development process, in part thanks to his role as Isaac in Green's first book-to-film adaptation, "The Fault in Our Stars." "I read Paper Towns since I had a lot of time on my hands with Gus and Hazel falling in love, and it was my favorite of John’s books. A couple of weeks later, they called and asked if I wanted to be a part of 'Papers' and I said yes before they could finish their sentence."
Once he was attached to the project, Wolff became a big part of casting and helped producers find the rest of the "Paper Towns" characters, including Margo. "As soon as Cara walked into the chemistry read, she kind of was the character. She took off her shoes and started to run around and she’s crazy and senseless -- she’s perfect for the role and I was so happy I got to work with her."
Wolff wasn't the only member of the trio who noticed an immediate bond. "We all instantly connected and became best friends and fell into our characters," Smith told HuffPost. "It was a breeze to work with them because I didn’t have to try to act, you know? I could worry about Radar’s problems, but with the chemistry with the friends, I didn’t necessarily have to worry because it was so natural."
"What turned me on to the whole film was Jake [Schreier], the director, and Nat and their vision they had for it. They wanted to make it more of a realer sort of movie," Abrams said. "Then, there sort of has to be a love triangle, in a way, between myself, Radar and Q, and it was great because it came very natural. We met each other and it was sort of instant, this bond that we had with one another. I think we’ll probably be friends for long after this project," Abrams added.
The script -- by Green, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber -- really resonated with the young stars due to its honest take on teenagehood. Smith, the soon-to-be star of Baz Luhrmann's new Netflix series "The Get Down," explained that the movie has the same qualities as some other classic coming-of-age films, including "Stand by Me" and even flicks like "The Sandlot" and "Now and Then."
"I knew I wanted to be in a coming-of-age film the first time I saw 'Stand by Me.' Not that I'm comparing this to that, but coming-of-age films, when done right, usually show the more complicated sides of adolescence, and John, Scott and Mike are brilliant writers and they did that, exactly," Smith told HuffPost. "['Paper Towns'] shows that teenage problems are valid and not just based off hormones or whatever people like to attribute them to. I feel like it’s important to show audiences the transition from understanding when you are immature in your beliefs and the way you approach other people to how you grow up and become a full-fledged human being."
Wolff agrees. The "Palo Alto" star said it was incredible to relive his high school days on film and reflect on his own journey to adulthood. "It was certainly like going into a time machine back to when I really did have two best friends that I spent all my time with and I was more, kind of, embarrassingly romantic in a way where I was projecting my ideas instead of truly getting to know someone," he explained.
A lot of teen dramas these days err on the side of cheesy, but with Green's stories, he makes it a point to write about young adults in a real way. Last year, the author told HuffPost that he was thrilled to be bringing "Paper Towns" to the big screen following the success of "The Fault in Our Stars."
"It's the same screenwriters, the same producers, the same studio, and that's great," he said. "I told everyone who asked that I did not want to make another movie unless it could be like ['Fault'] again. Because this was so magical, so fun and so the opposite of the experience most writers have in Hollywood. And I just felt so grateful."
And by the sound of it, the cast and crew were equally satisfied with the experience this time around.
"When the movie ended, I was so wrapped up in it that I just wanted to live in fun 'Paper Towns' land and never go back to real life," Wolff said. "'Paper Towns' is just a little better than real life."
"Paper Towns" is out in theaters July 24.
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