Our interview with Chloe Grace Moretz, Gayle Forman for ‘If I Stay’

Published 9:05 am Friday, August 29, 2014

by Lauren Bradshaw

Much to the delight of fans all over the world, “If I Stay,” Gayle Forman’s best-selling young adult novel, has finally been adapted for the big screen! In case that isn’t enough, the amazing Chloe Grace Moretz, star of such awesome films as “Kick-Ass,” “Carrie,” “Let Me In,” is playing the lead character Mia! As someone who read the book, I can report that fans of the series should get their tissues ready; if you liked the book you will certainly like its transition to film! And unsurprisingly, Chloe makes the perfect musically-inclined Mia!

For those that haven’t read the book, “If I Stay” centers on Mia, a young cellist who has everything going for her. She has a wonderful family, a hot musician boyfriend, and an application in at Juilliard! However, when she and her family are involved in a severe car accident, Mia’s life is changed forever. With her body stuck in a coma-like state due to her injuries and her soul completely ambulatory, yet invisible to those around her, Mia is in a limbo between life and death. Think of her like a ghost, but without being able to haunt people or walk through walls. As time continues to tick by, Mia is faced with the ultimate decision, will she reunite with her body and face the physical and emotional pain brought on by the accident or will she let go and join her loved ones in the afterlife?

I was super excited to be able to conduct a roundtable interview with Chloe Grace Moretz and Gayle Forman when they were in D.C. promoting “If I Stay!” It’s easy to tell how much this story means to both women. As Gayle says, “it’s personal,” and when she talks about Mia and her story, that is really easy to see. Chloe is also incredibly articulate and insightful about the film and her character; it’s hard to believe she is only 17 years old! We talked about the great chemistry between the characters Adam and Mia (which transferred over to Chloe and Jamie), the emotional toll the role took on Chloe, the amount of time spent practicing the cello, whether there will be a movie for “Where She Went,” and much more! Check out the interview below and make sure you go see “If I Stay” in theaters this weekend!

[For those that know nothing about the story, beware of spoilers!]

Lauren Bradshaw. (ClotureClub.com): Is this your first time in D.C.?

Chloe Grace Moretz: Yes, my first time… not hers [points to Gayle].

Lauren B.: Did you get to explore a little bit?

Chloe: Yeah, we got to drive around. I got to walk to the White House and took a photo in front of it. It was really cool! I love history so it’s really cool to be in town. [D.C.] and Boston are two of my favorite cities American history-wise.

Lauren V. (DCFilmGirl.com): Congratulations on the movie! Chloe, you’ve played so many different characters in your career: vampire, werewolf, superhero…

Chloe: Killer…

Lauren V.: [laughs] Exactly! Do you find it harder or easier when you have a character from a book to take to the screen or is that more pressure for you?

Chloe: I think on one side it definitely is a lot of pressure because a) you have an author that you want to live up to and you go, ‘I want to give you your character on-screen. I want to make that real for you. I want to do that justice. I don’t want to make a character that is completely opposite from what you wrote.’ Then also you have the fan base, where you’re going, ‘I need to do them justice.’ I’ve been a fan of many books and then seen the movie and been so disappointed and there’s nothing worse than that feeling of being let down in the theater when you were so excited for your favorite book to be put into a movie and it’s just done; it’s horrible.

So, that was definitely a little bit nerve-racking, but I think because there’s a book it allowed me to find back-story, whereas when you’re reading a script it’s incredibly 2D. You pretty much see this time-frame where it starts and ends and it’s a little space of this person’s life and you don’t know their back-story. You don’t know what their favorite color is, what their real thoughts are about who they’re talking to. You have to make it all up. When you have a book, you have awesome ideas in the mind like, “I want to lick the side of his face!” You have all of these awesome, descriptive things that really immerse you in the character. So, it kind of gives you a brilliant back-story and outline that you can manipulate a little bit. It’s the ultimate outline to the character that you need to fill in.

Sandie Angulo Chen (Common Sense Media): [To Gayle] I have interviewed a lot of different authors whose books have been adapted. Some of them take a very hands-off approach, but obviously you were a bit more involved. What motivated you to be that involved with the adaptation?

Gayle Forman: I think it’s because it is a personal story. I just had a sense that I really wanted it to be done right. By right, I don’t mean I wanted everything exactly as it is in the book. In fact, I think that is the wrong way to do an adaptation. I think that can actually sabotage a work if you’re too loyal, but I wanted the emotional experience of reading the book to translate to the screen and I wanted the characters to translate to the screen. I didn’t want them to become… sorry for lack of a better word… “Hollywoodified.” I felt really close to these people, so that was important to me. While it was in development, I got to know the producer, Alison Greenspan, quite a bit and then when Chloe came on board and R.J. Cutler, the director, it became clear that we all had similar ideas and would work well together. Then we formalized it with my involvement. I understood that they were making their own thing but they also wanted to translate that for audiences. We all wanted the same thing.

Chloe: We were all deeply rooted in the book. It’s a great book. It’s not one of those where you’re reading and thinking, ‘Oh this is good but I don’t know how we’re going to make this into a movie.’ It was pretty much there. It’s incredibly descriptive, a very theatrical book, so it was easy to put it in words on the screen.

Lauren B.: It seems like a lot of research went into the story: Gayle, with all of the medical information and lingo and Chloe with the cello that you had to learn. Could you talk about your research and experiences?

Gayle: I think she had more work because she had to take cello lessons!

Lauren B.: Yeah, you looked like you were actually playing!

Chloe: I did about six months of work. I worked really hard on it. I tried the best I could but I would be a complete fool to be able to say in six months I learned a classical instrument that takes an easy 15 years to even play mediocrely.

Gayle: But don’t you think part of that research wasn’t just so you’d look okay?

Chloe: A lot more of it was becoming comfortable with it because the cello is a very intimate object to play, especially as a girl. You’re literally opening your legs to hold it in front of you. It’s the most intimate place you can be with an instrument, so I had to become close to it. What I really loved about watching a cellist play was the fact that when you hear them up-close, it almost sounds like a wind instrument because they literally breathe through their bow strokes. When you hear them play, when they go down, they breathe and it’s wild. When I watched it two or three times — R.J. had these awesome showings at his house when he would have these cellists come and play and I would watch them….

Gayle: Touch their million dollar cellos.

Chloe: Exactly! Touch the $2 million cellos they’re playing. I wanted to capture that on-screen. I wanted to capture this quality that you see in those live performances with these classical artists. I was good at doing it emotionally, and I think I made my face really intense with [the performance scenes], but the fingers are very hard to do. I had a great double and the two mixed [together] work.

Gayle: Obviously you’re not going to be able to play in six months like someone has been playing for 10 years, but one of the scenes that makes me cry — I’ve seen the movie a couple of times now, or three or four — and every time I cry at her Juilliard audition. There’s just this look where she’s transported somewhere and suddenly you can tell she’s playing on a new level and she’s carried away by it. It’s beautiful! It’s beautiful to behold.

Chloe: She’s a quiet girl and most of the classical cellists that I’ve met, they’re really quiet too, but when you watch them play they become completely different people. You’re thinking, ‘This person that was barely talking to me is now telling me their whole life story through this piece!’ You see everything right then and there. You see every emotion and every feeling.

Gayle: And Adam sees that. He sees her play. I don’t think he would ever look at her twice if he hadn’t seen her play, then boom.

Chloe: I think they fall in love with each other through that. He’s a cute guy for her, but when she sees him on-stage and sees his passion. They connect on a different level.

Brightest Young Things: This is such an intense storyline. Gayle, while writing, how does the material affect your psyche? Chloe, continually acting this out, it must be exhausting!

Gayle: For me, I think I had an easier job. Even revising, I didn’t have to write the same scenes over and over 10 or 15 times. So that is kind of amazing to watch someone pull that out. For the writing, I was there in the moment. Parts where readers cry, I was probably crying writing that part. Not even from sadness, it was just a big, emotional experience. There’s a scene in the book, that is also in the movie, that just makes me lose it. I wrote it in revision and it’s the scene where she’s at the accident scene pinching herself like, ‘Wake up, Mia. Wake up!’ I wrote that because I wanted a moment of such horror and dislocation, where you understand that she’s sort of detached emotionally as well as physically. Otherwise, she would just be crying throughout the whole book. When I wrote that scene in the book, I saw it because I already finished the book. I knew what I was putting her through. So, when I see that scene in the movie or even when I see it right there [points to the image] on the poster, I choke up. I can’t even look at the poster. That is a scene where I think it’s very intense. [To Chloe] maybe you can talk about filming that. How do you do that? I want to know!

For the rest of this interview, visit Lauren’s website Cloture Club at http://www.clotureclub.com/2014/08/interview-chloe-grace-moretz-gayle-forman-stay/.