How ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ Author Did it All for the Movie


The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a book that means a great deal to an entire generation of people who came of age after 1999, and now, it’s a movie starring Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Ezra Miller. It’s quite the jump and when the movie production hit Pittsburgh, author/screenwriter/director Stephen Chbosky must have been overjoyed. In fact, we know he was overjoyed, because stopped by the set to talk to him about bringing his 1999 book to life in his hometown. And he had quite a lot to say.

Q: Can you tell us about adapting the book for the movie?

Chbosky: It really is, as cliché as it sounds, a dream come true. I’ve wanted to make this movie—I first thought of the title of the movie twenty years ago this fall. The title of the book and movie. And so, I always felt it would probably be both. And so, it is a dream come true.

So you had intended for it to become a movie when you were writing the book?

I had hoped that it would, yes.

Do you have plans to write another book?

I have some plans. Then again, I would have to love it as much as I loved the first one. Just like I knew with the movie, I would have to love the movie as much as I loved the book in order to do it. So, I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I certainly have some ideas.

Can you talk about shifting the format of the book, which was [told through] letters, to a narrative screenplay? And what changes you had to make?

I didn’t have to make many changes. I just had to be very specific about the execution. You’ll have to see it. It’s hard to describe intellectually. You’d have to just see it. I wrote the book as a series of letters because I wanted the reader to feel very intimately connected to Charlie. So, it was finding a point of view from the film that would lead to the same connection. And luckily, with Logan Lerman, it’s not very difficult to get that sense of connection.

Is Charlie narrating the movie?

You see him write letters. It’s not a straight narration, it’s more of…it’s part of his character. Just like he would write letters in real life in the book, you see him do it.

But the letters are going to be a big part of the film too?

Yeah, it’ll be a part of the film, absolutely.

When you were picking places for filming locations…you’re from here. So, were there any places that were very particularly meaningful to you?

Yeah, quite a few. The place where we shot Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, that’s the very first place where I saw Rocky Horror Picture Show. And the first place I saw the floor show. And so, going back there, twenty-five years later, was incredibly meaningful. I loved it. I love filming here at Peters Township. I love filming at Kings, where my parents eat breakfast three times a week. Where else? There’s a little field right down the street from here, about five minutes away, where I shot the one movie I made right out of college. It’s this little short film. I had this shot planned for eighteen, seventeen years. And I’ve always wanted to duplicate it because I love the shot so much. And I was like, “Someday I’ll make the Perks movie, and I’m going to put my kids in that shot.” And we’re going to do it. I believe Thursday. So, yeah, there are a lot of very meaningful locations to me.

How did you know that you cast the right people for the roles?

I had a philosophy, we all had a philosophy: don’t just cast actors, cast people. And so, what happened was, everybody basically auditioned. What you’d look for is, not just the individual performances, but how you thought they would fit together. One of the great joys has been watching this fictional group of friends, over the summer at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, become a really tight family of friends. All of them. Emma [Watson], Ezra [Miller], Logan [Lerman], Nina [Dobrev]. Really across the board. So, yeah. It was just an instinctive thing, how we felt people would fit together. And we have an amazing cast. I mean, across the board, there is not a weak link. Not a single one.

Why did you want Emma for Sam?

I wanted Emma for Sam because I think that she has this amazing…she’s luminous, but she’s also incredibly approachable. She’s very down to Earth. She’s very fragile. But in this very beautiful way. To me, that’s all the qualities I always saw in Sam. Plus, she can dance. The girl can dance.

Are you aiming for a PG-13?

Yeah. I would very much love a PG-13 because, considering some of the issues that the book tackles, it would break my heart if some fourteen year-old girl that was struggling with something couldn’t see it. So that’s a very important thing to me.

The film sort of relies on this era of mix-tapes, and actual phone calls, and actual face time. For kids who are maybe going to experience it for the first time, in this era of Facebook and texting, what do you think are those elements that are going to bring them into this era they are unfamiliar with?

The elements that will bring them in is [that it’s] a love story, and a story about a family of friends, and families that are relatable to them—not these fictitious families where parents are complete idiots, which, let’s face it, really isn’t true. It’s fun in movies, but it’s not true. I think what will bring them in is recognizing themselves and their friends, regardless of whatever device is in their hand, or however they choose to communicate.

Were you a fan of Perks when it came out?

Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.


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