They say, never meet your idols, because they will no longer be your idols. They obviously never met Anna Todd.
Anna Todd is the writer behind the worldwide phenomenon that is After. You would think that someone with so much fame would have a disconnect from their readers, but for Todd, her readers are her life. She feels such a loyalty and connection to them – it’s admirable. But it’s part of the core of who she is.
A woman thankful for every moment, every memory, and every person that has come into her life. She’s humble, kind, and giving.
She’s an idol that you want to meet.
The adaptation of Todd’s book, After, is in theaters today.
Based on Anna Todd’s best-selling novel which became a worldwide phenomenon on social story telling platform Wattpad, AFTER follows Tessa (Langford), a dedicated student, dutiful daughter and loyal girlfriend to her high school sweetheart, as she enters her first semester in college. Armed with grand ambitions for her future, her guarded world opens up when she meets the dark and mysterious Hardin Scott (Tiffin), a magnetic, brooding rebel who makes her question all she thought she knew about herself and what she wants out of life.
What was the most challenging thing about seeing your book come to life?
Mostly just time. The clock was our worst enemy. The books themselves are already so long it was a challenge to take them and put them into 1 hour and 45 minutes. And to make sure that the focus stayed on Hardin and Tessa. There were some characters that I love so much, it’s just we don’t have time to explore their story yet. The story has to be revolving around Hardin and Tessa at this point. So I would say that was the most challenging part.
How involved where are you with the script? Were their scenes from the book that you knew needed to be in the film? What scenes made the cut?
We had kind of a laundry list. We had scenes from the book that we knew we were going to put directly in the film. We adapted them as we went. The dialogue and things we tried to keep us close to the book as possible. But there’s a difference in someone saying it and someone thinking it, where your imagination really can’t add or take away anything. Someone gives me the most romantic line in a book, and then you see it and it’s just weird. So it’s mostly that kind of stuff.
Your books have a super passionate fan base. How much pressure did that put on making this film and influencing what definitely needed to be in it?
I would say it feels more like a responsibility than a pressure. Even the part of the fan base that did not want changes, I feel that they still have a trust in me. I’ve seen them say a lot, “I don’t like that this changed, but I trust you.”
The fans that have seen it in Portugal or Italy, they loved the film, even with the changes. As people are watching it I’m getting a little less freaked out, I guess. I’m really proud of the film that we made. I believe the readers, even with the changes, will still love the film.
One of the great things about book to movie adaptations is not only the fans get to see it, but it opens the door to a new audience to experience the story. How would you describe After to someone who has not read the book? Why should they go see it?
I would say that it’s a story about firsts. First love, first time leaving home, first time meeting new friends and trying to fit in. It can either remind you of these times in your life or have you looking forward to them. Or not, depending on some of the parts of After. It’s the romance that has all of the classic parts, with a twist. I think we’ve done something that most romances don’t do, and we haven’t shied away from the flaws of the characters, and we really embrace the intimacy. We made it in a delicate way.
Can you describe the first time you set of foot on set and the first moment you were like wow this is happening? What was that like?
I guess it would be the first day I went to the pre-production office where we were choosing Hardin’s tattoos, and it was just strange to have Hero there as a human form of Hardin. It just hit me in a way. I feel like I still haven’t had the time to soak it all in. But there are moments like that where I was like, “Wow this is actually happening. Hardin is real person now.”
What was it like for you the first time you saw Hero and Josephine together in a scene?
It was a relief. They have incredible chemistry. They are both so dedicated to their job, and so passionate. It was such a relief to know that I could trust them with the characters. Even though I was on set and everything, and Jenny was really great with directing them, it made it all that much more of a relief when I knew that they cared so much about the characters, that I knew they wouldn’t shy away from it, or wouldn’t go into it not willing to become the characters.
With you being on set and being available for the actors to come talk to about the characters, what was that like to bounce ideas off with them and help shape the movie version of these characters?
It was really great. It was such a collaboration that if they didn’t feel comfortable doing something, and if they didn’t agree with the director or one of the producers, they would immediately come to me and we would all find a middle ground, so it was good to have such a close relationship with them that has lasted even when we’re done filming. It’s really great to have that relationship with them.
Do you have like a favorite moment from spending time with the cast?
I can’t think of a specific favorite. We literally always have fun, no matter what we’re doing. Yesterday we had a pool day at my house, and did laundry and it was still so fun. It’s literally like every time we’re together we have fun. There was a courtyard outside of the hotel that we stayed in during filming, and every second that we were off we were basically all just sitting there outside, to the point where the servers always knew exactly what we wanted to drink and what we wanted to eat, and we just had so much fun.
You guys were just in Europe. What was it like to see the fans with Hero and Josephine?
It was kind of taking the regular book readers that I’m used to, and turning up the volume until the knob popped off. It was so exciting to see them embrace them. It just like, made my year. Going from country to country and seeing some of them watch the film, or watch part of the film, and seeing them so excited, we fed off of it. It made us so happy and excited during the whole time.
You being a producer on the film and being as involved as you were, what did you learn about that side of telling a story and bringing it to life on the screen?
A lot. I learned so much at about adapting. I remember the times of watching Twilight or Fifty Shades or Harry Potter and being like, “they left out this part, why isn’t is there.” But now it makes more so much more sense to me, and I learned how to tell a story on a different medium. Not everything does translate well in an adaptation. So I understand more why things change. I guess that would be the biggest thing I learned. I just love being a producer, and I realized after being one and having this crash course in it, that I want to continue producing.
What is your favorite scene from the movie that is in the book?
The lake scene. It’s one of my favorites in the book, and my favorite in the film. There’s just something about the delicacy of it, in the way that Hardin is looking at Tessa, and the playfulness. Even though it’s a little bit different than the book, it’s still the same, since it feels the same kind of angst and excitement at what’s going to happen. I loved it.
Is there a favorite line from the book that made it into the movie?
When Tessa is asking him questions and asks who he loves most in the world. The: I like it better on you when she’s wearing his t-shirt. There so many little things sprinkled across the movie from the book. Even from the book, where it says beautiful chaotic mess, now it’s just I’m a mess, we’re both a mess, but it still has the same meaning. It’s just weird when someone says it, so we made it more of an adapted version
What do you hope that people take away from the film?
I mostly just want them to be entertained, and I want them to leave wanting more and wanting to know more about the characters. The journey that the characters are on, and going to continue to go on, hopefully.
You have such a close relationship with your readers. What is the one thing you would want to tell them before they go and see After?
Just to enjoy it, and to be proud of it what we’ve all done together, because if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have this. And to remember that even the things that they miss from the movie can always be found in the pages of the book. Not to forget that.
What did you learn most about yourself while working on After?
I think I just learned to stand up for myself more. I’ve been working with a lot of people, not just in the film but in publishing, that think just because they’ve done it before they know everything, and I’ve learned that’s not true, and it’s really fun to remind them that that’s not true. I appreciate every moment of working on After.
After is playing in theaters now.