Amandla Stenberg Everything, Everything
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, Ana de la Reguera
Director: Stella Meghie
Running Time: 96 minutes
Synopsis: From Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures comes the romantic drama 'Everything, Everything," directed by Stella Meghie and based on the bestselling book of the same name by Nicola Yoon.
What if you couldn't touch anything in the outside world? Never breathe in the fresh air, feel the sun warm your face…or kiss the boy next door?
'Everything, Everything" tells the unlikely love story of Maddy, a smart, curious and imaginative 18-year-old who due to an illness cannot leave the protection of the hermetically sealed environment within her house, and Olly, the boy next door who won't let that stop them.
Release Date: August 24th, 2017
About The Production
Madeline Whittier is desperate to experience the much more stimulating outside world, and the promise of her first romance. Gazing through windows and talking only through texts, Maddy and her new neighbor, Olly, form a deep bond that leads them to risk everything to be together…even if it means losing everything.
'I wanted to import the whole book into the movie," says director Stella Meghie of author Nicola Yoon's novel Everything, Everything. 'There was just so much between Maddy and Olly, the little moments that I wanted to get in, like every text conversation. Nicola Yoon wrote something so funny and sweet and honest and even fantastical, and it was important to me that the film feel like that, too."
Amandla Stenberg, who stars as Maddy, had much the same reaction to the material" both the book and the script"adding, 'I was immediately drawn to the whimsy and the quirkiness of the story and the real life, tangible emotional aspects of it that I could connect to, especially as a teenager. I also loved that this beautiful and meaningful teen romance movie involved seeing an interracial couple in a completely subliminal way."
Though her main characters are both 18, Nicola Yoon's initial inspiration for the book came when she was a new mother. 'I thought my daughter was going to eat dirt and catch a cold and all the things that moms are nervous about," she confesses. 'Then I started thinking about what life would be like for a girl who needed protection the way you protect an infant, but for her whole life. Next I switched from the mom's perspective to the girl's, thinking how a normal teenager wants to rebel against her parents, but what if you can't, I mean really can't?
'And then," Nicola Yoon continues, 'what if one day a super cute boy moves in next door and this girl's whole life changes? Because super cute boys change everything all the time," she smiles.
Nick Robinson stars as Olly Bright"that boy next door. 'I felt like this was something I hadn't seen before, that Nicola Yoon was a new voice in the world of YA literature," he says. 'I've done some work in that genre, but this felt like a really fresh take on it, very original."
Producer Leslie Morgenstein offers, 'Throughout the book and now the film, we experience things as Maddy does, so we meet Olly through Maddy's point of view. We instantly feel her curiosity pique, and as she gets to know him, so do we. He's a little bit dark, which is probably due to problems at home, but despite that, he's funny and he has a big heart. He's the spark that ignites within her this desire to get out of her house, to risk her life to have a chance at love."
Producer Elysa Dutton concurs. 'I think this urgency for love really resonates for people, especially at the age these characters are. First love is so exciting, and for Maddy, she's missed a lot of firsts so she's not going to miss this. Even though she knows this is potentially a life-threatening decision, there's no choice for her but to take this risk, to really live."
'I think Stella Meghie's love for Nicola Yoon's book, and her incredible understanding of what is both mainstream and unique as a filmmaker, made her able to craft a tone in this movie," Amandla Stenberg says. 'It completely complements the book, but it's its own thing, too."
'I just feel that we can all relate to this story about testing your limits, about taking your shot at life. I definitely did," Stella Meghie relates. 'And falling in love for the first time is beautiful to watch at any age. We've all been there…or will be."
Amandla: Maddy has a disease that compromises her immune system, so she's unable to leave her home. Her life is pretty contained and bland until this boy moves in next door and it's kind of a love at first sight-type of situation. It forces her to question for the first time if it's worth it to take risks in order to experience more in life.
Nick: I think Maddy is first attracted to the mystery of Olly. She has a very limited knowledge of the outside world and I think he represents a kind of escape for her, out of the normal humdrum of her daily life. He's sort of an idea to her at first; then as they actually start to communicate, she's attracted to him as a person and the relationship becomes a little bit deeper and more meaningful.
Amandla: They fall in love through the glass walls of her house, texting and using the internet to communicate…
Nick: They have quite a bit in common, outside the walls or not. He's got a dry sense of humor that she can relate to because she copes with her issues through humor. Things develop fairly naturally, despite the very unnatural circumstances.
Amandla: …until Maddy is forced to think about risking her life in order to be with this boy and to experience what it's like out there. She'd rather live a full life and risk everything than not live at all.
Amandla Stenberg notes, 'Olly wears all black. He skateboards. His favorite word is -macabre.' I think he throws Maddy for a loop because her life is contained, orderly, clean and routine, and he provides her with a more expansive view, even if they're not able to interact that much at first. They connect because Olly is trapped in his own life, too; they both experience a degree of isolation at home, for different reasons."
'Olly's resilient," Nick Robinson adds. 'He rolls with the punches. He's kind of become the impromptu caretaker of the family due to some real difficulties with his dad. Maddy has an amazing imagination, and Olly is part of her imaginings a lot of the time. And of course he's intrigued by her, this girl in a glass tower. Can he get her attention? How long will she stay at the window? I think at first it's a relationship built on the idea of each other."
Both actors enjoyed the process of exploring this unusual and often awkward first love relationship"finding the normalcy within its inherent irregularities.
'I had never met Amandla Stenberg before this film but I'd heard only great things, so I was really excited to work with her," Nick Robinson recalls. 'She's just a really cool person and I had a great time getting to know her."
'Nick Robinson's an incredibly sweet guy," Amandla Stenberg shares. 'We had a lot of different adventures while we were shooting, just driving around Vancouver, listening to music, going down to the river and traveling through the woods. We definitely bonded and became great friends."
'Both Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson were fantastic," Stella Meghie states. 'Nick Robinson brought that kind of thoughtfulness I was looking for. He comes across very wise and honest and makes you really believe Olly, even when the things he says are overly sweet.
'And Amandla Stenberg is just angelic," she continues. 'Like Maddy, she's intelligent and mature, and also romantic, and she definitely brought those sensibilities to the character. My main goal was to make sure that people would believe these two characters fall in love, and Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson really clicked from the start. Their chemistry was just so natural and I think that shows in the film."
Before Olly becomes the boy next door and then much, much more, Maddy's entire world consists of three people: her mom, Pauline; her nurse, Carla; and Rosa, Carla's daughter. Pauline is Maddy's mother, doctor and best friend"the last unusual, perhaps, for most teenage girls, but not for Maddy, who has always relied on her mom for nearly everything and in many ways, vice versa. Pauline's husband and son were killed when Maddy was just a baby, and the two have meant everything to each other ever since.
The film opens on Maddy's 18th birthday, a monumental occasion for most. Maddy's celebration includes a check of her vitals and their annual traditions: vanilla birthday cake with vanilla frosting, a game of 'Phonetic Scrabble" and a movie they've watched 100 times before. 'I wrote Pauline based on my hopes for a close relationship with my daughter," Nicola Yoon attests. 'She and Maddy are genuinely very close. But even though it makes you happy, love" every kind of love"makes you vulnerable, too. So in writing the book and exploring the different types of love in the story, I tried to ask the question: is love worth all the vulnerability, the potential heartbreak, and risking everything?"
Anika Noni Rose, who plays the role of Pauline, observes, 'One thing that I thought was really interesting about the story Nicola wrote is that you don't often see people of color in these types of stories. Her book is so magical and whimsical, and that's not something you generally find in a story about a woman of color and her child."
Amandla Stenberg was another draw for Rose. 'When I found out that Amandla Stenberg was a part of this project, I was immediately even more interested," she says. 'She and I have touched base before online, talking about some books that we enjoy, so I was very aware of her. I think she's extraordinarily smart, forward-thinking and socially conscious. During the shoot, I really came to love her; she's funny and she's very enjoyable company, and I was really glad we were able to work together."
Rose found Amandla Stenberg's counterpart, Maddy, and her circumstances to be fascinating. 'She is a teenager who has minimal contact with the outside world, which most of us would find strange, who meets a young man who doesn't find her strange at all," she notes. 'And the things that are strange about her, he actually finds endearing and interesting. So, instead of feeling like some odd creature, I think she feels more like an exotic bird…something beautiful, for the first time."
Unlike her young daughter, who is falling in love for the first time, Pauline has already loved…and lost. Rose suggests that 'Pauline is very smart, very driven, very Type A, and even a bit beyond helicopter parenting. She is someone who needs for things to be in order because the tragedy that hit her life caused serious disorder. The fear left from that experience is part of what is at the base of Pauline's love for Maddy. The fear doesn't negate the love; it is what makes it so intense. Any time you hold something so tightly, you can't help but have it slip through at some point."
'We were so excited to have Anika play the part of Pauline," Dutton says. 'She has such great range and we knew she could exude the warmth this character felt for her daughter. At the same time she played this mother, this doctor, who takes her job as caretaker to this very particular patient quite seriously."
As a counterpoint to Pauline's more staid devotion, Carla, Maddy's nurse, has brought sunshine into the girl's everyday life for the past 15 or so years.
'I thought it was a beautiful story, so I was immediately interested," says Ana de la Reguera, who plays the role. 'I loved being part of this intimate cast and I loved my character and her relationship to Maddy. She's like Carla's second daughter; she's everything for her, too. And Amandla Stenberg was perfectly cast. She's very artistic and sensitive, sweet and smart. She has everything that Maddy has, and she's the coolest girl."
For someone like Carla de la Reguera surmises that 'spending so much time with her -patient,' you become more than the nurse," she continues. 'You cook for them, read them stories, do laundry and cleaning. You're part of the household and sometimes their close friends."
And in one of Carla's greatest acts of love, Carla de la Reguera reveals, 'She is also the one who brings Olly into Maddy's world."
In addition, Carla is the source of Maddy's only other visitor, Rosa, who is Carla de la Reguera's daughter. Though the character never makes an appearance in the book, the filmmakers wanted to include her presence as a physical counterpoint to Maddy's confined existence, even as Rosa is preparing to head off to college. Actress Danube R. Hermosillo plays Maddy's friend and, until she meets Olly, her only contemporary.
'What really drew me to Rosa is that she has this deep passion for life," Danube R. Hermosillo conveys. 'She has this desire for autonomy and to travel the world and really get away from her home life and discover who she really is by putting herself in a different environment and going to university. And it's almost as if Maddy, who can only dream about such things, lives vicariously through Rosa."
Having been friends since childhood, thanks to her mom's position in the house, Rosa thinks of Maddy as family. 'Rosa's mom is like Maddy's second mom, so it's as if they share her, which gives them that extra bond. Maddy is Rosa's sister in her heart, and it's a friendship that'll last a lifetime. She's also Maddy's only real tangible connection to an actual teenage life."
'Ana de la Reguera is so lighthearted and Danube is just a breath of fresh air, and that's exactly what I wanted for Carla and Rosa," Meghie conveys. 'They both brought life to their characters much as the characters bring life and light into Maddy's world."
Interestingly, Amandla Stenberg's first name, Amandla, literally means 'power," but she plays a character who has enjoyed very little of it over her lifetime. The actress states, 'No matter the
reality of your life, no matter the details, most adolescents and teenagers can connect to feeling powerless, feeling trapped; it's just hyperbolic in Maddy's case. I was attracted to that truth in the story that is applicable to anyone. We've all asked ourselves at some point: -What risks would I take in order to experience life in a deeper and fuller way?'"
'Maddy is a character who has lived in her own world, fueled by her own imagination and creativity, isolated from the rest of society," Dutton describes. 'In today's world, we all feel so interconnected thanks to social media and technology. But even with those things, Maddy is still so far apart from all that we take for granted."
It's on Olly's behalf that Maddy is finally provoked to harness some power for herself, initially by simply taking her first steps out of the house. But it's for herself that she is determined to take a much bigger leap, no matter the risk, to a place well beyond her driveway. A place she's always dreamed of.
Every day feels exactly the same. Maybe today's different…
Stella Meghie reveals, 'The trip to Hawaii is adventurous, innocent, sexy, and fanciful all at once. I was obsessed with making it feel on screen like I felt when I read the book. Bringing in that tone was very important to me."
While Maddy and Olly venture off to Maui, the cast and crew of 'Everything, Everything" headed down to Mexico, along the coast near Puerto Vallarta/Riviera Nayarit, which would stand in for the island paradise of Maddy's dreams. 'This was one of the best movie scouting experiences," recalls production designer Charisse Cardenas. 'I had to find waters that were shimmering, clear, and had fish for the underwater sequences, and also had to find a cliff for them to jump from."
Cardenas says the majority of their scouting was accomplished by boat. 'We found this beautiful little spot, Playa Majahuitas at Bahia de Banderas, where we shot the swimming scenes and the jump. It was just stunning."
For Maddy and Olly's hotel room, Cardenas recalls, 'Finding the right room was also very important. Both Stella and I wanted a place with a view of the ocean, because that would be important to Maddy. We ended up in an amazing town called San Pancho, and then added some elements of Hawaii, painting it and changing it up a bit. It ended up being a pretty awesome space!"
Though the Mexico shoot was accomplished in just four days, they were four blisteringly hot and humid ones, despite the fall production schedule. Fortunately, in addition to keeping hydrated with water and oranges, courtesy of craft services, the cast and crew were able to cool off in between takes"courtesy of the exquisite and very inviting Pacific Ocean.
The Observable World
'The first frame of the movie is Maddy swinging in a giant chair in her sunroom, her favorite place," Stella Meghie relates. 'She's stuck in this place, but she's still happy. She's still optimistic, not just resigned to where she is. She's made a world for herself and feels a certain sense of contentment, and that's where we find her at the start, in a kind of status quo that is her life."
To reflect Maddy's youth and her positive outlook, Stella Meghie and her creative team kept their work light and airy as well. 'I had a fixation with this sort of soothing pastel palette that drove everyone crazy," Stella Meghie laughs, 'so we have a movie of light-colored greens, blues, purples and yellows that we made more muted within the house, but much more vibrant once she went out into the world."
Standing in for Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley, Vancouver, Canada served as the primary location for the 'Everything, Everything" shoot. And because so much of the action takes place within the Whittier home, that site was key. Cardenas explains, 'A house on Groveland appealed to us as it had the interior elements we needed and would marry nicely with the sets we would create on a soundstage. We redecorated the common areas of the house"the living room, kitchen and so forth"with different artwork, pillows, rugs, all in keeping with the palette that we carried throughout the movie. We added some plugs to block different rooms in order to scale the size of the house down, and added some greens and walls outside the windows, as the house has an amazing view of all of Vancouver."
For the exteriors, Cardenas says, 'The Belmont Avenue house we found to use as the outside of the house obviously had no airlock entrance, so we built one in the walkway of the home. Stella and I were confident we could pull that off and I think we did." They also employed several tricks to make all the home elements work cohesively for both Maddy's and Olly's homes. For example, director of photography Igor Jadue-Lillo put a camera on the roof to shoot the scenes out of Maddy's bedroom window, including the -window-to-window' scenes between her and Olly, which are a huge part of the movie.
Maddy's bedroom and sunroom, her mainstays in terms of where she spends most of her time, were built on a stage at nearby Bridge Studios. Cardenas and Meghie wanted to build an environment for Maddy that was chic and sophisticated, and also incorporate elements from the book for its many fans who've envisioned her space while reading.
Cardenas remembers that designing the sunroom 'was a lot of fun. Clearly, Maddy's mom wants to bring as much of the outdoors as possible in for her daughter, so Stella showed me a picture from the 1970s of this beautiful space that had huge vines growing down the windows, and we used this as inspiration. We created a rock wall with water trickling down, and a green wall with live succulents and flowers. In the sunroom, Maddy is surrounded by the outdoors"like she is so close, but cannot touch it."
'The sunroom is a really good example of how much Pauline wants to give Maddy something bigger and better than just this life inside the walls of their house," Morgenstein says. 'She has created this home that is unique and feels like the outside world has been brought inside, so even though Maddy does live in total confinement, Pauline's hope is that it doesn't always feel like that."
A similar impression was carried through to Maddy's bedroom. 'For her bedroom, we created many of Maddy's architectural models and her drawings, which, in the film, she steps into when she talks to Olly. We also put up a large mural of botanicals from the 18th century that evoked a feel of the outdoors without being too on the nose," says Cardenas.
Meghie offers, 'When I first imagined the look of the film, I had the idea to include these fantasy elements"bringing her models to life and so on"little touches that pop in and out that I tried to weave in organically. For instance, there's a line in Nicola's book where Maddy says, -When I talk to him, I feel like I'm outside,' and one of the most beautiful scenes in the movie for me is when she's lying on her bed, talking to Olly on the phone. We used a topshot over her and when we reverse it, instead of her bedroom ceiling, we see the night sky.
For me, that's how Maddy sees her surroundings; she can see past it."
Release Date: August 24th, 2017