'The Hate U Give' and 'The Darkest Minds' Movies Take the Spotlight at BookExpo/BookCon

Authors Angie Thomas and Alexandra Bracken, as well as actress Amandla Stenberg, offer hints about their upcoming films.

Angie Thomas

“Let it go, control freak.” That’s the advice best-selling author Angie Thomas gave readers concerning any anxiety regarding the upcoming film of her award-winning novel, The Hate U Give. At the Book to Film: The Cycle of Creativity panel at BookExpo 2018 on June 1, she compared her book and the movie adaptation to “fraternal twins; they are not identical.” The author also dispelled any misconception that writers have total control in the page-to-film process. However, she did have creative input with director George Tillman Jr. (The Longest Ride), who often consulted with her. For example, she told the filmmakers that absolutely no photos of the boyfriend of the main character, Starr (played by Amandla Stenberg), should adorn the teen’s bedroom. Starr’s father doesn’t yet know about the relationship, and her dad is not the type to knock first before entering. Catherine Hand, a producer of the big-screen adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, was also on the panel with Thomas, and she admitted she had no idea how difficult it would be to hone the various interpretations of L'Engle's beloved novel for fans, given that readers have envisioned the late author’s abstract sci-fi adventure differently. Hand, who held the film rights for more than a decade, consulted with L’Engle: “I didn’t want to let her down. She believed in me.” For Thomas, the biggest surprise about the filmmaking process was how a line of dialogue could be changed from what’s written in the script right on set during filming. Publishing doesn’t work that way, she said. She can’t walk into a book store, pick up a copy The Hate U Give, and call her editor for a rewrite.

Alexandra Bracken

Author Alexandra Bracken approved of the changes by screenwriter Chad Hodge (TV’s Good Behavior) for the upcoming version of her 2012 dystopian thriller/road trip The Darkest Minds. (The movie’s director, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, and A Wrinkle in Time’s Ava DuVernay are among the few women directing a studio film this year.) Bracken appeared in a promotional event before a packed session at BookCon on June 2, along with the film’s star, the ubiquitous Stenberg. Bracken did request, though, that the movie keep the original ending, but “When they changed something [in her world-building], they often made it cooler.” One noticeable alteration (no spoiler alert necessary): colors are symbolically used differently—eyes glow, radiating the color of a teen’s special power. Another departure: for the role of the loyal Chubs, he now has a different power. Bracken assured the attendees that it didn’t change his character.

Amandla Stenberg

However, the soundtrack will diverge from her book’s playlist; Ram Jam’s “Black Betty” will not be heard, and a van central to the narrative will not be nicknamed that. She understands why the 1977 song is considered racially charged, and she told the audience that when she wrote the song into her novel, she didn’t exercise her “due diligence.” Stenberg also noted that there will be tweaks to Bracken’s story line to make it cohesive onscreen. The actress, having starred in The Hunger Games; Everything, Everything; and the aforementioned The Hate U Give, has become an unofficial YA ambassador. She said the “magic, expansive universe” of YA has always been important to her. The Hunger Games was her favorite book when she was cast as Rue, at age 11, in the 2012 movie. Audiences can see her performance as Ruby (who has the ability to affect other people’s minds) in The Darkest Minds when it opens nationwide on August 3. They will have to wait later this year for The Hate U Give.

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