The movie version of Nicola Yoon’s novel Everything, Everything has been revealed — telling the story of a girl with no place in the outside world who is still trying her best to reach into it.
Suddenly, there’s someone reaching back.
Amandla Stenberg (Rue from The Hunger Games and Macey Irving on TV’s Sleepy Hollow) stars as Madeline Whittier, an 18-year-old who has been isolated for practically her entire life due to an immunodeficiency disease that makes everything beyond her disinfected home a threat to her life.
Madeline makes this closed-off existence more tolerable through her drawings and writing, imagining herself in places far beyond her own walls. Yoon’s book is bursting with illustrations, diary entries, and hand-made charts about what she imagines kissing to be like.
The girl is tended to by her strict, doctor mother (Anika Noni Rose, Dreamgirls) and a sympathetic nurse, Carla (Ana de la Reguera, Narcos.) Her mother wants to protect her at all costs, which means keeping her locked away, even from temptation. Carla doesn’t see much harm in letting a little bit of the world in, as long as it’s safe.
But “safe” maybe isn’t the right word for the new neighbor, a teen named Olly (Nick Robinson, Jurassic World.) It’s not that he’s threatening. How dangerous can a boy with a bundt cake be? It’s the yearning to venture further with him that could prove deadly for Madeline.
“It’s kind of an odd book. My biggest concern was would the movie be able to capture the spirit of Maddie, writing these reviews, and drawing, and being trapped in her house but being okay with that,” says Yoon, who saw the finished movie just three days ago.
The author also swooned over the trailer’s music, especially Naughty Boy’s “Runnin’ (Losing It All),” which features Beyonce and Arrow Benjamin. “I’m a ridiculous Beyonce fan. When I saw that, I was like: ‘Okay, I’m done. My life, my career is all set. I actually don’t need to do anything else now,’” Yoon says.
The movie was directed by Stella Meghie (Jean of the Joneses) with a screenplay by J. Mills Goodloe (The Best of Me). MGM and Warner Bros. will release Everything, Everything on May 19.
Check out the trailer below, followed by EW’s Q&A with Yoon about the process of adapting the YA best-seller to the screen:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you have a lot of involvement in the filmmaking process — or was this a case of handing off the story and letting them run with it?
NICOLA YOON: They let me see the first draft of the script and give notes on that. Then I met Stella and we just hit it off. We had a Vulcan mind-meld. I’m convinced it’s because she has Jamaican ancestry and I’m from Jamaica. Her vision is just amazing and was exactly like mine, including more of the whimsical elements of the book in the film.
That’s an important part of Maddie. She can’t leave her house, so she has to explore the world through her own creativity and imagination.
One of the earlier drafts of the book had her being very sad, but I realized if you were in that situation you would make your peace with it. And the way she did that was to bring the world inside. She makes these architectural drawings and book reviews, and does everything she can to explore the world — to the extent she can.
But you need that in the film.
One of my biggest worries was how are we going to do that. Watching someone type a book review is not exciting on film.
So how do they solve that problem?
[Laughs] I don’t know if I’m allowed to say! But Stella really figured it out. There are parts of the movie where I was like, “Oh. That’s a better way to do that. I wish I’d thought of that.” It’s weird to critique your own work through someone else’s lens.
The trailer suggests a lot of dream sequences with her visualizing herself in the world, like at the beach, or in the water…
Yeah, they do The Magic of Film! Her imagination gets writ large on the screen. Nothing that couldn’t possibly happen in the world happens. But her imagination gets splashed up there.
Tell me about the casting of Amandla Stenberg as Maddie and Nick Robinson as Olly. Did you get to consult on that?
The producers came to me and said, “Here’s who we we’re thinking about…” I really wanted Amandla for, like, a hundred years before I even knew this would become a movie. Once I saw Nick, I was like, “Oh yeah, he’s totally super-cute and the kind of boy I would have fallen for when I was a kid.”
What was it about Amandla’s personality that made you picture her for Maddie so early?
If you watch some of her activism videos, you see it. She has a real strength, but she’s really optimistic and positive. That’s something Maddie is. She’s in this terrible situation, but she believes what she believes, makes the best of it, and has a core, a center that’s really strong. Amandla also has an innocence about her, which Maddie does, too.
The other two main characters are Maddie’s mom, Dr. Whittier, played by Anika Noni Rose, and her nurse, Carla, played by Ana de la Reguera. Dr. Whittier is a tough part because she doesn’t always seem sympathetic.
When I saw the movie, I couldn’t believe how well she pulled it off. I get lots of mail about the book, and sometimes people really, really [get frustrated] with the mom. I don’t. I sort of understand her. And Anika Noni Rose really pulls that off.
So, she brings sympathy in addition to the strictness?
And then Carla is warm and sweet and captures the relationship with Maddie. She’s really a second mom, but a friend, too.
She’s like Maddie’s conscience, only instead of telling her to be careful and not do risky things, she’s encouraging the opposite.
I think she feels Maddie deserves something else because she’s been so good. [Carla] is basically a softy, in the way we all are as parents. When my little girl comes to me, and gives me a certain face or look, I’m helpless against it. And Carla, is sort of helpless against Maddie.
Your second novel, The Sun is Also A Star came out last year, will that also be adapted into a film?
Yes, that’s been optioned by MGM and Warner Bros. and Tracy Oliver [Barbershop: The Next Cut] is writing the script. I think she just started, so we’re going down the road.
And you’re working on a new book?
Is there anything you can share about it?
No, it’s totally top secret. [Laughs] I don’t want to get killed by my editor.
Okay, we’ll keep that one locked away for now.
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