It’s a beautiful morning on the 29th of August in our nation’s capital. I arrive at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown at 8:15 a.m. and wait in the lobby for my interview with Stephen Chbosky, bestselling author-turned-director of the wildly popular book, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
A little before my interview, Chbosky walks through the lobby with his PR rep, glances my way, waves and smiles. I’m immediately more excited to interview the man who has written one of the most influential and intriguing stories I’ve ever seen told on screen.
Chbosky has just ordered breakfast, as I shake his hand and greet him. Having done a Q&A in D.C. the night before, he’s a little groggy, but eager, friendly and happy to talk about his movie. He apologizes for having his phone out on the table, saying he and his wife just had a baby girl only a few weeks ago, I can see him perk up whenever his phone vibrates.
After going through a quick rant on how Ben’s Chili Bowl is the best place to eat in D.C. (he thinks it’s crazy I’ve never had it), we jump right into talking about the movie.
Chbosky and I discuss who his favorite storyteller is, why it was so important to him that he direct the film, and if he were to ever write a sequel to his book, why he would title it, “Sam.”
DC Film Girl: Congratulations on the movie, it’s truly one of the best I’ve seen this year, I’ve never seen anything like it.
Chbosky: Thank you, that means so much.
DC Film Girl: I think it’s really rare in Hollywood for a writer to turn around and direct his own work, and I think it was beautifully directed. I especially love watching the relationship with Charlie [Logan Lerman] and his teacher [Paul Rudd] in the movie and there are a few emotional scenes between the two of them. Did you have one teacher that really changed your life and that you looked up to like that?
Chbosky: There were several in high school that I loved. When I was a senior in high school, applying to colleges, and I applied to a few, and I was visiting Southern California’s film school and by whatever fate that day, Stewart Stern, he wrote the screenplay for “Rebel Without a Cause,” was there talking about screenwriting. He’s the greatest storyteller I’ve ever met. He would act out the moment he met James Dean. It blew me away to be in the presence of this man. I decided right then and there that I wanted to attend the school. When I arrived to campus [during my first year], he suffered a major heart attack and I wrote him a letter while he was recovering, but I didn’t sign it. It took him about a year to find out who I was, I wanted to let him know that he changed by life and to this day he’s been my mentor. He’s was the first person I showed the “Perks” screenplay to and I’m showing him the movie next week and we are doing a Q&A after and it’s going to be be the proudest moment of my career.
DC Film Girl: Last night at the Q&A, you said that the character you would most want to catch up with is Sam. Can you elaborate on that and discuss why her over any other character?
Chbosky: If I were to ever write a sequel to the book, I would title it “Sam.” Charlie is based a lot on me, so I know how he turned out. I love the character of Sam and she embodies a spirit in people that I admire. She’s an example when people go through bad things, they decide to turn it into something positive. I love that quality and Emma [Watson] has it in real life as Emma and she brought it to Sam. One of the reasons why I was so interested in Sam was because I became such good friends with Emma and what she brought to it. It’s so wonderful to share Sam with Emma, it’s mine in the book and hers in the movie.
DC Film Girl: It’s been 17 years since your first film, “The Four Corners of Nowhere,” premiered at Sundance, and you published “Perks” in 1999. How different would the movie had been if you made it then, in 1999?
Chbosky: Night and day. Because I wasn’t ready then. I hadn’t done the screenplay for “Rent,” the pilot for “Jericho” and it’s those experiences that helped my artistry and my craft, my ability to translate this story. This is a very difficult movie to adapt because the book is so subjective. I couldn’t have done it without that.
DC Film Girl: If there’s one overriding lesson that you would want people to take away from the movie, what would it be?
Chbosky: That you are not alone and that what you are going through is valid and deserves respect and deserves to be celebrated. If they are feeling down, I want them to have a sense of hope and in a strange way, above all, I just want them to have a good time. I did not set out to make a serious issues movie, I set out to celebrate and respect what young people go through, what they will always go through and let them know that they are not alone.