Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz) thought the hardest decision she would ever face would be whether to pursue her musical dreams at Juilliard or follow a different path to be with the love of her life, Adam (Jamie Blackley).
But what should have been a carefree family drive changes everything in an instant, and now her own life hangs in the balance. Caught between life and death for one revealing day, Mia has only one decision left, which will not only decide her future but her ultimate fate. “If I Stay” is based on Gayle Forman’s best-selling novel of the same name.
The Source Magazine had the opportunity to exclusively interview the film’s star Chloë Grace Moretz and book’s author Gayle Forman. Read what they had to say about “If I Stay,” out this Friday, August 22.
Q: Chloe, what is it about Mia that resonated within you?
CGM: There were many things, and I think one of the major things in particular was kind of her devotion to the cello, which I had had with acting since I was five years old and she had that with the cello since she was eight years old.
Q: Speak about working with R.J. Cutler and what makes him unique as a director.
CGM: I think what I found unique about R.J. as a director was his documentary background. Honestly, without someone as grounded as R.J., this movie would become really campy, really Sci-Fi, really based around the other world, after-life element, and I think what’s cool about R.J. is that he really approached it from a naturalistic, raw, documentary background.
Q: Gayle, what inspired the book?
GF: It sort of came out of a personal tragedy. It happened many, many years before, where I had friends who were killed in a car accident, much like that one Mia and her family are in, and what elevated that accident was, they were all killed, but one of the children lived longer and he was medevaced to this trauma center where he passed away. And that piece of it really tormented me for years, like, ‘Did he know what had happened to his family?’ and ‘Did he choose to go with them?’ I wasn’t writing novels at the time and I had no intentions of ever writing about this, and it was seven or eight years later and I woke up one morning and there was this Cello player in my mind, and she was seventeen years old and she had dark hair, and she was very serious, and she was going to ask that question (if you were in this position and had to decide), and that’s how the book was born.
Q: Chloe, there are many heartbreaking moments in the story, can you speak about going to those dark places as an actor?
CGM: I think it was just grueling and hard and definitely kind of taxing on my emotional strength. But, I think I learned a lot about myself as an actor during this movie and I’m really happy I got to do it and be a part of this because I think without it I wouldn’t be the same actor I am right now without making this movie.
Q: Gayle, can you tell me what made Chloe perfect for the role?
GF: Well, before I got to know her, I thought that she was just chameleon-like in her movies – that I wouldn’t necessarily recognize her from one film to the other because she skillfully disappeared. She’s clearly, a very deep and intuitive actress.
Q: Chloe, this is a beautiful love story, can you speak about working with Jamie to bring that authenticity to screen?
CGM: Working with Jamie, I could really capture that love relationship, we just became good friends, and we really were able to portray it by just being silly and goofing off and just being kids.
Q: You also had the opportunity, Chloe, to learn the cello. Can you speak about that process?
CGM: I studied it for about seven months. It was hard. It’s a really classical instrument, so I would be crazy to say that in seven months I learned such an intricate instrument. It was really just learning to emotionality do it and the fashion for it and how it affects your entire body, soul, and mind and you have to just train your entire self for this instrument.
Q: Gayle, can you speak about the process of having your book come to screen and what that experience was like?
GF: It was sort of a roller coaster with lots of ups and downs until we got to this magic point where Chloe came on board and then shortly after that R.J. Cutler came on board as the director. Then, I got a note from Chloe talking about how she was going to learn the cello, and then I met with R.J. and he told me the vision, and it was at that moment I understood that this was actually going to get made, and get made in the way that I wanted it to. I love nothing more than to be right, and I was right.
Q: Are you happy with the final product?
GF: I can’t imagine being happier. It’s beyond whatever I could’ve imagined.
Q: The story is very much grounded in music, do you have a musical family, or can you speak about your love of music?
GF: I am no musician. I like it when people think I am a musician because I get to fool them. I am married to a musician; my husband is a guitar player so he was a bit of the inspiration for Adam. And I have always been such a huge music fan, like music has always been a part of the emotional soundtrack of my life.
CGM: Me too. I wake up with music. I go to bed with music. I am always listening and playing music. Not literally playing it, but clicking play on my iPod, because I don’t really play any instruments, but I am in love with music. I go to, sometimes, three to four concerts a week. I am obsessed with music.
Q: Who are some of your favorite artists that you listen to these days?
CGM: Banks, she is really good. Also, Flume is really cool. I saw him last night.
Q: Gayle, can you speak about any scenes in the book that didn’t make it to the film that you were sad about or vice versa any scenes that were added that weren’t in the book?
GF: There were scenes that got cut that I’m not actually sad about because I understand that they got cut because they fought down the pacing. There was the Chapel scene with Kim, which I think will be in the extras which beautiful because Liana Liberato is wonderful. So I’m not sad it got cut because I understand that you have to pace it well, and it was cut for a reason. Some of the scenes that were added, there’s a fight scene between Mia and Adam that I love. The book talks about the tension that Mia going to Juilliard and he’s becoming this bigger musician, that was created within the relationship, but you see it play out, you see it play out in this fight scene, which I think is like a love scene because you get that they are so in love with each other and there is so much anguish there, but their lives are moving in a different direction. I got to see that scene be shot and it gave me a twist in the gut, and it’s gorgeous to see it on the screen.
Q: Chloe, how do you choose your projects nowadays? I’m sure you get a lot of scripts thrown your way.
CGM: Honestly, I choose it with my heart and soul and what feels right for me and what I want to dedicate three or four months of my time to, because it’s a lot of dedication that I put forward.
Q: And you also have a big film coming to Toronto next month with Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua. Can you tell us briefly about collaborating with both of those legends for “The Equalizer.”
CGM: They are amazing … I think this is the first time they’re working together since Training Day, so it’s really awesome to work with them, and I’ve learned so much from Denzel. He’s such an amazing, brilliant man, and Antoine Fuqua is one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with, so it was a really beautiful, mind opening experience.
Q: Gayle, what’s coming up next for you that fans can look forward to? And, congratulations on “If I Stay” hitting #1. It was all over the news; it’s become a bestseller again.
GF: Thank you. I have a new novel coming out early next year called “I Live Here,” so that’s the next stop.