Interview with EVERYTHING EVERYTHING director Stella Meghie

Based on the best selling book by Nicola Yoon, ‘Everything Everything’ tells the story of 17-year-old Madeline, who is allergic to the outside world. Because of her health, Madeline has been stuck inside her house for her entire life. Everything starts to change for Madeline when she gets a new neighbour, Olly — who’s cute and intriguing enough to make Madeline yearn for more than what’s inside her home.

QUESTION:   Young Adult books and films are exploding in popularity.  What are your thoughts on the genre and its ever-expanding fan base?
STELLA MEGHIE:  Young people want to experience stories that mirror what’s going on in their lives and to which they can relate.

QUESTION:   What about Everything, Everything appealed to you?  What did you latch onto?
STELLA MEGHIE:  I loved the novel and its author, Nicola Yoon, who is a kindred spirit.  The book is like nothing I’d ever read.  Its themes are so universal; it’s about breaking your limits in love, and what you’re willing to do to be happy. Even though it was a Young Adult book, Everything, Everything has themes that I found very relatable.

QUESTION:   The book’s structure is unusual and perhaps not easily translated to film.  How did you address those challenges?
STELLA MEGHIE:  My goal was to make sure that the essence of the story and some of the favorite moments were there.  I made them as cinematic as possible, while staying true to the book and to the readers who love it.

QUESTION:   What led you to cast your two leads—Amandla Stenberg as Maddy and Nick Robinson as Olly?
STELLA MEGHIE:  Maddy is such a great role and I was lucky to meet with a lot of young women for it.  But Amandla was Maddy.  In the book, Maddy has an angelic, almost otherworldly quality. She’s also described as quirky and beautiful, and Amandla captured all of that.  Nicola Yoon agreed with me about Amandla, which I certainly took into account.

I’m a big fan of Nick and loved him in Jurassic World.  He’s such a dynamic actor, as well as funny, smart and dramatic—all qualities I was looking for in casting the role.

Amandla and Nick have such great chemistry, even though they hadn’t met prior to the start of production. I was thrilled that the chemistry was there from the beginning, and as production continued, it became richer and richer, which you’ll see in the film.  They just really popped.  I think audiences will believe the characters’ incredible love story.

QUESTION:  Once you began production, did Nicola Yoon visit the set?
STELLA MEGHIE:  Nicola visited us in Vancouver and Mexico. She even has a cameo in the film, along with her adorable daughter Penny.  Her visits were among the highlights of the production.  Nicola and I share a birthday, which we celebrated while she was in Vancouver. It was fun to hang out with her, Penny and Nicola’s husband, David, who did the illustrations in the novel.  Nicola and I even share a birthday and we’re both Jamaican.

QUESTION:   One of the key sets is the sunroom in Maddy’s home, which literally are her windows to the world.  Did it work as well as you had hoped?
STELLA MEGHIE:  The sunroom was definitely a key set; in the novel, Maddy says it’s her favorite room—that it sometimes enables her to feel like she’s outside, in the world. I worked closely with our production designer Charisse Cardenas to create that room, which had elements of the outside world, including a “live” wall and a babbling stream that’s on the wall.  It gives Maddy a fishbowl feeling.  I was really pleased when Nicola Yoon saw the room, and said, “I want to be in the sunroom!” So that made me feel like I’d gotten it right.

QUESTION:  Did you have that sunroom built on a soundstage?

STELLA MEGHIE:  Yes, that set was built on the stage. The rest of the interior of Maddy’s house, not including her bedroom, was shot in a beautiful house in West Vancouver. The exteriors were a different set of adjacent houses, because Maddy and Olly are neighbors.

QUESTION:   How was the move from Vancouver to Puerto Vallarta.  Was that as liberating as it sounds
STELLA MEGHIE:  It was.  Our first day of shooting in Mexico was at a beautiful location in a bay, where we went swimming between setups. It was wonderful to be in the sun and water, and film these great water scenes that we had envisioned for Maddy.  There was a lot of great energy there to take us through those last five days of filming.

QUESTION:   The Mexico filming sounds ideal.  Were there any unexpected challenges that came up?|
STELLA MEGHIE:  One day, we were trying to capture a scene where Maddy and Olly are underwater near a coral reef, and time was running out.  Suddenly, it started storming—heavy rains, lightning, thunder.  Despite all of that, Amandla, Nick and I wanted to keep pushing on, but they production team pulled the plug for that day.  So we had to regroup the next day.

EVERYTHING EVERYTHING is at cinemas from Friday August 19th