By Nancy Mills
WHEN COSTCO MEMBER Gayle Forman
Starting with the book
wrote If I Stay, a young adult novel about a
teenager who must make a life-altering deci-
sion, she was leery of a movie version. “Why,
given all the pitfalls, would I want that?” she
wondered. “It would be terrible. That’s what
happens with adaptations.”
But when Hollywood came knocking and
director R.J. Cutler jumped on board, Forman
changed her mind. “A couple things he said
when we met the first time told me that he got
the book on many different levels—how
important Mia’s relationship was with her par-
ents and how important the love story was,” she
says. “We all worked hard to translate the emo-
tional experience to the film. This may actually
be an authentic representation of what’s on the
page, and the fans seem to love it.” So does she.
If I Stay stars Chloë Grace Moretz as Mia,
a talented cellist applying to Juilliard. Jamie
Blackley plays Adam, her boyfriend and a
budding rock star. When Mia lands in a coma
after a tragic car crash, she has an out-of-body
experience that allows her to revisit her life.
“There are definite changes from the
book,” says Forman, who closely consulted
with screenwriter Shauna Cross. “The key
was keeping that love story. I miss some of the
family scenes, but I understand why they
were taken out.”
“The book leans more to a global family
story,” Cross says. “The family story is still
part of the movie, but the romance is a bigger
part. It’s a love story about a first love.”
Before Cutler was hired, two other direc-
tors were attached to If I Stay. “Whoever’s in
charge—it’s their vision,” Cross says. “As a
screenwriter, I’m ultimately serving their vision.
“Adaptation is about creating the same
emotional journey in a different medium.
The book is a road map of the emotional
beats you want to hit, but if you hold too tight
to it you’ll get scenes that don’t work. You let
it take on a life of its own, and that’s when
Making the transition
A fan of the book If I Stay, Moretz, 17,
credits the director with the successful translation. “He brought a realism to this movie
that otherwise could have been very silly and
sci-fi,” she says.
If I Stay is Cutler’s first feature. Much of
his previous film work has been in documentaries. “I’ve worked with hundreds of thousands of hours of raw footage, and I’m always
looking for real and truthful moments because
I know the strength they have,” he says.
“R.J.’s documentary experience gave him
a different sensibility about how he wanted to
tell the story,” Forman observes. “I gave a lot
of notes. One way an author can help is by
being the quality control for the characters.
I’ve been living with them for eight years. To
me, the film’s characters feel like the charac-
ters in the book.”
Cutler didn’t worry about fan reaction,
because he felt he was the only fan that
counted: “I wasn’t thinking, ‘I’ll do x because
the fans will like it.’ It’s because I will like it.”
Ditto for the music. Cutler previously
served as a producer on Nashville, the TV
musical drama. “I knew from R.J.’s work on
Nashville that he really got the music element,” Forman says. “It’s almost like another
character. It’s what brings Mia and Adam
together and what pulls them apart.
“I was impressed how he thought out
what Adam’s band would sound like. The
book was published in 2009. In 2014 there’s a
different musical landscape. Because of
i Tunes, a young man would have anything at
“After Gayle saw the first cut of the movie,
I asked her what the big difference was to her
between the book and the film,” Cutler says.
“She told me, ‘When you read the book, you
can’t hear the music. Now you can.’ To have
enhanced the experience for her meant so
much to me.” C
Nancy Mills is a Los Angeles–based journalist
who writes about film and television.
The book If I Stay moves to film
In our digital editions
Click here for a discussion of
choosing actors for If I Stay.
(See page 14 for details.)
Left: Chloë Grace Moretz as Mia has an
out-of-body experience while she lies in a
coma in her hospital room. Above: Moretz
as Mia practicing the cello before auditioning for Juilliard.
arts & entertainment
The Costco Connection
If I Stay is available in Blu-ray combo pack
(Item #944354) and book (Item #910874) at
all Costco warehouses.