Stephen Chbosky Interview: ‘Wonder’ director and writer
“How do I distill this character to the absolute essence? How do I give them something that could be relatable to the audience or universal to their own experiences to create a shorthand? And finally, how do I find the actor that really embodies the spirit of this character?,” wondered Stephen Chbosky as he began to co-write and then direct the adaptation of the popular novel “Wonder.” In our recent interview (watch the exclusive video above), he adds, “Sometimes when you’re making something literal like a movie versus something more subjective like a book, you have to find that picture that’s worth a thousand words.”
Based on the book by R. J. Palacio, the recently-released movie is about August Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a boy with facial differences who starts attending an actual school for fifth grade after years of home schooling. He has to learn to adapt with all the other students and adults constantly staring at him and mocking him. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson co-star as his parents. Other cast members include Izabela Vidovic, Mandy Patinkin, Daveed Diggs, Noah Jupe, Bryce Gheisar, and Elle McKinnon. The co-writers are Steven Conrad and Jack Thorne.
How did Chbosky convince Oscar winner Roberts (“Erin Brockovich,” 2000) to be in the film since she doesn’t take on all that many roles. It turns out the decision was pretty easy since she already loved the book and had let her agent know to inform her if it was ever adapted for the screen. On working with Roberts, he says, “Watching Julia Roberts act is like watching Michael Phelps swim. Certain people are just so extraordinary at what they do, that you kind of sit back and watch in awe…. A lot of it is a magic trick to me.”
Chbosky, Conrad, and Thorne are nominated at the Critic’s Choice Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay of “Wonder.” The Broadcast Film Critics Association has also nominated it for Best Hair and Makeup plus Tremblay for Best Young Actor/Actress (a category he won two years ago for “Room”). He previously contended at these same awards for the 2012 adaptation of his own novel, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” That movie also brought him a Writers Guild bid for Best Adapted Screenplay and an Independent Spirit Awards win for Best First Feature.