"What bothers me most about the way that we portray people with disabilities and chronic illnesses in television in films is that we ignore them, and then secondarily when they are portrayed, it's usually as a mere tragedy or as this bright-eyed perfect person who you know, is laid-low by this evil disease," he said. "And the true story is much more complicated than that."
Green said characters with cancer are often used in books and movies to teach healthy people important lessons, which is a dehumanizing way of imaging illness to a sick person.
"One of the things that excite me most about 'The Fault in Our Stars' movie is that in every scene in the movie Hazel is wearing a nasal canulla," Green said. "She can’t breathe without this supplemental oxygen. In every scene of the movie Augustus Waters is walking with a limp because he has a prosthetic leg. You don’t see those characters just as tragedies you see them as full people because the movie is devoted to them."
They also talked to Alexander Murphy about his experience with cancer and being a support group extra in the movie. He met with Shailene Woodley before production even started.
"I actually got to meet with Shay before I even went on set," Murph said. "She actually talked to the directors and just wanted to meet some cancer patients. She just came to Oakmont and just hung out for a while. It was really cool."
Woodley had questions in preparing for her role, like "what it's like when you're on chemo, and what it's like when your recovering from chemo," Murph said. "It's like, it's difficult to explain. You’re in a whole different state. You feel sick, you feel weak, you have trouble thinking. It's really quite awful."
Bethany Leo, another support group extra, talked about her experience of being cast before she had even read the book. She said she immediately identified with Augustus and Hazel.
"Whenever other people who have never been through cancer or have never had somebody associated cancer, they kind of read the book as just a love story, but like I read it as just so much more," said 23-year-old Bethany Leo.
"I had heard of The Fault in our Stars," she said. "I mean, being in the whole cancer circle, the kids cancer circle, people are always like, 'Oh you should read this book,' or, 'Oh you should look at this …'"
But Leo hadn’t read the book until she auditioned for a part in the movie.
"I’m really not much of a book reader, but this book I could read over and over again," she said. "I guess I understand it on a different level than some people do."
Even when describing her grueling experience with cancer, including misdiagnoses, chemotherapy, blood transfusions and her PET scan, Leo uses some of the same language character Augustus Waters used in the book when describing her PET scan.
"I lit up like a Christmas tree, and it was in every single bone in my body," she said.