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Author Becky Albertalli On Her Acclaimed Book Becoming The Film Love, Simon

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Nick Robinson (Simon), Talitha Bateman (Nora), Jennifer Garner (Emily), and Josh Duhamel (Jack) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s LOVE, SIMON.
Nick Robinson (Simon), Talitha Bateman (Nora), Jennifer Garner (Emily), and Josh Duhamel (Jack) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s LOVE, SIMON.

Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein

With the avid use of social media, cyberbullying and other forms of digital harassment are more prevalent than ever. If you were in high school before Snapchat and other platforms took place, you were lucky. In Becky Albertalli‘s acclaimed novel, Simon v. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, she writes about what it’s like for teenage Simon Spier, whose social life gets ruined when his secret of being gay gets leaked on the school gossip site. Now a major motion picture titled Love, Simon, this film seems more timely than ever by telling the story of what it’s like trying to maneuver high school as an LGBTQ+ student.

In Love, Simon, sixteen-year-old and not openly gay Simon Spier starts a secret email flirtation with another closeted classmate. But when one of his emails falls into the wrong hands, Simon’s secret is at risk of going public. He finds himself being blackmailed by Martin, his socially awkward, yet overtly confident classmate: Martin believes that with Simon’s help, he could get a date with the beautiful Abby Suso (Alexandra Shipp). And if Simon won’t play wingman to Martin… well, his sexual identity might just become public knowledge. Worse, the privacy of ‘Blue,’ the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be public, too.

“It’s one of those things where everybody’s experience, being gay in the South, can be really hit or miss,” says Albertalli. Experiencing being gay in the South, myself, I was able to truly see how Albertalli kept Simon’s experiences very authentic to what that truly feels like. “Atlanta is a pretty liberal city, but the South is not, so it’s just all these layers that will affect his particular experience,” Albertalli emphasized.

L-R: Jorge Lendeborg (Nick), Katherine Langford (Leah), Alexandra Shipp (Abby), and Nick Robinson (Simon) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s LOVE, SIMON.
L-R: Jorge Lendeborg (Nick), Katherine Langford (Leah), Alexandra Shipp (Abby), and Nick Robinson (Simon) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s LOVE, SIMON.

Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein

If you read the book, you might easily see it as a movie, but this was not the case when Albertalli was first writing this novel. She didn’t even believe it would become a book. “I wrote it and was like well if nothing else, I’ll have this word document on my computer,” Albertalli voices. She continued, “I was the mother of a one-year-old, now four-year-old. I was writing during his nap times. I had always wanted to write a book and decided I would give it a try. I don’t know where my idea for the plot came from, but the characters had been kicking around in my head for some time. I had this image of a messy-haired, gay kid in a hoodie, and that turned out to be Simon. I’ve worked a lot with kids who identify as LGBTQ or gender nonconforming, and they are unquestionably some of the bravest people I’ve ever met. As a psychologist, I’m painstakingly careful not to borrow my clients’ stories for my fiction – but in a general sense, I’m very much inspired by all the teenagers I’ve been lucky enough to know and work with.”

What makes Love, Simon such a special film is it was done by a major motion picture company, so you won’t have to travel to a random theatre miles from your home to see it. Producer Wyck Godfrey, and Marty Bowen, his partner at Temple Hill Entertainment, have become good at recognizing literature that is ideal for screen adaptation. Having produced the successful Twilight series and the adaptations of The Fault in Our Stars and The Longest Ride, they saw the big screen potential of Albertalli’s story.

“We produce a lot of movies in the young adult space,” Godfrey mentions. “Every time, you’re trying to find something new and different and fresh that feels like it hasn’t been done before. And fundamentally, we’d never seen a high school romantic comedy with a gay teenage lead. And so that was the thing with the book: we all read it and said, ‘Oh my God, nobody’s done this.’ Nobody’s just unabashedly openly made a movie about a kid that’s going through the process that every gay individual goes through of figuring out their identity and when they should come out. And played it against this great, mysterious, evolving romance. With this anonymous guy online. And the book was hilarious. And the character of Simon was such a winning, lovable, kind of embraceable character that we thought it was worth developing.”

L-R: Katherine Langford (Leah), Nick Robinson (Simon), Logan Miller (Martin), Alexandra Shipp (Abby), and Jorge Lendeborg (Nick) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s LOVE, SIMON.
L-R: Katherine Langford (Leah), Nick Robinson (Simon), Logan Miller (Martin), Alexandra Shipp (Abby), and Jorge Lendeborg (Nick) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s LOVE, SIMON.

Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein

“I think we’re always looking for stories that are relatable,” adds Bowen. “Even as adults, you’re looking for things that remind you of your high school experience and feel authentic and relatable. And the journey of seeing somebody have to come to a realization that they need to truly be themselves by admitting their sexuality is a fairly universal thing today. And the way that was approached in the book is the way we approached it in the film, which is to treat it like your first kiss or the challenges of asking out the girl that you care about. Let’s essentially treat coming out of the closet as a normal, everyday, high school decision, which it is for many people.”

When director Greg Berlanti was brought on to help develop the script, Albertalli recalled saying “Greg Berlanti is in charge of a lot of superhero shows on television. He is a literal superhero. He is absolutely brilliant. I was already a fan of his before he was on board. When I heard he might be interested, I lost it.”

Nick Robinson stars as Simon in Twentieth Century Fox’s LOVE, SIMON.
Nick Robinson stars as Simon in Twentieth Century Fox’s LOVE, SIMON.

Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein

Berlanti felt this adaptation was special, as well. He made sure to keep the film honest and relatable.”This has been a really significant and fun experience for me,” acknowledges Berlanti. “I was a closeted gay high schooler, so it works on that level. It means a lot to me. But, I have also done a lot of high school projects over the years, and I have really wanted to do a high school movie that dealt with really iconic moments and themes regardless of sexuality. So when this one fell in my lap, and it had a gay point of view but was actually a movie about announcing yourself to the world, that anyone could relate to, I was really excited.”

Moviegoers and those who have read the book will take notice of the theme of Love, Simon as knowing your truth. Albertalli stressed the importance of teens and anyone who is struggling with coming out to be able to do it on their terms and move at their own pace. “I do believe teens should feel they have that power and ability to choose that moment, kind of like Simon didn’t. I always recommend the Trevor Project because they also have the international community because a lot of my readers aren’t from the U.S. and feel lost not knowing where to find resources,” Albertalli expresses.

After wrapping up Love, Simon, Albertalli is not slowing down anytime soon. Her newest book Leach on the Offbeat will be coming out April 24th. She shared that this story is a sequel to Simon v. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and how we will learn more about Leah and a different perspective of Simon. “This is a book that would not exist in the form that it is in without my readers reacting to certain elements of Simon and certain things they saw that felt very true to me,” Albertalli states.

L-R: Jorge Lendeborg (Nick), Nick Robinson (Simon), Alexandra Shipp (Abby), and Katherine Langford (Leah) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s LOVE, SIMON.
L-R: Jorge Lendeborg (Nick), Nick Robinson (Simon), Alexandra Shipp (Abby), and Katherine Langford (Leah) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s LOVE, SIMON.

Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein

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