About The Production
LOVE, SIMON was adapted from Becky Albertalli's young adult novel Simon vs
The Homo Sapien's Agenda. Published in January 2012, the book won the William C.
Morris Award for Best Young Adult Debut of the Year and was included in the
National Book Award Longlist. Albertalli never imagined that her book would be
published let alone become an award-winning bestseller and now a major motion
picture: "I was a psychologist when I wrote the book," she says. "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
Producer Wyck Godfrey, and Marty Bowen, his partner at Temple Hill
Entertainment, have become adept at recognizing literature that is ideal for
screen adaptation. Having produced the phenomenally 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," says Godfrey. "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."
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 Martinâ€¦ 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
With his tight-knit group of friends branching out in new directions, his
email correspondence with Blue growing more significant every day, and Martin's
potential threat hanging over him, Simon starts to feels out of control. Now he
has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he's pushed out-without
alienating his friends, compromising himself, or losing a shot at happiness with
a guy whose real name he doesn't even know.
Producer Pouya Shahbazian was the first to board the project, "Becky
Albertalli's book agent called me when he sold the book to Harper Collins. I
read it and loved it and became involved at a very early stage."
"I think we're always looking for stories that are relatable," adds Temple
Hill's Marty 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."
Conversations with Temple Hill, including with one of the film's producers,
Isaac Klausner, reassured Albertalli that her beloved book was with the right
team to usher it to the big screen.
"My initial conversations with them convinced me that they understood these
characters and the story that they are trying to tell," confirms Albertalli.
"They had a feel for the spirit of it. The name 'John Hughes' was thrown around
a bit: the humor, and heart, of his films and striving for that balance. So I
knew they wanted to make a film that would have been my favorite movie as a
"As someone who grew up on the John Hughes films, that was sort of the
touchstone for me," admits Godfrey. "When I pitched it to the studio, I said,
'It's kind of like Sixteen Candles but instead of Molly Ringwald it's a guy. And
Jake Ryan's still Jake Ryan.' It was like taking that beloved movie and
contextualizing it for them to understand what's going to make it different. For
me it's John Hughes meets John Green. It's a great mix of kind of classic,
really relatable high school characters set in a fun, buoyant, world - the sort
of the thing that John Hughes did so well when I was growing up but resonant to
today's teenage audience."
"I think if John Hughes had continued to make his high school series of
films, that it was just a matter of time before he would have broken down those
barriers and done a film like this," observes Marty Bowen. "So in a weird way
this film is as much a part of the John Hughes legacy as it is anything else
including Temple Hill."
Screenwriters Elizabeth Berger (This Is Us) and Isaac Aptaker signed on to
adapt Albertalli's novel. Shahbazian says, "It's a dream scenario to have
screenwriters write a first draft of a screenplay the way that Isaac and
Elizabeth did for LOVE, SIMON. The script came in, and it was in fantastic shape
from day one. They were busy writing for television, and we had to wait for them
to become available but it was worth the wait."
Albertalli adds "They wrote a first draft and gave it to me and asked if I
had any notes. I had read it and sobbed, and downloaded every single song they
mentioned. And I thought: 'I'm supposed to give you notes?' The script was
The author was equally delighted when director Greg Berlanti was brought on
to help develop the script: "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."
Shahbazian adds, "Greg Berlanti is the most thoughtful, considerate person I
have ever met. He brings that humanity in directing this movie. He is telling a
very personal story for himself, and as we developed the script with Greg, there
were many times where he was able to draw upon his own experiences to really add
a whole nuanced layer underneath what was already a very fun, brilliant and
"Greg is an unbelievable creative force," echoes Bowen. "And one of the
defining characteristics about all of his work is the humanity of the
characters. He just has a fundamental understanding of it. It is who he is, it's
part of his DNA."
Writer Isaac Aptaker agrees, "Working with Greg Berlanti has been a total
dream for my partner Elizabeth Berger and myself. He has this incredibly rare
blend of being confident and wildly collaborative. This is also a very special
story to him. The producers asked us to make a director wish-list. I have no
idea if they ever looked at it or if it was just something to make us feel good,
but Greg was at the top of that list."
"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."
Albertalli got to spend quite a bit of time on set especially since the movie
shot entirely in her hometown of Atlanta. Shahbazian says, "Becky Albertalli is
not only an amazing person and fantastic writer, but she has been a big asset to
have here in Atlanta during filming. She has been nothing but positive."
Berlanti adds, "I think everyone is always ready for a story well told. And,
Isaac and Elizabeth and Becky all gave us that. This story should remind
everybody, straight, gay, anyone, of who they were in high school and before
they figured themselves out. What it is like to fall in love for the first time.
What you do to protect that, what it is like to have great friendships, what it
is like to have a family that gets a little bit too involved in your life
Nick Robinson takes on the role of Simon Spier. The young star of Jurassic
World and Everything, Everything was excited to be part of LOVE, SIMON. "This
story has not been told before, in this way," suggests Robinson. "This movie has
the potential to reach a lot of people and help them in a way that hasn't been
done before. At its core it is a coming of age story, set in a high school. I
feel like this telling was past due, and I wanted to be part of the team that
helped tell it."
Shahbazian was thrilled to have Nick Robinson join the cast as Simon, "Nick
is a brilliant young actor who has a tremendous future ahead of him. He has a
huge presence. He captures all of the nuances. And, like Simon, Nick is a little
bit of an introvert, and he plays the role beautifully. I believe it is a
timeless character and Nick Robinson's done it incredible justice."
Robinson's views on the story, themes and characters mirrored those of the
author, producers, and director: "LOVE, SIMON is a coming of age story about two
high school kids that fall in love," he says.
Berlanti agrees: "To me, it's a coming of age story and in that sense, very
traditional. But in another sense, there had not been a major studio film with a
gay lead at the center of a coming of age movie. It has romance and comedy and
all the stuff that fills up a young kid's life, but it is also told from the
point of view of a kid who is in the closet, who is about to be outed by the
class clown if he doesn't hook up his best friend with him."
"It is difficult for me to describe how perfectly Nick Robinson captures both
his character and the turmoil he is experiencing," says Albertalli. "There is a
line in the script that I wish I could claim from the book. Simon's mother says,
'For the last couple of years, it's been like you've been holding your breath.
Like I could feel you holding your breath,' and I see that in the way that Nick
is playing Simon."
"Even in the moments of joy with his friends there is a part of him that is
holding back," continues Albertalli. "You see him grappling with it throughout.
It is an undercurrent through the whole movie. I love Simon. He has been in my
head for a long time. His vulnerability, his awkwardness. His joy. Nick just
LOVE, SIMON lives and breathes Simon's world. "The film is definitely
centered around the character," acknowledges Robinson. "His voice and his point
of view. His worldview. His comic sensibilities. I think that is what makes it
unique for this genre. It is not on its surface a gay film. It's about a kid
going through something, trying to find his place in the world which is hard
enough. All of this is compounded by the fact that he is struggling with his
sexuality. I also think that is where a lot of the comedy comes from because he
can turn situations that might seem bleak to some and find the humor in them.
That was something I found very appealing."
While Simon has an online flirtation, his lifelong friendship with one his
best friends Leah, played by Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why), becomes
strained. "Leah is insecure and quite fragile herself," says Langford. "She is
struggling with all of these people growing up around her and wants to hold on.
She is especially jealous of Abby, the new girl in school who bulldozes her way
into their lifelong friendships."
Abby is played by Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse) and is the girl in high
school that everyone wants to know. "I think Alex does a great job of being
that, but also of being in the moment when Simon comes out to her," says
Shipp says, "Abby is the hot girl in the school, which is awesome because I
wasn't the hot girl in school! So this has been a really fun part to play. The
core group is Simon, Leah, Abby and Simon's friend Nick (played by Jorge
Lendeborg, Jr.) and Simon and Abby are really close although Abby's relationship
with Leah is a little tumultuous at the beginning. I think, primarily because
there is an unrequited aspect to Leah's feelings for Simon."
The relationships between the four friends evolves throughout the film but
the catalyst for all the changes begins when Simon sees a post on the secret
high school social media site "Creek Secrets." The post is about a student who
is gay and afraid to come out. It resonates with Simon so much that he has to
"It's significant to Simon," says Robinson, "because it represents a peer, a
colleague who is going through the same thing and not only are they going to the
same thing, but they go to the same school. What starts out as a curiosity
quickly becomes something that is essential to his life."
As well as Simon's friends, we also meet his family, including his parents
Emily and Jack, played by Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel.
Garner says, "This movie is about a number of things, including family. The
family you are born in to and the family that you create for yourself with
friends. Especially that precious group when you are in those teenage years and
they mean everything to you. You think you know everything about them and they
think they know everything about you. It's also about having the courage to
really stand up for yourself and say what you need to say."
When Simon's secret is revealed it surprises his family, who are loving and
accepting but still experience growing pains when they become aware of the news.
"Jack and Emily have a good marriage, good family and Simon kind of makes
them see things aren't exactly what they thought they were," says Duhamel.
"Emily is a psychologist and wants to analyze everything. Jack is a contractor
who tends to make a joke out of everything. We have a great dynamic. Two perfect
kids. They have a lot of love for each other, so they are ultimately able to
walk this new path together."
Albertalli adds, "Simon has a really good family, including his sister Nora
played by Talitha Bateman. They love each other and love their parents and know
ultimately that they have each other's backs."
Rounding out the cast are Jorge Lendeborg, Jr. as Simon's friend Nick; Logan
Miller as Martin the class clown, and Miles Heizer and Keiynan Lonsdale as Cal
Price and Bram Greenfield, two of Simon's classmates.
Greg Berlanti adds, "I am incredibly proud of the cast we assembled. I think
the younger members are the best of their generation and you will be seeing a
lot from them in the next decade or two. If you remember a lot of the classic
coming of age movies, high school movies, there were actors that we met when
they were younger that we knew for generations. And, I think this cast has the
FINDING YOUR TRUTH
"The movie is about family and love. But it is also about secrets," says
Jennifer Garner. "It's about letting them out, being who you are and having the
courage to really stand up for yourself and say what you need to say. And the
movie deals with these themes and the theme of being yourself but in a fun and
refreshing way. There is definitely some fun in the movie and it's not all
One of the major themes of LOVE, SIMON is living your truth, learning to be
and accepting yourself. As Greg Berlanti explains: "It is never too early to be
who you are. There are a lot of kids who don't get to come out in high school
and Simon is outed, pulled out, but he learns to accept who he is and live with
his own truth and being himself."
The movie encourages the audience to be courageous and true to themselves.
"I hope people watching the movie and people reading the book will feel
empowered to own their true self," says Becky Albertalli.
Nick Robinson agrees, "I think everyone had been through this at some point
in their lives. Trying to find yourself and being the person that you were meant
to be is very universal. I think everybody can relate to that."
Alexandra Shipp adds, "I think a lot of teenagers can relate to the struggle
because I think that a lot of teenagers are struggling with finding themselves.
They don't know who they are. They don't have an idea of who they want to be
when they grow up. It's not just about sexuality. It's about who you really are.
Not who you sleep with but who you really are on this planet."
Like many of the movies that inspired LOVE, SIMON music is an integral part
of the film and the songs on the soundtrack were always going to be an important
aspect of the production. To this end, the filmmakers appointed three-time
Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, musician, and producer Jack Antonoff as
executive music producer of the soundtrack.
Antonoff is probably best known for his work as lead singer and songwriter of
the band Bleachers and lead guitarist of the indie rock band fun. "When I met
Greg Berlanti," he recalls, "he started showing me clips and I think they had
temped in some of my music, which might have been the seed of me being asked to
get involved. We started discussing his feelings on the film and he talked about
this sort of modern John Hughes feeling, which meant a lot to me. Then I saw the
film and it was beautiful. I absolutely loved it. I totally got it and the way
it was both a good time and incredibly emotional all at once."
Although a few Antonoff songs have appeared in films before, the songwriter
had never created music specifically for a film: "It was new for me and the only
reason I felt okay about doing it is because I really felt got it. It really
spoke to me. The first time I saw the film, the Bleachers song, "Wild Heart,"
played at the end and as soon as I saw that, I thought I could back up from
there. I, thought, 'Okay, that works'. And I didn't write that for the film. But
it sits in so perfectly, so I know which pieces of that I could take and make
The final soundtrack contains 13 songs, including classic tracks from The
Jackson 5 and Whitney Houston, as well as several Bleachers songs and new
material from Antonoff - including the single "Alfie's Song (Not So Typical Love
Song)" performed by Bleachers.
"To me, that song is the feeling of LOVE, SIMON - both extremely upbeat and
extremely emotional all at once," says Antonoff. "It's a song you could put it
on in a car with your friends or at a party but then the lyrics sneak in these
moments that are very emotional. And that's what the film did for me."
LOVE, SIMON filmed in the greater Atlanta area. Albertalli, a Georgia and
Atlanta native, set her novel in her hometown. And, that is precisely where the
filmmakers wanted to film it.
As Executive Producer Timothy M. Bourne explains, "Simon was a book authored
by a local, and so for once a movie I am shooting in Atlanta is actually set in
Atlanta! Greg wanted to make sure we were true to the story and true to the
economics of each character. We shot at a very large high school set in an urban
environment. We actually shot at three different high schools. We are set in the
south, so you have to have a scene at a Waffle House. It's just part of life and
the landscape here."
"Temple Hill made four movies in Atlanta last year," adds Marty Bowen. "And
it's a wonderful place to shoot. It's got great facilities. The Mayor's office
is supportive of film. Everybody embraces it whereas in other cities, even
though there's a rebate, there's a lot of people that don't like the
'interlopers' coming in. But Atlanta has been a pleasure that way. The fact that
the movie belonged there is almost secondary. But it was a beautiful marriage of
opportunity and creative necessity."
While shooting in Atlanta, the filmmakers wanted to utilize as many local and
unique businesses as they could. Dancing Goats Coffee is one local business that
is beginning to branch out. "We also tried to show some of the local artists,"
says Bourne. "There is an Atlanta graffiti artist who has 'Pray for Atlanta'
posters and stickers across the city, so we incorporated those but Dancing Goats
was part of that spice, that flavor of Atlanta that we wanted to incorporate
into the film."
For the film's climactic carnival scene, the filmmakers recreated a carnival
at Norcross' Lillian Webb. "We picked the park in Norcross for a number of
reasons," explains Bourne. "It had a nice square around it that had a fountain
incorporated inside of it, and it could accommodate carnival rides.".
Director Greg Berlanti chose Eric Daman to design the costumes for LOVE,
"Greg is a joy to work with" says Daman. "I have worked with hundreds of
directors between features and television and I feel like he is one of my
favorites. He is so generous and honest. He directs with a smile."
Costume design is an integral element in storytelling. "Costume design can be
big or can be very subtle and nuanced like we are doing with Simon's character,"
says Daman. He begins more light-hearted, he wears lighter colors and lighter
tones. When he begins to fall in love they colors are even lighter. But when
Martin starts to blackmail him, the colors become more ominous and dark, almost
"For the character of Leah, we have her in turtlenecks throughout the movie.
When everything comes to a head, we have her in a black turtleneck. A darker
more confrontational look."
In the novel, Simon has a love for hoodies. Daman wanted to be true to the
character but also give him a little bit more. "Simon has almost 50 changes of
wardrobe. I couldn't just create this character with a zipped up hooded
sweatshirt. In our first meeting Greg was in total agreement. We wanted to
punctuate and kind of play around with the hooded sweatshirt and what that means
and what scenes they would be in," explains Daman.
Abby is new to Atlanta and needed a little extra flair. "Abby has a very
distinctive style. More urban. A New York feel. A little more athletic, a little
more branded and a little more oversized," says Daman.
Daman let his creative juices flow when he designed for Martin. "I don't have
favorites, but it was a lot of fun to design for Martin. I kind of riffed off
1975 SNL. We ended up dressing him in 70's shirts over punk t-shirts and layered
that with cardigans. There is a chaos to Martin's world."
"At the end of the day," observes Kathryn Langford, "This is a big studio
making a pro-LGBTQ film and that's just very cool, you know?"
Adds director Greg Berlanti: "It wasn't a story that I felt already existed.
It reflects my own high school experience yet still feels like it's for
everybody, you know? Where the central point of view was something that rang
close to home, but what the film had to say was something that everyone could
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