Patrick Ness: I Can’t Believe They Filmed Stuff I Made Up in my Head!

Patrick Ness: I Can’t Believe They Filmed Stuff I Made Up in my Head!

So the first thing I want to say is: no matter who you are or where you come from, you can be a writer. Seriously. I always say, “Real writers don’t write. They write anyway.” I never thought I’d get a book published. I wrote one anyway. I never thought I’d get a screenplay filmed. I wrote one anyway. Stubbornness will take you places, trust me.

They can take you to a movie set of your own movie, for example. I still can’t quite believe it. I always said I’d never truly believe I made a movie until I could buy a ticket for it at the cinema. As all of the screenings I’ve seen so far have been previews, I STILL HAVEN’T BOUGHT A TICKET FOR IT YET. I will, though, I will. Here are some other things I couldn’t believe about the process:

I can’t believe I met Liam Neeson!

Or Sigourney Weaver. Or Felicity Jones. Or the absurdly handsome Toby Kebbell. I like to think I’m pretty cool around famous people (this may or may not be true), but the only time I’ve really lost my cool was when I met Judy Blume, mainly because nobody will be as important to you as the people who are important to you when you’re young. But I digress. I met Liam Neeson! And Sigourney Weaver! And Felicity Jones! And Toby Kebbell! And they were all so nice!

See, that’s the thing. REALLY famous people are usually really nice. It’s the ones who are worried about their fame who are nightmares. Aim to be a Liam or a Sigourney. Hardworking, friendly, nice to others, funny. That’s who I want to be when I grow up.

I can’t believe they filmed stuff I made up in my head!

This seems simple, but on the very first day of filming, we were in a special effects studio to do Liam’s (I call him Liam now) motion capture. The first assistant director was talking about the day’s filming. It was the Parson’s Tale, and he was saying, “Here is where the parson’s house is. Here is the branch you will pick up to break the windows. Here is where the Monster is standing.” And I just sat there thinking, “I made all this stuff up!” Every writer should be this lucky. I wish it for you hardcore.

I can’t believe we found Lewis Macdougall.

Conor is an impossible role. I knew that when I wrote it. I knew I was asking for the moon, but that’s another philosophy of mine: Always ask for the moon. You might not hit the moon, but you might hit something interesting on the way. I asked for everything, thinking I might have to cut it back and make it work in other ways. Then Lewis auditioned.

Lewis, at twelve years old, acting in an accent (he’s Scottish), came in and blew it out of the water. Wait til you see him. You won’t believe what he achieves. A Conor for the ages. Talk about luck. He’s going to be a superstar.

I can’t believe how the Monster looks onscreen.

I mean, look at him. LOOK AT HIM! It’s incredible!

I can’t believe how good the food is on Spanish film sets.

I’ve been on other film sets. Trust me on this one. Spain wins hands down. There were separate courses!

And I can’t believe I still get to talk about this book.

It’s such a special one to me. From where it came from, from how I feel I took the baton from the late, great Siobhan Dowd, and then handed it on to others, and to you, and now to filmmakers and even more of you.

I’m a lucky man. Ridiculously so. Because those sentences are true. Still can’t believe them.