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Shortly after Thursday’s launch of the first trailer for Paper Towns, author John Green and star Halston Sage visited Yahoo Movies in New York City to break down some key moments from in the clip (you can watch our chat with Green and Sage above).
Paper Towns is a follow-up of sorts to last year’s smash-hit teen drama The Fault in Our Stars, which was based on on Green’s best-selling book. But while Fault was a multi-hankie weepie, Paper Towns — adapted from Green’s 2008 book of the same name — is more of a coming-of-age adventure. In the film, Fault alum Nat Wolff stars as regular ol’ high school senior Quentin, and model/Instagram sensation Cara Delevingne plays Margo, his gorgeous, misunderstood neighbor.
The trailer really kicks off when Margo drags Quentin on a long night of trespassing and prank-pulling, as part of an elaborate revenge plot aimed at her cheating ex-boyfriend (at one point, she places a catfish in her former beau’s drawer). Speaking with Yahoo, Green admitted that some of Margo’s antics were inspired by his own real-life teenage penchant for troublemaking.
“The catfish thing, leaving a fish inside of someone’s clothing — I have done that,” Green revealed. “It was a full-sized catfish. I also did it once with a lobster.”
And yes, the lobster was alive when he dropped it into his victim’s dresser drawer. Seafood-based trickery was an escape for Green, who endured a pleasant (if relatively boring) childhood in Orlando, Florida, where the film and book also take place. Like Margo, the 38-year-old author felt trapped in a theme park-filled city that to most people represents an escape from reality.
“I have a very complicated relationship with Orlando,” Green said. “I love the people in Orlando, and there’s a lot I love about the city, but when I was growing up there, I definitely felt constrained by it, and I felt like it was this tourist-trap destination where real people couldn’t really live. And of course that’s not true, but I definitely drew on a lot of that.”
After their night of pranks, Margo goes missing — and leaves clues for Quentin to find her. It leads to a mystery-filled adventure, which includes a long trip up to the Upstate New York to find Agloe, a fictional town from which the book and film take its name. Quentin and several of his friends (including Sage’s Lacey) pile into a minivan and head north. And apparently, it was just as much fun to film the sequence as it looked in the trailer.
“Everything inside that minivan is just magic in that movie,” Green told Sage. “It was always so fun to just watch you guys in the minivan … I got to listen to you guys sing Taylor Swift for two months.” (Mostly, they sang “Blank Spaces,” but occasionally they’d start belting out “Shake it Off,” just to mix it up.)
There are more behind-the-scenes stories in the video, including a discussion of the little girl who plays a young Margo (and how much she looks like Delevingne!) and an analysis of the film’s lone (and low-key) action sequence.
Paper Towns hits theaters on July 24.