Olivia Cooke Central STAFF   June 11, 2015

Edit 1: Photoshoot replaced with HQ ones. Many thanks to Tiffany, webmiss of THOMAS-MANN.US

YAHOO! STYLE – “Me And Earl and The Dying Girl” Is Not Your Typical Teen Cancer Movie

Thomas Mann and Olivia Cooke are sitting at the Sunset Marquis in Los Angeles lobbing compliments back and forth, about how much they liked working together on Me And Earl And The Dying Girl. The film, out Friday, is based on a young adult novel by Jesse Andrews and reimagines the now-clichéd cancer kid narrative. “Sometimes you’re working and you’re so passive, but with this there wasn’t a point where I was on auto-pilot or felt like anyone, even on the crew, felt like it was just another day,” explains Cooke. “Every day was so exciting no matter what emotions you felt.”

It’s clear the Andrews and Cooke have become close friends, buoyed by a connection they made during the audition process. The actors shot the film last year in Pittsburgh, where the story actually takes place, and everyone on set became fast friends. That camaraderie helped in the storytelling, especially in scenes that required a more intense set of emotions. For Mann, who plays an occasionally apathetic teen named Greg who cares more about filmmaking than he does about connecting with his fellow humans, finding his character’s empathy allowed him to tap into similar feelings. Greg’s journey, which involves a growing friendship with Cooke’s cancer-ridden Rachel as he navigates his final year of high school, came to mirror Mann’s own.

“By the time we got to the more emotional scenes, Olivia and I knew each other really well. I was so invested and felt so close that all I had to do was think about Rachel,” Mann admits. “I wasn’t thinking about the last time someone close to me had something tragic happen to them. I can’t apply that – it doesn’t work for me. This movie and this script let me tap into some extreme point of empathy I had never discovered in myself before.”

Me And Earl And The Dying Girl isn’t a typical teen movie and it isn’t the typical cancer story. Its tragedy and possible drama is offset by sincerity and realism, and revealed through the lens of Greg’s obsession with cinema. “I didn’t want this to be the movie that people described as quirky and cute,” Mann says. “It’s not that it couldn’t be those things. But it had to be something more. It had to resonate deeper. It had to be the kind of thing I would have needed and wanted when I was a teenager.”

Neither Mann nor Cooke anticipated the sort of response the film has already earned. Cooke, best known for her role on series Bates Motel and in thrillers like Ouija and The Signal, was overwhelmed by the massive fan reaction when the movie premiered at Sundance in January. “I was just a mess,” she laughs, recounting how she and Mann both found themselves overly emotional at the screening – and during subsequent viewings. “You were devastated,” Cooke tells Mann of his response at one screening. “I look over and Thomas is just beside himself,” she adds. “Just full-on ugly crying.”

“The movie is not about cancer,” says Mann, who has appeared in films like Project X, Beautiful Creatures and Welcome To Me. “It’s about the importance of people and building relationships that matter and sharing things with people. Cancer is almost just a backdrop.” Cooke, for her part, connected with the movie’s refusal to become a love story about these two teenagers. Rachel and Greg’s relationship is deep, but it’s not romantic and neither actor wanted it to become that. Me And Earl showcases that men and women can be legitimate friends, even in high school, and that not every movie has to play into the expectation that they’ll end up together. “You don’t want to make it a movie about cancer that’s all star-crossed and romanticized,” Cooke notes. “[This movie] is not cancer with lip gloss on. You do see the shitty parts and the stuff that she goes through. It’s real and it’s raw.”

Comments are closed.