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Ben Platt, of course, originated the role onstage starting in 2015 until his final show in November 2017, picking up a Tony and becoming a breakout star along the way. “Having heard the soundtrack and knowing what it was, understanding his connection to it from the very first workshop, it was him or nothing,” Chbosky told The Hollywood Reporter at the film’s Los Angeles premiere on Wednesday.
For Platt’s part, “I was very nervous and very scared to do it but Universal and Chbosky and the creatives expressed that the only version of the film they wanted to make was with me,” the star said, though critics have questioned if the 27-year-old is too old to be playing a high schooler in the project. “I really loved the idea, and still do, of how many young people are going to be able to see it and how much more accessible it’s going to be. Even if I had little worries and apprehensions, they were completely railroaded by that idea.”
The film sees a collide of the Broadway creative team with a new Hollywood cast, which Platt said, “felt like a really fresh take on it but with the safety net of the writers and myself and [co-star] Colton [Ryan, an understudy on Broadway] knowing where it comes from.”
Julianne Moore, who plays Evan Hansen’s mother, is one of those new additions and attended the stage musical right after it opened, having “never seen anything like that in my life, that performance was so original and electric and alive and beautiful and musical in a way I’d never seen before,” she said. “I never ever imaged I’d be a part of this show as a movie, I just feel really lucky. It was something I connected to as an audience member and as a parent of adolescents.”
Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Adams and Amandla Stenberg are also new to the Dear Evan Hansen world, but Chbosky recounted how he saw the group quickly bond and support each other’s performances.
“If Ben was going to sing ‘Words Fail’ in the dining room — and it’s all live-sung — the three members of the family [Dever, Adams and Danny Pino] were fighting like it was their close-up for five straight hours for him, to get him there. And when it was their turn for reactions, he would sing. He didn’t need to, but he’d sing so they’d have that from him,” the director said. “I loved the sense of camaraderie and the family that developed.”
And when it comes to the story of an anxiety-ridden teenager who lies about his connection to a classmate who dies by suicide, “I hope that it encourages people to keep going, whatever that means to them,” Platt said. “I know a lot of young people are having a lot of added mental health issues because of the pandemic, as we all are, and I think that seeing a character who goes through something really difficult and makes a big mistake and does something really horrible — not only to be able to understand where that comes from but to watch him move forward after that. Not just completely give up and not just go back to that tree and do what he did in the beginning of the film, and to take steps toward healing and forgiving himself, I think, is a really nice thing for people to see.”
Dear Evan Hansen hits theaters Friday.
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