Movie News & Reviews

From the Central Coast to Hollywood

Pismo Beach author Wendelin Van Draanen recently had a red carpet moment.

While attending the Hollywood movie premiere of “Flipped,” based on her book of the same title, she fielded a question from a Japanese journalist about her “beauty secret.”

“I told her, ‘I get out and sweat everyday. I get up and exercise,’” Van Draanen said with a laugh.

The award-winning author of the Sammy Keyes mystery series, the “Shredderman” books and “The Gecko & Sticky” series, Van Draanen wrote “Flipped” nearly a decade ago.

Last month, she found herself treading the same red carpet as director Rob Reiner and actors John Mahoney, Penelope Ann Miller and Rebecca de Mornay.

For Van Draanen, whose previous film credits are limited to the 2007 Nickelodeon movie “Shedderman Lives,” the experience was a surreal one.

“You have a picture in your mind of what it will look like but explode that by 100 percent,” she said. “It was like being on a different planet. It was very strange and surreal but very cool.”

Reiner loved the story

Published in 2001, “Flipped” is a coming-of-age tale about two kids who are complete opposites. Their blossoming romance is told through a “he said, she said” narrative that captures the fun, frustrations and follies of puppy love.

When Bryce Loski moves across the street from Juli Baker just before second grade, she’s instantly smitten. He runs.

The following years are a constant tug-of-war between free spirit Juli and buttoned-down Bryce.

“She’s the tree climber. She’s the one who has the high lofty view of the glorious world,” Van Draanen explained, “and Bryce is more down to earth.”

Then in eighth grade, everything changes. As Bryce begins to realize what he’s been missing, Juli starts wondering whether her long-time crush is all he’s cracked up to be.

Van Draanen drew from her own experiences as a lovelorn girl and as a computer science teacher in charge of hundreds of hormonal high schoolers to capture Bryce and Juli’s youthful conundrum.

“Everybody has had a crush that wasn’t reciprocated,” the author said. “Some of (Juli’s) most embarrassing behaviors I’ve kind of shared.”

Students throughout the state picked “Flipped” to win the California Young Reader Medal in 2004. The book, aimed at ages 12 through 14, has been a hit with adults, too, Van Draanen said.

“Adults now have a perspective and a wisdom that they didn’t have back in junior high,” the author said. “They can appreciate kids going through that because they’ve gone through it too.”

Talk of a “Flipped” movie began six years ago, when a film company optioned the story.

“Every six months, I would get a report but it would go nowhere,” the author said.

She began to doubt a movie would ever be made.

That changed on Halloween 2008. Van Draanen was sitting in her car outside a San Luis Obispo Starbucks when she received a call from Rob Reiner— the Oscar-nominated director of “A Few Good Men,” “When Harry Met Sally…” and “Stand by Me”— saying he was working on a film adaptation.

“Rob was very open and welcoming,” Van Draanen said of the filmmaker, who had read the book with his son. “He just fell in love with the story.”

Laughs and sniffles

The big-screen adaptation stars Callan McAuliffe as Bryce and Madeline Carroll, best known as Kevin Costner’s daughter in “Swing Vote,” as Juli. (Ryan Ketzner and Morgan Lily play the younger versions of the characters.)

Anthony Edwards and Rebecca de Mornay play Bryce’s parents in the film, and John Mahoney of “Fraser” fame plays Bryce’s grandfather. The Bakers are played by Aiden Quinn and Penelope Ann Miller.

Van Draanen said she was satisfied with the casting choices, especially the two young leads.

“Without them being right, the whole thing would have been wrong,” she said.

According to Van Draanen, the film version of “Flipped” is largely faithful to the book— even down to the split narrative.

The biggest difference is the setting, she added.

Although the book takes place in modern times, Reiner chose to set the movie in the early 1960s. “That adds to the appeal an element of nostalgia,” Van Draanen explained.

Filming for “Flipped” began in July 2009 and concluded that August.

Van Draanen spent a few days on the set in Michigan. “It was an amazing experience to watch (Reiner) work,” she said. “He’s just really, really good with the little ones.”

The author saw a finished cut of the film at a cast-and-crew party on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, but she enjoyed experiencing it a second time with an audience on July 26.

“This time I was just able to enjoy it as a movie,” she said. “It’s really good. … People in the audience laughed at the right times and they sniffled at the right times.”

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune