Parts of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ movie adaptation filmed at Mt. Lebanon’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Published Jun 9, 2014 at 12:23 pm (Updated Jun 9, 2014 at 12:23 pm)

Anticipation for the film adaptation of the 2012 bestselling young adult novel “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green has grow steadily since the book was released. That frenzy grew even more when Green chose St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon as the location for several scenes in the movie filmed in and around Pittsburgh last year. The two main characters meet for the first time in the church.

St. Paul’s celebrated the film’s release June 5, hosting a red carpet gala at The Galleria of Mt. Lebanon. Hundreds of people, many dressed in formal wear, attended the premiere. The church provided hors d’oeuvres, popcorn, candy and soda. Some guests had their photos taken on the red carpet.

St. Paul’s pre-sold three screens and two more were added to accommodate the public. All five sold out for the 9 p.m. showing.

“The Fault in Our Stars,” or TFIOS as it is being hashtaged in social media, is set in Indiana. It tells the story of two teenage cancer patients who meet at a support group for kids with cancer.

Shailene Woodley plays Hazel Grace Lancaster. The 16-year-old has thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs, forcing her to carry an oxygen tank at all times.

Ansel Elgort portrays Augustus Walters. He lost a leg to cancer and now wears a prosthetic.

Augustus, or Gus as he is called in the movie, does everything he can to convince Hazel that he is the one for her. And, it works.

The characters meet for the first time in the lower elevator lobby. All of the support group scenes, including the casual interactions in the parking lot, were filmed at St. Paul’s. An emotional scene was filmed in the middle of the night in the church sanctuary, and one of the hallways doubled as a hospital corridor.

As Episcopalian, Green chose the church as the setting for the cancer support group. When he arrived on set, he was pleased with the space, props and signage in the church.

“As the director of children’s ministry, I’m happy that my Sunday school room can be seen just inside the door,” said Lisa Brown. The director of children’s ministry and communications coordinator at St. Paul’s helped to organize the red carpet gala. “John Green was incredibly gracious and accessible to the fans who sought him out. Being so close to the high school, many young people came by the set every day.”

Green often took time to speak with fans and sign autographs, and even filmed a homecoming request on someone’s cell phone. He met with St. Paul’s youth group and talked about his faith journey as an Episcopalian.

Brown said, “The excitement his presence brought not only to our parish community, but to so many local youth, was the main reason we knew we had to do something special to celebrate the movie’s opening.”

On the night Green was scheduled to speak with the youth group kids, there was a leftover plate of cookies that had been used as a prop in one of the support group scenes.

“Not wanting good cookies to go to waste, I asked if we could serve them that night to the youth group,” Brown said. “So, our youth ate a little bit of the movie.”

The Rev. Michelle Boomgaard, associate rector at St. Paul’s, said the experience of having a movie filmed at the church was “Wonderful. The church looks good in every shot.”

“It’s really cool. I got to see some of the scenes at the church,” said 15-year-old Stephanie Brown, who attends St. Paul’s and had the opportunity to meet Green.

The movie, like the book, is geared toward the young adult crowd. The handsome lead actor charms Hazel, evoking “oohs and ahhs” from the audience. There were also a lot of tears. A little less than halfway through the movie, sniffles could be heard coming from the crowd. Occasionally, tears turned to laughter when one of the characters would deliver a funny one-liner at precisely the right time.

“The book was amazing. It made me cry,” said Madelyn Leibedda, 11, of Munhall. She added that Woodley is her favorite actor.

“It was better than the book,” added 12-year-old Ginger Domenico of Upper St. Clair.

The red carpet gala premiere raised more than $2,000 for Genre’s Kids with Cancer Fund and the Samuel J. Foundation.

“It was exciting. It’s a great movie,” said Rev. Lou Hays, rector at St. Paul’s. “The church is prominently featured and fits right in with our mission. We have a huge ministry to young people.”

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