In Entertainment Weekly, Emma Watson reported that she took the role because Stephen Chbosky told her that "Not only is this going to be one of the most important parts you play, you're also going to have the summer of your life and meet some of your best friends." She also reported that the claim came true.
John Hughes originally bought the film rights with the intention to write and direct. He intended to make the film as more of a dark comedy with Shia LaBeouf set to play Charlie, Kirsten Dunst slated to play Sam, and Patrick Fugit cast as Patrick. Hughes sudden death stalled the project, as he'd not completed a script before his passing. This allowed the film to be revived, as an independent movie, with Stephen Chbosky returning to write and direct.
According to an interview with Stephen Chbosky, "watching people like Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, and Mae Whitman who never had prom, never really had a proper graduation, because they were always working, and watching those kids get to have a high school experience that we all take for granted, was very special."
In an interview with LAYouth.com, Stephen Chbosky said that he wrote the book for personal reasons, but realized that many people related to it, while reading the book's customer reviews on Amazon.com.
Though it isn't mentioned in the movie specifically, Charlie is not that far apart in age to Sam and Patrick, perhaps one of the reasons he connected with them so well. If you pause the film, you can count sixteen candles on Charlie's birthday cake, which he receives on December 24th. A December birthday would make him an older freshman, but Charlie has also been held back a year due to emotional problems, which is mentioned in the book, but not the movie. Hence, when Charlie turned sixteen, most of his Senior friends were probably still just seventeen years old, making them very close in age.
In an interview with Movieline, Ezra Miller said that he first saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) when his older sister showed it to him as a young kid. At the end of the movie, his sister turned the television off and said, 'you can't tell mom and dad'.
A scene was filmed, in which it is heavily implied that Charlie's sister Candace reveals to him that she's pregnant; he then takes her to get an abortion, which she ultimately goes through with. The scene was likely cut to avoid an "R" rating by the MPAA.
The novel was first published in 1999, but the action is set during the 1991-1992 school year. No explicit year is mentioned in the film, though based on several plot details (i.e. no characters use cell phones or the Internet, the use of records and cassette tapes) and the inclusion of the song "Low" by Cracker on the soundtrack (released in 1993), the movie does imply a mid 1990s setting.
The list of books, Mr. Anderson gives to Charlie, is the following: - The Stranger, Albert Camus. - On the Road, Jack Kerouac. - The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald. - To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. - A separate peace, John Knowles. - Walden, Henry David Thoreau. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger.
Was originally rated R by the MPAA for "teen drug and alcohol use, and some sexual references" but was later changed to PG-13 after an appeal for "mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight - all involving teens"
At the time of filming Ezra Miller was seventeen years old, about the same age as his character. Logan Lerman was eighteen years old, two years older than his character, who turned sixteen the day before Christmas, and was an old freshman after being held back a year. In reality, Lerman is nine months older than Miller. Emma Watson was 21 years old at the time of filming, making her the eldest of the three leads.
When the family is eating dinner, at the end of the movie, Charlie asks his dad how he thinks the Penguins will do this year. The Dad replies that they will suck and need to learn defense. The Penguins went on to win their first Stanley Cup that year.
The picture inside Charlie's school locker (when he wears his Christmas suit to school) is the singer Johnnie Ray. At the school dance when Sam and Patrick perform "the living room routine" to Dexys Midnight Runners's Come on, Eileen, the first line of the song is: "Poor ol' Johnny Ray..."
Stephen Chbosky is a native of Pittsburgh, where the movie is filmed and set. In an interview with Hollywood.com, he reported that his parents have breakfast three times a week, at one of the filming locations, King's Restaurant.
Ezra Miller and Emma Watson both star in movies written by JK Rowling. Emma starred as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise and Ezra starred as Credence in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The scene, in which Mr. Anderson asks Charlie's English class several literary questions, to which everyone except Charlie, doesn't know the answers, he instead, writes the answers down in his notebook, is a reference to a similar scene in the Marathon Man (1976).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Some critics and other audience members had trouble believing that the movie's characters would not only not recognize the "tunnel song" (David Bowie's 1977 hit "Heroes") but would not be able to discover its identity for many months. In an October 2012 interview in Vanity Fair magazine, Stephen Chbosky admitted that this detail was true to his own life as a teenager in the early 1990s: "You (interviewer Bruce Handy) and John Malkovich and Jim Powers (both producers on the film) could all gang up on me and say, 'We don't believe it,' and I will put my hand on a Bible and say, 'In the early '90s, David Bowie was "Let's Dance" to me. He was that guy.' The whole '70s Bowie, because I was more into grunge, I came late to him. Listen, if you say to me, 'The kids not knowing "Heroes," it's not realistic,' I will cop to it! Anyone who has a bone to pick, I can't argue. But I swear to god, it was real!"
In the end, we find out that Charlie was molested by his aunt. It is heavily implied that Charlie's episodes were the direct result of it. Many children who have been molested experience the same symptoms of PTSD-like episodes.