‘Turtles All the Way Down’ Director & Author on Isabela Merced’s Brilliance

The Huge Image

  • Isabela Merced’s portrayal of Aza in ‘Turtles All the Way Down’ is deeply emotional and genuine, bringing the character’s believed spirals to life.
  • Director Hannah Marks masterfully captures Aza’s internal struggles from John Green’s novel via visual storytelling and a complicated like story in between pals.
  • The vehicle scene in between Aza and Daisy was a difficult but important moment in the film, highlighting the portrayal of mental well being difficulties.

[Editor’s note: The following contains some spoilers for Turtles All the Way Down.]

Directed by Hannah Marks and primarily based on the bestselling novel by John Green, the drama Turtles All the Way Down follows 17-year-old Aza Holmes (Isabela Merced), who’s attempting to be a fantastic daughter, pal and student, all whilst her personal thoughts betray her. As the obsessive thoughts consume her in a spiral she feels helpless to handle, it does not leave substantially time for possessing entertaining with pals or finding closer to a crush. If she’s going to discover a way to reside with her thoughts rather of letting them rule her life, she’ll have to discover a way to quit internalizing it all, accept like, and know that not each day will be best.

To inform such an internal coming-of-age story, casting an actress who could convey Aza’s believed spirals was important, and Marks and Green knew that Merced could far more than manage the job. Locating herself personally identifying with her character, Merced brought her entire self to Aza each day she was on set. It is a function that she felt so deeply that the audience is suitable there with her via the fantastic occasions and the hard occasions.

Through this interview with Collider, Marks and Green talked about bringing such a deeply individual story to life, the scenes that felt like they had been lifted straight from Green’s imagination, how Marks wanted to be a storyteller no matter whether that be as an actress or filmmaker, telling a complicated like story in between very best pals, the challenge of shooting the fight in the vehicle, and figuring out how to visually represent Aza’s believed spirals.

Isabela Merced and Cree on the poster for Max's Turtles All the Way Down

Turtles All The Way Down

A teenager tries to resolve a mystery surrounding a fugitive billionaire.

Hannah Marks

Elizabeth Berger , Isaac Aptaker , John Green

Author John Green Was Sold On This Adaptation of ‘Turtles All the Way Down’ Thanks To Director Hannah Marks

Isabela Merced and Cree looking in the mirror as Aza and Daisy in Max's Turtles All the Way Down
Image by way of Max

Collider: John, what is it like for you to expertise adaptations of your operate? Some of your stories really feel much easier to bring to life than other people. Does each expertise really feel distinctive?

JOHN GREEN: This time it was definitely really hard for me, in some techniques, since the story is incredibly individual to me. I’ve lived with OCD my entire life and that is an essential portion of Aza’s character and the story. And also, the way that the book is written is so language-primarily based. It is so substantially about her attempting to discover language and type for this psychic discomfort that she’s in. And it is so interior and abstract that I definitely worried about no matter whether it could be a fantastic film. I worried till Hannah [Marks] came in and pitched herself as the director, years and years ago. She brought with her this two-minute video that she’d place collectively and that video felt like a believed spiral to me. It felt like she’d currently identified a visual language to describe this expertise of intrusive thoughts. Quite substantially from that moment on, I was like, “As lengthy as Hannah’s our director, we’ll be fine.”


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Isabela Merced stars in the most current John Green adapation.

Is there a scene in the film that it felt like was just lifted completely from your head, from the words on the pages of the novel?

GREEN: There’s so a lot of of them. The double 1st date at Applebee’s is one particular that comes to thoughts. The scenes inside of Davis’s residence when they 1st see the Raymond Pettibon painting felt incredibly substantially like it was just lifted from my imagination. And then, substantially of the stuff later in the film feels like it is lifted from my imagination. It was really hard for me to watch some of these days since I was worried about Isabela [Merced] and worried about myself. There had been some intense days there, but also major laughs. Becoming with Bela and Cree is to be laughing.

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There’s anything so unique about watching the two of them collectively all through this. Even in the toughest components of this, you just want to hug them.

GREEN: You wanna hug him, and there’s anything fatherly in me. With my personal little ones, I often wanna defend them from hurt, but of course, that is not attainable.

HANNAH MARKS: I really feel like their mom, as nicely.

Hannah Marks Has Gone From Bratty Teen Daughter on Television To Filmmaker With a Exceptional Vision

Isabela Merced as Aza leaning on the right shoulder of Cree as Daisy in Max's Turtles All the Way Down
Image by way of Max

Hannah, the 1st factor I don’t forget seeing you do was the Television series Important Roughness, and I have to say that I never ever would have imagined you going from there to right here on your profession journey.

MARKS: That is gotta be 15 years ago now that I did that show. I was just the bratty teen daughter.

GREEN: I don’t forget.

MARKS: I became the character that did the solution placements.

GREEN: Which is a genuine talent in acting. That is an underappreciated talent in acting, to open up the trunk of the Subaru Outback and be like, “Wow, this is surprisingly spacious.”

MARKS: I had to be like, “Mom, I like your new Lincoln.” That was a genuine moment I had. I also had to sell some honey mustard pretzels, but they had been scrumptious. That is so funny that you have noticed that. Sorry to derail it.

I’m just curious if this was often the objective for you, even when you had been undertaking that Television series. Did you have a moment exactly where you wanted to get severe about focusing on directing?

MARKS: I got into acting as a kid since I loved films, and also since my mom was an actress. She was a kid actor who began at six years old, and I grew up undertaking plays with her. So, I did like acting, but primarily I loved films and I didn’t definitely care how I was involved in films. I just wanted to be a portion of it. I often believed it was so magical, and it is often been such an escape for me. So, my objective is often to just serve the story the very best I can, in what ever capacity that is, and to be as close to films as attainable.


‘Turtles All the Way Down’ Assessment: Isabela Merced Is Spectacular in Heartfelt YA Drama

Spoiler alert: it is not about turtles.

I final spoke to you for Mark, Mary &amp Some Other Men and women, which was an unconventional romantic comedy. This is an unconventional coming of age story. Is that unconventional nature anything that you discover oneself especially drawn to, or is that not anything that definitely even happens to you?

MARKS: I like to discover the balance. I like a story that I assume a lot of individuals will be in a position to connect to whilst also undertaking anything a tiny fresh and distinctive and left of center. For me, it is about obtaining the factor that is not so niche that it will not have an audience but, not so down the middle that it does not have something new to say. I definitely appear for that.

GREEN: In this film, [Hannah] definitely identified a way to make it about two like stories. There’s the like story in between Davis and Aza, which is the like story we count on as film viewers. And then, there’s this definitely wealthy, complicated like story in between these two very best pals. It turns out that friendship and that like is just as essential, if not far more essential, than romantic like.

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MARKS: As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to definitely appreciate the connection in between Aza and her mother, Gina. I assume that is definitely wonderful. I’m so close with my mother and my mom has watched me deal with related difficulties as Aza. I assume this was an essential story for her, as nicely.

Which ‘Turtles All the Way Down’ Scene Was Director Hannah Marks Most Nervous To Shoot?

Isabela Merced as Aza and Cree as Daisy walking down the hallway of high school in Turtles All the Way Down
Image by way of Max

What was it like to figure out how to shoot that fight in the vehicle in between Aza and Daisy? So substantially is going on in that moment, and but there’s nowhere for the power to come out of since they’re in such a confined space. What was that like to figure out?

MARKS: That was really the scene that I was the most nervous to shoot. It was my preferred scene in the book. I was blown away by that scene. I believed it addressed anything I’d never ever noticed addressed just before, which is that mental well being or mental illness can from time to time come across as selfish to other individuals. I believed it definitely portrayed each sides, flip sides of that coin, and I’ve never ever noticed that just before. I felt a lot of stress to realize each Aza and Daisy’s point of view in that scene since I felt it was so nicely-written. And undertaking vehicle scenes, in common, is definitely really hard. It is incredibly really hard to discover a lengthy sufficient stretch of land that you are permitted to have to get via what was a incredibly lengthy scene. So, you are looping your vehicle in circles and just praying. I definitely do not like filming scenes and autos, but fortunately, Isabela and Cree auditioned with that scene, and they had been accurate experts and created it much easier on me.

GREEN: [Hannah says she doesn’t] like to film in autos, but two of the iconic scenes in this film happen in autos. The Outkast scene is so fantastic and is in a car, and then [the fight scene].

MARKS: It is since I more than prepare for these scenes, especially since I’m dreading them so substantially.

GREEN: I’m just [saying that she’s] incredibly fantastic at shooting vehicle scenes, even if [she doesn’t] love it.

MARKS: Thank you so substantially. I just really feel negative trapping the actors in there for so a lot of hours.

I loved that Outkast scene in the vehicle. It created me instantly wonder what one particular CD I would want to have in the vehicle if I couldn’t listen to something else.

MARKS: What would yours be?

Mine would be Green Day’s American Idiot.

GREEN: That is a terrific album.

MARKS: A classic.

Do you guys every single have an album?

GREEN: My son’s would certainly be Green Day’s American Idiot, and it is not a negative candidate for me. In the book, it is Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, and it is accurate that really occurred to me. I really did have a tape stuck in the vehicle and it definitely was Missy Elliott. I definitely did come to think that Missy Elliott is a genius on a level that none of us at present appreciate. I assume we’ll listen to her music in one hundred years, the way we listen to Louis Armstrong. I assume she’s a genius. And so, I would certainly choose Missy Elliott.

MARKS: And I picked Outkast. I won that battle. That is what created it into the film. I was incredibly excited. When we 1st rehearsed that scene, Isabela did “Miss Jackson” in Spanish, which was unbelievable for me to see, and we got to place a tiny bit of that into the film also.


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This entire thought of worry of contamination appears terrifying since of how debilitating it is, but at the exact same time, how do you even get the audience to realize what that is when it is anything they haven’t skilled. Hannah, how did you strategy figuring that out? How really hard was that to do and how lengthy of a method was it to figure out how to capture what’s going on in her head in these moments?

MARKS: I struggle with a lot of what Aza struggles with, so for me, it wasn’t also substantially about figuring it out. I definitely connect with her deeply. It is why I loved the book so substantially. So, it was far more about, “Okay, how can I translate this on screen in a way that feels incredibly particular to this character?” We’re not attempting to portray all types of OCD, or everyone’s expertise of OCD. This is Aza’s expertise, and hopefully inside that specificity, you discover what’s universal. So, it was just following my heart, following the supply material, and considering about approaching how her brain performs, which is not often logical, and from time to time at a distinctive pace and rhythm, and has a distinctive sound or distinctive visual. It is not often the germs or the illnesses that she’s imagining. From time to time it is memories that come absolutely out of left field. I just attempted to definitely assume about how I expertise items and how I felt in the course of the 1st time I study the book.

GREEN: The stretching and condensing of time, via the pacing and via the way that it is reduce, is portion of what I assume is so brilliant about this. It feels nearly like David Fincher to me.

MARKS: Our editor, Andrea Bottigliero, did a definitely terrific job of understanding what I was going for in that. She also definitely deeply connected to Aza and was honored to be the one particular cutting that material.

Isabela Merced Was the Excellent Aza for ‘Turtles All the Way Down’

Why do every single of you assume Isabela Merced was the best representation of this character? What do you like about what you saw in her, but also what she brought to it that you may well not have anticipated?

GREEN: In terms of what I saw in the audition, I just believed she was brilliant from the get started. She sounded like Aza to me, even in the cadence of her phrasing. And then, in terms of when we had been on set, there’s just a brilliance to her. She was prepared to bring her whole self to the portion, which is not uncomplicated to do, and I felt that each day. She was there each single day, and each single day she was bringing her entire self to it. I assume that is why you really feel it so deeply when she’s going via fantastic occasions, and you really feel it so deeply when she’s going via hardship and experiencing discomfort.

MARKS: I was specifically blown away by her believed spirals in the audition. She study the voiceover, and it could be incredibly uncomplicated to just study it and attempt to sound fantastic, but she brought so substantially emotion and soul to it that we had been all like, “Wow, that is our girl.” She also brought a ton of levity to the scenes with Daisy, which was definitely essential since not all actors can do each items. She definitely was in a position to encompass the entire getting, which was so essential for us. In this story, in specific, we want to show the fantastic and the negative.


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Merced also talks about how substantially she loves her ‘Turtles All the Way Down’ character, flaws and all.

Turtles All the Way Down is obtainable to stream on Max. Verify out the trailer:

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