Based on the 2016 Tony Award winning Broadway musical hit, Dear Evan Hansen is making the leap to the big screen following the success of its bestselling print counterpart, Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul (Little, Brown, 2017).
The movie, to be released by Universal Pictures, stars a few recognizable names, including Ben Platt who will be reprising his Tony-winning performance in the title role, Julianne Moore (After the Wedding), Amy Adams (Ennchanted), Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart), and Amandla Stenberg (The Hate U Give). Stephen Chbosky (Wonder) was the director, and Steven Levenson (If I Forget) wrote the screenplay. The film opened the Toronto Film Festival on September 9, and will be released to the public in theaters on September 24. A hardcover movie tie-in edition of the novel was released on August 24.
The film tells the coming-of-age story of Evan Hansen, a high school student with severe social anxiety disorder whose letter gets stolen by Connor, a classmate who later dies by suicide. Connor’s family then mistakenly thinks the letter Hansen wrote is Connor’s suicide note. As a result, Hansen lies about his relationship with the student, which deeply affects his relationships with his community and sense of self.
“The movie will be closer to the original show in terms of a multi-sensory experience. But even more so,” Emmich told PW. “The visual possibilities are endless compared to theater. Considering the impact it’s had so far, this next evolution of Dear Evan Hansen could really blow people away. Going from a Broadway musical to a novel was a bit of a leap of faith. There was a lot of discussion in the early stage about how best to make the story a book—what POVs should we include? What additional characters might help fill out the world?” Emmich recalled. “It was all five of us feeling out this new version of the story together. I give the guys a lot of credit: the safe path would have been to stick religiously to the show, but they were brave enough to let the novel be its own thing.”
The film will include two new songs, one for Connor, titled “A Little Closer,” and the other for Hansen’s classmate played by Stenberg, titled “The Anonymous Ones.” The new songs aren’t the only changes audiences will see. “From what I know, the ending is different from both the show and the novel, and I’m excited to see what they’ve done there,” LBYR v-p and editorial director Farrin Jacobs said. “I have no doubt that the movie is also going to be both amazing and totally its own thing, and that existing fans as well as those new to the story are going to love it.”
Given the musical’s popularity, Emmich and Jacobs wanted to make sure the fans knew their beloved story was in good hands. “When we were working on the novel, we were very aware of the existing fanbase—Val and I were the new kids in the world, so we always deferred to Steven, Benj, and Justin if we made a choice that differed from the show,” Jacobs told PW. “We wanted to be sure that fans loved the book and this additional insight into the world as much as people new to the story would.”
To Emmich, the story conveys a special message no matter the iteration. “We’re not alone in our loneliness. I’ve always related to that message; I’ve sung about it in my songs and even grappled with it in my latest novel, Maybe We’re Electric [Poppy, Sept. 21]. I hope the audience of Dear Evan Hansen—in whatever form they consume it—can take comfort in remembering that other people have broken their arms, others have endured grief, others have felt completely and hopelessly ignored—you are not alone.”