There’s no doubt Jamie Blackley is here to stay. The only question now is just how big he’s going to get.
The young Isle of Man native had small roles in last year’s WikiLeaks drama The Fifth Estate and 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman. But the big screen adaptation of author Gayle Forman’s young adult bestseller If I Stay will likely be the first introduction to Blackley for many soon-to-be fans.
And unlike the brouhaha around the casting of Christian and Anastasia from 50 Shades of Grey, the legions of If I Stay fans seem very pleased with Blackley and co-star Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass).
The scrutiny of the film casting choices “kind of makes me anxious, but it’s kind of thrilling at the same time,” the 23-year-old Blackley said during a recent stop in Toronto. “Kids are reading, and they have such a vivid idea of what these characters are like. I think that’s a really cool thing.”
Blackley plays Adam, a cool yet sensitive budding rock star who is smitten with fellow high school student Mia (Moretz), a shy cello player with a quirky, loving family. The film tells the story of Mia and Adam’s relationship over the course of a couple of years, leading up to a tragedy that ultimately tests their bond.
For Blackley, the terror of the first screen chemistry test with Moretz quickly gave way to a fast friendship. “I just remember being so scared and so nervous. And then throughout the process we just kind of messed around and became friends,” he said.
“She just made it so easy. I think the only way to portray that young love is to just be mates with each other and just mess around. Hopefully that comes across.”
The movie is directed by R.J. Cutler, best known for the acclaimed documentaries The World According to Dick Cheney and The September Issue. If I Stay author Forman, who also serves as an executive producer on the film, said finding someone with the right qualities to play Adam was no easy feat: it had to be an actor with good looks and confidence, but with a certain amount of vulnerability.
And musical talent, too: Adam is an up-and-coming star in the Portland music scene, meaning Blackley had to be able to convincingly rock out.
“I played the guitar since I was about 12, but never really seriously, just kind of in my room playing little songs,” he said. “But it was a really handy tool in the lead-up to this.”
Next up for Blackley is a lead role in next year’s untitled Woody Allen movie, which he just finished shooting but isn’t allowed to say anything about. “I can’t, I’m afraid,” he said. “It’s like lock and key, and if I do I’ll get killed somewhere.”
And assuming If I Stay becomes the next young adult film sensation, is Blackley ready for stardom?
“Who knows,” he said. “I need another job first!”
Gayle Forman discusses the movie adaptation of ‘If I Stay’
While young adult fiction is often associated with novels about vampire love affairs and dystopian sci-fi heroines, the category is reaching a wider, broader base of readers than ever before.
That’s because stories about young people aren’t necessarily young stories, said author Gayle Forman.
“They’re about young people with these kind of universal coming-of-age stories that have resonance for everybody,” said Forman, whose 2009 bestseller If I Stay has been adapted into a movie, opening this week. “Anybody who’s ever been in love, anybody who’s been a parent, anybody who’s gone through a loss or a transformation can connect to these stories no matter what age.”
If I Stay stars Chloe Grace Moretz and Jamie Blackley as Mia and Adam, teenagers who become an unlikely couple – he’s a confident budding rock star; she’s a shy, nerdy cello player. The film is directed by R. J. Cutler, best known for the documentaries The World According to Dick Cheney and The September Issue as well as the TV series Nashville, which he executive produces.
“He’s so perfect because he got the emotionality of it, he understood the music of it, he understood the relationships of it, visually he made it so beautiful,” Forman said. “There’s just so much that he got that I’m kind of blown away.”
If the movie does well, Forman’s follow-up to If I Stay, titled Where She Went, could also get a big-screen adaptation. But the author definitely does not have plans for a third book about the young lovers.
“Mia and Adam, the Target years? We’re not doing that,” she said. “I’d have to do something really horrible to them, and I don’t want to do anything. They’ve been through enough, and I think they’re where they need to be.”