Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in “The Fault in Our Stars”
In the film, Hazel and Gus journey to Amsterdam and visit the Anne Frank House. Hazel is very frail, but she still ascends numerous stairs (the house doesn’t have an elevator), and when she wobbles into the attic, Gus kisses her to cheers from a smattering of tourists.
Building the Anne Frank House attic for “The Fault in Our Stars”
The actors weren’t allowed to film in the Anne Frank house’s creaky stairways and upstairs rooms. To help recreate the house, director Josh Boone turned to his production designer Molly Hughes. Hughes explains that some dramatic liberties had to be taken. In the real Anne Frank House, visitors aren’t allowed to set foot in Frank’s upstairs bedroom. In the movie, Hazel and Gus walk right in, where they share a passionate kiss. “We talked about it at length and felt the attic was important, so we had her go into the attic,” Hughes says.
“The Fault in Our Stars” attic blueprint
Hughes and her team built three different studio sets in Pittsburgh, one for each floor of the Anne Frank House. Hughes (who worked on multiple “Harry Potter” films) had never been to the house before, but she studied photographs that had been uploaded to Tumblr. She also hired a local architect to visit the house at 6 a.m. with a handheld camera, where he was allowed to film for a single hour. He retraced Hazel’s journey through the claustrophobic space where the Frank family hid from the Nazis for two years starting in 1940.
“The Fault in Our Stars” Anne Frank House
Based on that footage, Hughes meticulously went about designing the interior of the house, paying special attention to its light switches, exit signs, narrow staircases and wooden bookshelves. “My art director Greg Weimerskirch and I watched it probably 100 times, pausing on details,” Hughes recalls, including this quote on the wall in one of the rooms.
“The Fault in Our Stars” Anne Frank House wallpaper
Another touch of inspiration came when the house cooperated by sending sample placards (which explain to tourists what they are seeing) and a patch of white wallpaper from one of the rooms. Hughes had the white pattern scanned and replicated. When she finally scouted the house, after the sets were already built, she was relieved at how much they got right.