The “Wonder” story, which revolves around Auggie Pullman, a sensitive, spunky, and precocious intelligent 10-year-old boy with craniofacial disfigurement, is and inspiring and heartbreaking one, and drew throngs of young book fans and their adult counterparts who gathered at Westwood’s Regency Village Theatre for the high-profile event. The premiere was attended by cast members Jacob Tremblay (Auggie), Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic, Mandy Patinkin, and Daveed Diggs, as well as Chbosky, Palacio, screenwriter Steve Conrad, and producers David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman.
Also in the theater were Geena Davis and singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant, whose hit 1995 single “Wonder” inspired the title of Palacio’s book.
“We first read the book in March 2012 — it’s been a six-year journey almost,” said Lieberman of taking “Wonder” from the printed page to the big screen. “We said, we don’t know how we’re going to get this movie done because it seems, on the face of it, a challenging one, but we knew we were going to get it done. This movie is really only possible because R.J. wrote this incredible book.”
Chbosky — who passed on helming the film when first asked because his son was about to be born, leapt at the chance when approached again a year later — told the crowd that he was “so proud to bring ‘Wonder’” to the Regency Village Theatre, where he’d seen “millions of movies” while studying at USC years earlier.
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“The book touched me so deeply and I thought about the world that [my son] and daughter would inherit and how much good this book and movie could do for the world and for my wife, and so I made this movie for them,” he said, giving special thanks to Lionsgate, the cast and crew, and Trembly, whom Chbosky called “a once-in-a-lifetime actor of his generation.”
Palacio, Chbosky noted, felt compelled to pen the book after an encounter with a young girl with craniofacial disfigurement at an ice cream shop in New York.
“R.J. decided to change the world by creating a conversation for the whole world to have,” he said. “I’ve said many times, ‘Wonder’ is an eternal good because R.J. Palacio is an eternal great.”
After a standing ovation, Palacio told the audience, “I know we hear a lot about unhappy authors, but I can tell you, this is not one of them. I feel lucky and privileged to have been part of this movie. I also want to thank my friends and family. They are my wonders — every day.”
After the screening guests drove over to Baltaire in Brentwood, where they mingled and celebrated “Wonder” over food and beverages.