November 30, 2023

Kelly Fremon Craig, the writer, director and producer of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, opened up about what inspired her to reach out to Judy Blume to adapt the beloved coming-of-age novel into a film.

During Deadline’s Contenders Film Los Angeles event Saturday, Craig said that after The Edge of Seventeen, she was thinking about what was next for her and thought about authors who had impacted her life.

“The first person who came to my mind was Judy Blume,” she said during her film’s panel. “I mean, really, she turned me into a reader and a writer. I started to reread all her books with a thought of adapting them.”

Craig said that during that same time, Blume posted on social media that she had been thinking of optioning her books, but the only one she wouldn’t allow to be adapted was Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

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That’s when Craig sent Blume an email that she calls “a love letter.” “I just poured my heart out and told her how much her work had meant to me,” the filmmaker said. “For as long as I can remember, she really was the first person who spoke to me and made me feel, especially at that age, that I wasn’t alone. Her writing has such an honesty to it, and I think that’s such a gift at that age, when you can feel really like you’re the only person in the world going through something.”

Producer Julie Ansell noted that it was important for them “to make Julie Blume happy” about the adaptation.”

“That was sort of the pressure throughout the whole filmmaking and all of it, to really make a film that lives up to what the book is,” Ansell said. “Judy was part of that and very supportive.”

RELATED: ‘Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret’ Review: Judy Blume’s Classic Book On Screen After 50 Years Is Well Worth The Wait

Adapting Blume ‘s novel into a movie left Craig “paralyzed” as she wrote the first draft of the script as she “didn’t want to [Blume] down.”

“I respect her so much,” Craig added. “And this is her legacy. So it felt really important to get it right. It started to shift for me, as soon as I mentally shifted to a place of if I can just deliver the spirit of the book, even as I’m making changes, then that will all have served her work.”

RELATED: ‘Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret’ Trailer Shows Off First Judy Blume Movie Adaptation

Abby Ryder Fortson, who plays Margaret Simon, hopes that the film “opens up conversation.”

“I think that we live in a time where people are a little uncomfortable talking about puberty and your body changing and all the different ways that you’re going to feel awkward and embarrassed throughout all of your years of middle school, high school and throughout your life,” she said. “I think that film can be a wonderful barrier to remove pressure from having conversations like that. I think if parents can take their kids to see this, they can have a conversation more around the character.”

RELATED: The Contenders Film: Los Angeles – Deadline’s Full Coverage

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret also stars Rachel McAdams as Barbara Simon and Kathy Bates as Sylvia Simon.

Check back Monday for the panel video.

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