TUDUM – Author Jennifer E. Smith spills on the process of translating her hit novel to the screen.
Readers all over the world fell in love at first sight with Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight when it was published in 2011. Smith is the first to admit she’s not exactly the best statistician: “I have never been a math person; shockingly, I’m a words person,” she tells Tudum with a laugh. But maybe she can help us with one stats question: What’s the probability of an author loving a film adaptation of one of her own books?
For Smith, at least, the answer is 100%. (She also wrote the novel that last year’s Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between was based on.) “I can’t speak for everybody, but in my case, it’s been very, very high,” Smith says. “I could not love this movie more.”
Like the book, Love at First Sight tells the story of Hadley and Oliver, a pair of travelers (played by Haley Lu Richardson and Ben Hardy) who find themselves sitting next to each other on a cross-Atlantic plane trip. Things get complicated from there. You can catch a sneak peek with the first trailer for Love at First Sight above.
Smith has kept the story of Hadley and Oliver’s impromptu romance at 30,000 feet close to her heart for more than a decade, but she wasn’t too clingy about the film version. “Jennifer was so trusting and generous and not precious in the slightest,” director Vanessa Caswill says. “She wrote me the sweetest email after she finally watched the film. It was so lovely, I printed it out and keep it on my desk!”
The film’s decade-long journey to Netflix meant that any possible casting choices the author had in her head while writing it have long since aged out of the parts. “I am so thrilled with Haley and Ben,” Smith says. “They are such a great Hadley and Oliver. They’re so charming and winning, and they have great chemistry. They just did right by the characters.”
For his part, Hardy says that he found Oliver’s logical mind an irresistible acting challenge. “Oliver is the definition of a statistician — a man reducing his life to data to try and gain control of the uncontrollable,” the actor tells us. “To take that ethos into the unpredictability of love and romance? So much fun to explore. I couldn’t resist.”
It didn’t hurt that Hardy had had his own share of fateful airplane meetings: “Most improbable thing on a plane… bumping into Zendaya coming out of the bathroom, which, as the biggest Greatest Showman fan on the planet, almost killed me.”
The new trailer also gives fans a glimpse at the film’s narrator — a mysterious, omniscient character played by Jameela Jamil. That character doesn’t appear in the book, but Smith feels that she’s a perfect fit for her book’s tone. “It adds this kind of quirkiness and whimsy to the story and also makes it feel bigger,” the author says. “This is a story about fate and chance and timing and serendipity. [It’s] a genius decision by Katie Lovejoy, who wrote the screenplay.”
Jamil also, of course, plays a role that’s near and dear to Smith’s heart. “When I met her, I said to her that I was the narrator of the book, and she gets to be the narrator of the movie,” Smith recalls. “And I feel like the movie got a big upgrade.”
Love at First Sight lands on Netflix on Sept. 15.