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'Fault in Our Stars' tugs at heart strings in life-affirming tale

By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In a summer of blockbusters with superheroes, a rampaging monster and a wicked fairy, "The Fault in Our Stars," the film adaptation of John Green's best-seller, is a heart-wrenching story of young love that could become a box-office hit.

Green's 2012 young adult novel has sold 10.7 million copies worldwide, providing a built-in fan base for the film that opens Friday in U.S. theaters.

The 36-year-old prize-winning author, also known for the vlogbrothers video blog on YouTube, has been tweeting about the film to his 2.47 million followers. And Fandango said it is the biggest pre-selling romantic drama in the online ticket-seller's 14-year history.

"The Fault in Our Stars"- the title based on a Shakespeare quote - features Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, who last appeared together in the dystopian thriller "Divergent."

"It is a movie that celebrates life and is incredibly hopeful," Woodley, 22, said in an interview. "It is about falling in love for the first time and the beauty of being in love, and all the trials and tribulations and glory that comes from that."

Woodley and Elgort play smart, witty teenagers who begin a romance after meeting at a cancer support group.

"I fell in love with the story and the relationship between Augustus and Hazel," said Woodley, who wears a nasal cannula and wheels around a portable oxygen tank throughout the film.

"I also loved that, at the age of 16, Hazel understood that you don't need to live a long life to lead a meaningful life."

Hazel and Augustus, who lost a leg to the disease, are fun-loving and never let their illness define them. Although cancer is the backdrop, Elgort said, it is not the focus of the story.

"What it does do is put a clock on things, which makes things interesting because I think it allows both characters to live in the moment," the 20-year-old actor explained.

Academy Award nominee Laura Dern ("Rambling Rose") plays Hazel's protective mother, Frannie. Nat Wolff is the couple's friend, and Willem Dafoe, who won Oscar nods for "Platoon" and "Shadow of the Vampire," is the elusive Peter Van Houten, the author of Hazel's favorite novel.

Perplexed by the book's unsatisfactory ending, Hazel and Augustus travel to Amsterdam to meet Van Houten and learn the fate of the book's characters.

Early reviews for the film, shot in Pittsburgh and Amsterdam, have been overwhelmingly positive. It is expected to bring in $36 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales during its opening weekend, according to Boxoffice.com.

For director Josh Boone ("Stuck in Love") the film was always about two young people in love.

"To me it just seems like I hadn't seen a movie like this before, done this way, with characters like this, with a love story like this. I just thought it was a fascinating backdrop to talk about illness and death and life and family," he said.

(Editing by Eric Kelsey and Gunna Dickson)

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