The heartwarming film expertly tackled themes like religion and body autonomy while staying true to the source material, and it's largely thanks to Kelly Fremon Craig—the mastermind who brought the iconic story to life. We caught up with the 42-year-old director and screenwriter, who opened up about working with Blume, selecting the cast and connecting with Rachel McAdams's character.
'Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret' Director Dishes on Judy Blume, Rachel McAdams's Character & More
In case you're unfamiliar with the film's backstory, Blume initially didn't want her book to be adapted. But after receiving a heartfelt letter from Craig—who also flew to Key West, Florida, to make an in-person request—Blume finally granted her the screen rights.
"It is such a huge honor that she entrusted me to make the film version," she told us. "And it's also incredibly surreal because I have such vivid memories of reading her work, and she is the author that made me fall in love with reading, and in a lot of ways I'm a writer because of her."
The pair worked closely on the film, and Blume actually visited the set on several occasions.
Craig said, "Having her along for the ride was such a gift because she's brilliant. She cares desperately about every detail in the same way that I do. So I felt like we were very much on the same page, where we would get excited and obsess about the little things and debate them and, you know, really work together to get them right. I think that's part of why she and I connected. I think it's really about a love of those details. And portraying them in a way that feels deeply authentic."
Thanks to her impressive attention to detail, the Edge of Seventeen director selected Abby Ryder Fortson to play Margaret. And anyone who has seen the film would argue that she was born to play the role. While discussing what made the actress stand out, Craig said, "There's something about her that makes me root for her. There's something about her that makes me want her to be okay. And I think it's partially that she shows up with such honesty and such vulnerability that comes through her eyes. That you just want good things for that kid, you know? And that was really important for Margaret."
She continued, "She had to also be everybody because I think everybody thinks of themselves as Margaret, and so we had to find somebody who could somehow not only be Margaret, but also be every viewer watching, which is a real magic trick and a real credit to Abby because I think she pulled it off."
The same could be said for Fortson's co-star Rachel McAdams, who plays Margaret's loving mother, Barbara. While there isn't much information about her character in the book, Craig expands her backstory in a way that resonates with parents.
While rereading the book as an adult, Craig revealed that she identified with Barbara's character the most. She said, "There was only a little bit about Barbara in the book. It's really told from Margaret's perspective and you don't jump out of that perspective. But I was interested in her, and there was just enough about her in the book that it made me want to dig into that further."
Using her own life as inspiration, Craig added more dimension to Barbara's character by showing how she balances motherhood with her artistic pursuits. She said, "A lot of her backstory came from my own journey through motherhood, which has been wonderful and challenging and scary. But mostly, as a mom, there's this real fear of, 'Am I doing it right? Am I doing right by this kid who I love so much?' It's a question I carry with me every day. And so I wanted to see a character dealing with that and dealing in particular with trying to balance her love of painting and her art with motherhood, which is something I deal with every day."
The director also mentioned that Barbara's story arc is right in line with the film's overall coming-of-age theme. She told us, "I really believe that you're coming of age again and again through your life. I know I've gone through that cycle, many, many times. And I definitely have gone through it as a mom several times. When I first became a mom, and then as I got my feet under me and started to figure out what kind of mom I wanted to be and how to balance all of life every day. All of that went into it."
We can totally see why Blume was sold after meeting with Craig.
FYI, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is now available on Digital, On Demand and on Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Combo and DVD from Lionsgate.
Want all the latest celebrity news sent right to your inbox? Subscribe here.