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May 31, 2014

At The Movies: Young cancer survivors to appear in ‘The Fault in Our Stars’

NEW CASTLE — Three young adults from Lawrence County will get face time on the big screen when a film debuts next week.

Viviana Cardenas and Taylor Dettore, both of Neshannock Township, and Sebastian Dean of New Castle landed parts as extras in Fox 2000’s “The Fault In Our Stars.” The motion picture was adapted from author John Green’s best-selling novel that continues to rank No. 1 on the New York Times reading list.

The movie was produced by Temple Hill Entertainment, which helped turn the “Twilight” saga into a pop culture phenomenon. “The Fault In Our Stars” is being promoted heavily on social media.

Cardenas, Dettore and Dean are real-life cancer survivors who were selected to be members of a cancer support group in the film. Viviana plays “Julie,” while characters portrayed by Dettore and Dean are not identified.

The three are scheduled attend the premier Thursday in Pittsburgh. The film opens nationwide the following day.

The movie features Shailene Woodley, Nate Wolf and Ansel Elgort in the lead roles. The cast also includes veteran actors Willem Dafoe and Laura Dern.

Woodley and Elgort portray teenagers Hazel and Gus, who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel’s other constant companion is an oxygen tank while Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg. They meet and fall in love at a cancer support group.

VIVIANA CARDENAS

“It all feels like a dream,” Cardenas said. “When the movie comes out, it will hit me that it’s reality.”

Having read the book, Cardenas was inspired to get involved when she learned that filming would take place in Pittsburgh. “I was already a fan of John Green,” said the 17-year-old junior at Neshannock High School. “He really connects with teenagers.”

Cardenas has been in musical theater. She attended Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center for three years before transferring to Neshannock.

Research led her to a website for the movie that was advertising for young people to be part of the cancer support group in the film. She contacted them, sent a clip of herself and received a call back with an invitation to participate.

For three days, it required getting up at 4 a.m. and driving to Pittsburgh to film in the basement of a suburban downtown church. Shooting began at 6 a.m. and finished around 4 p.m.

Cardenas had an opportunity to be photographed with Woodley, Elgort and Green during a break in filming. “They were just so down to earth and very nice,” she said.

Cardenas originally was given a line in the movie, expressing the difficult time she was having with treatment. But that line was given to another young girl who was in the middle of therapy. “The line fit her better because she was undergoing therapy at the time and her head was shaved,” Cardenas said.

Cardenas has been cancer free for 10 years since having chemotherapy and radiation on the right side of her neck as a seven-year-old.

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