'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' to start filming in East End

Two years ago, Point Breeze native Jesse Andrews published his first novel — a wry coming-of-age story, set in Pittsburgh, about a teenage oddball forced to befriend a classmate with cancer.

This month that novel, “Me & Earl & the Dying Girl,” will come to life in the form of a bona fide Hollywood movie shot entirely in Pittsburgh.

Filming starts June 16 on the movie, which will be directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who directed television shows such as “Glee” and “American Horror Story” and worked as the second unit director on “Argo” and “Babel.” The cast includes Thomas Mann (“Project X”), Olivia Cooke (“Bates Motel”) and Jon Bernthal (“Walking Dead”).

“We’re excited to be here,” said producer Jeremy Dawson. “We’re coming here because there are great incentives to shoot here, but also because we’re shooting a story that takes place here.”

“Me & Earl & the Dying Girl” was approved for $1.4 million in tax credits through the Pennsylvania Film Production Tax Credit Program.

Mr. Dawson declined to share any specific locations where the movie would film, but said that it would mainly be in residential East End neighborhoods.

The film is also being produced by Dan Fogelman and Jeff Sommerville.

The film production team has been scouting locations in Pittsburgh for about four weeks.

“None of us has been here before,” said Mr. Dawson. “There are so many amazing places and landscapes, a lot of height and hills. We really want to make Pittsburgh part of the movie.”

Nancy Mosser Casting is looking for people to play extras and speaking roles for the movie, particularly people 18 and over who can portray high school students. There will not be an open casting call, but those interested can register at www.mossercasting.com under “talent registration.”

Mr. Andrews, 31, also wrote the screenplay, which, like the novel, tells the story of Point Breeze resident Greg Gaines and his friend Earl Jackson, who attend the fictional Benson High.

The pair drifts through school, analyzing cliques but not joining them, and making movies involving Greg’s cat.

Greg’s mom finds him a friend, Rachel, who has been diagnosed with leukemia, and the story progresses as Rachel’s health declines.

Mr. Andrews’ book is inevitably compared to the wildly popular John Green novel, “The Fault in Our Stars,” which also tells the story of a high school girl with cancer — and was also made into a movie shot largely in Pittsburgh. Mr. Andrews said both authors set out to make an “unsentimental book about cancer that had some hope in it,” although they had different approaches, with Mr. Andrews using more comedy and more profanity.

Mr. Andrews jokes that he and Mr. Green got into a ”fake Twitter spat” about both movies filming in Pittsburgh. “It feels unwittingly like I’ve got the older, more popular sibling who went to high school the year before I did,” he said of Mr. Green’s novel, “and I’m the goofy younger brother.”

Mr. Andrews graduated from Schenley High School and Harvard University and has since moved to Los Angeles. He dedicated the book, “To Schenley, which Benson is not.”

Watching his book turn into a movie — in his hometown — has been overwhelming. “It just makes me super happy and that’s all there is to it,” he said. “I walk about with a big dumb smile on my face.”

Anya Sostek: asostek@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1308.

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