‘Chemical Hearts’ stars Lili Reinhart, Austin Abrams, director Richard Tanne discuss new Amazon Prime film

Noah Levine

Director and writer Richard Tanne’s “Chemical Hearts” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime. The coming-of-age story, based on the novel “Our Chemical Hearts” by Krystal Sutherland, follows two teenagers as they navigate the harsh reality of trauma, relationships and adulthood. 

The Daily Texan attended a Zoom roundtable with Tanne, Lili Reinhart (“Riverdale,” “Hustlers”) and Austin Abrams (“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” “Paper Towns”). 

The Daily Texan: What kinds of traits do you look for in a director?

Lili Reinhart (Grace Town): Someone who’s open to collaboration. I work in TV most of the year where what’s on the page is what happens. There is not much room for improv, and that’s totally understandable. It has to fit a time frame, (and) you have a million people approving the script. For a film, it’s important for me to work with a director who actually cares about what an actor has to say, specifically about the character, mood of the scene (and) the dialogue. So when (Tanne and I) worked together, it was very much collaborative. We worked on the dialogue a lot just to make sure everything felt grounded. It is their job, obviously, as a director to have this very clear vision and make sure everything’s under control. But also, your actors are your actors for a reason. It is important to listen to them and take what they say into consideration. 

DT: How did you achieve authentic on-screen chemistry with your co-stars? 

Austin Abrams (Henry Page): With Lili, we worked with each other when we were around 15 and then again at like 18, so there’s already a repertoire there. So that was helpful. A lot of times there’s just a chemistry with whoever you are working with that is either there or it’s not there. I think I was very lucky that it was there. That’s something I’m not sure can be fabricated if it’s not naturally there. 


DT: What do you think is the key component to a successful coming-of-age story? 

Richard Tanne: If I knew (the key component to a successful coming-of-age story), then this (project) would’ve been a shoe-in to connect with people … I sort of just had to be true to the story that I was telling. I can rattle off a few titles of movies that I grew up watching between 12 and 18 years old that really worked for me. Coming-of-age stories in various forms: “Rushmore,” “Boyz n the Hood,” “Better Luck Tomorrow,” “The 400 Blows,” and Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant.” (Also) more recent films like “Blue is the Warmest Colour” and “The Hate You Give” — these are all movies that are more or less coming-of-age stories, but they have a little something extra to them. I like the coming-of-age movies that are what they are but also have something else on their mind.