The film Five Feet Apart follows the storey of Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will (Cole Sprouse), two teenagers with cystic fibrosis who fall in love while undergoing treatment. To avoid cross-infection, they must keep six feet away, yet they find a method to form a connection without relying on physical contact. Five Feet Apart is unlike any other moving drama, but is it based on true events?
It isn’t the case. But it was inspired by filmmaker Justin Baldoni’s chats with late YouTuber Claire Wineland, who had cystic fibrosis and starred in Baldoni’s CW documentary series My Last Days, which followed six people with fatal illnesses who tried to make a positive effect before passing away.
“After filming My Last Days, she became like a little sister to me,” Baldoni says over the phone ahead of the film’s debut. “It was after my encounter with her that I fell in love with who she was, how she lived her life, and how she was always choosing joy and truly wanting to live. And it was the idea that life can be turned into a beautiful work of art despite of one’s circumstances that piqued my interest in this sickness in the first place.”
So Baldoni delved a little more, and Wineland’s candour sparked the idea for Five Feet Apart.
“‘All right, give me the inside scoop on what goes on in these hospitals,’ I said during that conversation. What happens if you’re 16 and have cystic fibrosis? ‘Have you ever dated someone with cystic fibrosis?’ “He recalls something. “And she was the one who informed me that’s so horrible and looked down on and hazardous, because there’s a thing called cross-infection, and that’s why individuals with CF couldn’t be closer than six feet apart because their particular germs can contaminate one other.”
CF is a “progressive, hereditary condition that causes recurring lung infections and diminishes one’s ability to breathe over time,” according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. According to Cystic Fibrosis News Today, persons with the disease are unable to be in close proximity to one another because “People with CF are vulnerable to infections and bugs that reside in the lungs, and because no two patients are alike, some infections will be more common than others. When two cystic fibrosis patients meet in person, they are more likely to contract infections from the diverse germs in each other’s lungs.”
Hearing about the danger was eye-opening for the director, so he wanted to make an upbeat film that would depict how these guys enjoy life to the fullest while simultaneously demonstrating what it’s like to live with a condition about which few people are aware. Baldoni enlisted Wineland as a consultant for the film to ensure that it was accurate for audiences with CF.
“I begged her to join me, and she did,” Baldoni adds. “When I hired the writers, she sat with them and we spoke about tales, concepts, and scripts, and she got to be a part of it.” “She died [in September 2018], just as I was about to show her the director’s cut.”
Wineland provided plenty of feedback to Baldoni and the film’s authors, Tobias Iaconis and Mikki Daughtry, in her position. “We’d go back and forth a lot, and she’d say things like, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know about this,’ or ‘I love this,’ or ‘What about this?’ A lot of the film was inspired by stories she recounted, and she was sadly too ill to get to where we were filming, and she received her lung transplant when I was editing the picture “according to the director.
Wineland died of complications from the transplant, according to CNN, and never got to view the finished product. Baldoni, on the other hand, says that even though she didn’t get to witness the film, she was ecstatic that a film about CF was finally being made. “When I emailed her images of the sets, she freaked out and said, ‘Oh my god, it’s so real!'” Baldoni recalls. “She was a staunch supporter and a fighter.”
In addition to Wineland’s assistance, the filmmaker solicited the help of medical professionals to provide the actors and crew with the necessary knowledge.
In a separate phone call, Sprouse explains, “We had the aid of medical specialists who had been trained with cystic disease for years, and we had also worked closely with patients to get ourselves into the psychological headspace of that, and the physical limits of cystic fibrosis.” “We had been preparing for five to six weeks, and happily, we had the screenplay for long enough that I was able to conduct my own research. And Justin had provided us with the resources to speak with a network of experts who could give us guidance and walk us through the nuances of treatments and everything else so that we could deliver as accurate a performance as possible.”
Wineland rose to prominence as a YouTuber as the most well-known millennial with CF, providing a hilarious and honest look at what it’s like to live with the disease. Five Feet Apart captures the same positive energy of her favourite films with her involvement, educating a wider audience about what she went through.
Also Read: Will there be a Sequel of Five Feet Apart?