Judy Blume explains why an 'Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret' movie took 50 years

The acclaimed author reveals the surprising film that led her to finally green-light an adaptation of her classic work.

Judy Blume's signature book was first published in 1970. (Photo: Getty Images; Illustration by Aisha Yousaf, Yahoo)
Judy Blume's signature book was first published in 1970. (Photo: Getty Images; Illustration by Aisha Yousaf, Yahoo)

It's been a long wait for an Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret movie, which is rolling into theaters Friday — more than a half-century after the book was first published.

The first event that set it in motion is when Kelly Fremon Craig wrote to author Judy Blume, asking to adapt it. Hers wasn't the first sign of interest from Hollywood, of course. But Blume, who had written off other offers, was interested this time.

Craig tells Yahoo Entertainment that she sent Blume a letter after rereading the classic about an 11-year-old girl going through adolescence, and all that joy and heartache that comes with it.

"I was just so bowled over by it all over again and in all sorts of new ways as an adult — there were things I didn't catch the first time around when I read it," Craig says. "As a kid, I just felt so deeply that it had to be a movie. And so I wrote Judy telling her also just how much she meant to me since I found her when I was 11."

The gang from
The gang from Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret"— actress Kathy Bates, writer Judy Blume, director Kelly Fremon Craig and actresses Abby Ryder Fortson and Rachel McAdams — pose on the set. (Photo: Dana Hawley/Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett Collection)

James L. Brooks, the producer behind TV series such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Simpsons and movies like Terms of Endearment and Broadcast News, was on board, too. He and Craig had worked together on her directing debut, 2016's The Edge of Seventeen. That film starred Hailee Steinfeld as 17-year-old Nadine, who's grappling with all the awkward parts of high school, including her best friend dating her brother.

It turned out that Blume had really liked The Edge of Seventeen, which Craig had also written, and she was a fan of Brooks.

"And I thought, yes, let's talk," Blume tells Yahoo Entertainment.

So they were off, but the pressure was just beginning.

"Within very short order," says Brooks, "she said we could do the film, and from there, the problem was doing right by Judy. That was a burden I never had making a movie, because you couldn't live with yourself if you let Judy down with how this movie came out. I mean, that was with me all the time, and it made it very hard."

After all, the novel is beloved, with oodles of awards and generations of delighted readers. On Goodreads, enthusiasts wrote about rereading the book, buying it for their niece or daughter. "Books by Judy Blume were not part of my growing up years. After reading this book, I wish I could have read it when I was an impressionable 11-year-old girl," one fan wrote. "It would have felt wonderful to know that someone out there understood me and what I was going through."

Both Blume and Craig can easily access their memories of that time.

Blume recalls that she often compared herself to her friends, which is something that Margaret does with issues like the size of her breasts (she declares that she's flat) and whether she's gotten her period (she hasn't).

Judy Blume speaks at Annabelle's Book Club LA on April 17 in Studio City, Calif. (Photo: Victoria Sirakova/Getty Images)
Judy Blume speaks at Annabelle's Book Club Los Angeles earlier this month. (Photo: Victoria Sirakova/Getty Images)

"I was the latest developer in my class," Blume says. "So I lied. I told my friends, 'Yes. I got my period.' I lied. And they said 'Let us feel if you're wearing a pad.' And so I wore it to school."

She went all in, too.

"I pricked my finger to get some blood and put it on the pad in case they wanted to see even that," she admits. "And then I couldn't celebrate when I really did finally get it at 14, because they thought I already had it."

Actresses Abby Ryder Fortson, Katherine Mallen Kupferer, Elle Graham and Amari Alexis Price bring to life the famous
Actresses Abby Ryder Fortson, Katherine Mallen Kupferer, Elle Graham and Amari Alexis Price bring to life the famous "We must, we must, we must increase our bust" scene. (Photo: Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Craig finds such moments timeless, whether it's 1970, when the book was published, or 2023.

"I think this experience with this part of your life, it doesn’t actually change through the decades — you feel the same way your mom felt, you know, 30 years ago or whatever, when she got her period and she was going through all these things," she says.

Rachel McAdams, who plays Margaret's mother Barbara, is already planning for the day when her 2-year-old daughter is ready for the book. She had Blume sign a copy for her, and she also plans to give her daughter the copy she used while making the film. McAdams's son, born in 2018, reads Judy, too.

"So we are all Judy fans in my house," says McAdams, whose partner is screenwriter Jamie Linden. "I think it's going to be just as impactful for them down the road as it is for kids who come and see this film and for parents who read the book. I think it's a testament to Judy and her genius that she wrote something that still resonates so deeply with people and is about universal themes we should still be talking about so openly, that aren't always dealt with in that way."

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret arrives in theaters Friday, April 28.

— Reporting by Kaitlin Reilly