Cole Sprouse is no stranger to star-crossed relationships onscreen — after all, Northsider Betty Cooper and Southside Serpent Jughead Jones didn’t exactly have an easy go of it when they first started dating on Riverdale. Soon, however, he’ll portray another character in a rule-breaking relationship when he and Haley Lu Richardson play two teens with cystic fibrosis who fall in love in the upcoming film Five Feet Apart.
Teen Vogue has an exclusive new image of Cole and Haley as their characters Will and Stella, who must maintain a distance of five feet in order to prevent cross-infection. In the photo, Will and Haley are seen flirting poolside, while yes, remaining feet from each other. Over the course of the movie, the two realize their affection for each other can transcend physical touch, according to the synopsis.
Cole told Teen Vogue that he felt a responsibility to ensure his character reflected true experiences of living with CF. “There are some roles that carry a real responsibility for accurate representation, this was one of them,” he said. “Some say the currency of poetry is the acceptance of other poets, and I desire no audience more greatly than those who resonate with the challenges shown by the characters of this film. It’s my hope that we did them justice. This was all for you guys.”
Director Justin Baldoni, who also directed Jane the Virgin, first had the idea for the movie after talking with a friend with CF about dating while having the disease, and the complications that can bring into a relationship. “I have always wanted to find a way to show young people in particular, that love is so much more than what we often see being celebrated and exploited in the world around us,” he told Teen Vogue. “So we set out to ask the question: What if the most intimate relationship of your life, was with someone you couldn’t be physically intimate with? Could love transcend human touch during the most vulnerable time of our life?”
Haley, who costarred alongside Hailee Steinfeld in The Edge of Seventeen, explained that the experience of making the movie affected the way she thought about her own life.
“One of my favorite lines in the movie is, ‘I’ve been living for my treatments instead of doing my treatments so I can live,'” she said. “I think those words are the heart of Stella and Will’s story and I’ll hold on to them forever as a reminder that the point of life is for it to be lived.”
Justin also revealed that he knew almost immediately that Cole and Haley were the perfect choices to play Will and Stella. “[Haley] gave Stella a vulnerable strength and depth that blew away my wildest hopes for what the character could be,” he said. “Haley has a humanity and sincerity that lights up the screen and I think that so many people will see themselves in her portrayal.”
As for Cole? “I only took one meeting — and that was with Cole,” Justin said. “He’s intimidatingly intelligent and super creative but can strike up a conversation with anyone about anything and put them at ease. His character is an artist and I loved the parallel to Cole who is also an extraordinary photographer. This is Cole Sprouse like you have never seen him before.”
The movie is in theaters on March 22, 2019.