Chris Colfer’s ‘Struck by Lightning’

Celebrity Q&A,Featured Article
February 6, 2013

‘Glee’ actor wrote the screenplay for this coming-of-age tale

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Is Chris Colfer’s movie “Struck by Lightning” based on his life?
—Madeline Hutchins, Topeka, Kansas

There are certain incidents that happen in the movie—and the book—that were inspired by things that happened to the “Glee” star, 22, but the character of Carson Phillips is someone Colfer wished he had been in high school, not who he was.

“Carson wore his disgust on his sleeve, and he vocalizes his opinion right in the moment rather than internalizing it like I did,” the Clovis, Calif.-actor/writer/singer says. “I would go home and cry and write rather than get my frustration out in the open.”

“Struck by Lightning” is the story of a high school senior who has life all mapped out when he is struck and killed by a bolt of lightning. The story of the last few weeks of his life is then told in flashbacks as Carson blackmails the popular kids in a scheme to help him get into college, and shows his very dysfunctional home life with his pill-popping mother and absent father.

A big difference between the movie and real life is that Colfer’s parents are happily married and his mom is nothing like the mother in the movie. “My mother is terrified that people are going to think that was her,” he says.

Colfer began writing the screenplay for “Struck by Lightning” in high school, and he calls it a “therapeutic” way of dealing with the struggles he had as a teen.

“I was very ambitious, but I was not outspoken whatsoever. I was very shy and I internalized everything. I was very much a victim, where Carson does not let himself become a victim,” says Colfer, who back then imagined that he would one day land a job, like the one he has as Kurt Hummel on “Glee,” that would help him get the movie made.

And that’s just what happened. The book was an afterthought and happened only after the publishers of his children’s novel, “The Land of Stories,” saw the film at the Tribeca Film Festival.

“They watched it and they fell in love with the movie and said, ‘Would you ever want to turn this into a novel?’ I said, ‘Sure,’ but my only hesitation was I didn’t know how to turn it into a novel. I decided to make the book like his journal of the last three months he was alive. It is a very intimate version, rather than the movie, which is told from an outside perspective.”

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