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“All the Light We Cannot See” director Shawn Levy reveals changes from book, cutting 'deeply upsetting scenes' for TV

Director Shawn Levy had to dim a few emotionally heavy scenes from his upcoming Netflix limited series adaptation of writer Anthony Doerr's World War II-set novel All the Light We Cannot See, the filmmaker says.

Speaking to EW about the project ahead of its world premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival, the Deadpool 3 helmer and Stranger Things producer explains that, while Doerr "wasn't precious" about the way Levy adapted the book — which follows a blind French girl navigating German-occupied Europe — Levy still needed to make some difficult cuts from the source material to complete his vision as a self-admitted mega-fan of the 2014 text that's sold over 15 million copies worldwide.

Nell Sutton and Mark Ruffalo in 'All the Light We Cannot See'
Nell Sutton and Mark Ruffalo in 'All the Light We Cannot See'

Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix A young Marie-Laure (Nell Sutton) and her father (Mark Ruffalo) in 'All the Light We Cannot See'

"We created a few characters, specifically a few German characters, in order to manifest the evil of the Nazi party, the threat of war, and the encroaching threat on Marie being found in her hiding place. So, we created a few new characters, and Anthony, the novelist, found it really effective, I'm happy to say," Levy explains.

He also says that, while the four-episode series "ends faithful to the book," there were "a couple of epilogue scenes in the book" that he was insistent on editing out of the show.

"Though it is far from a happy ending, I wanted to end with a promise of hope, and there were some bleak, deeply upsetting scenes late in the book that we didn't include in the show," Levy continues. "But, again, Anthony has turned out to be so happy with the show that he has agreed with that decision. So, things that might've made sense to the novelist a decade ago when he was working on this, might not make sense on screen, on Netflix, for a global, mainstream audience in 2023."

Levy stresses that Doerr was, however, hands-on when it came to getting "the history right" in the context of the story.

"The way we show real events, the invasion of Paris and the exodus of millions from their hometown in a single day, things like that were important for him that we get it right," he says. There were also a few key elements that were essential to keep in the story, per Levy.

"The model city that Marie's father makes for her, so she can navigate the world with empowerment, everyone who read the book knows that's a totem of fatherly love, that was always going to be in the show," he previews. "The way a single can of peaches tastes in wartime, when food is scarce, the heaven that that peach juice would taste like, it's a signature scene toward the end of the book, it's toward the end of the show."

All the Light We Cannot See — starring Hugh Laurie, Mark Ruffalo, as well as newcomers Nell Sutton and Aria-Mia Loberti as the younger and teenage versions of Marie-Laure — debuts Nov. 2 on Netflix.

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