Is ‘The Idea of You’ Based on a True Story, Fan Fiction or None of the Above?

It may feel that way but…

Prime Video

If “The Idea of You,” now streaming on Prime Video, feels a little familiar to you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many fans have theorized that it’s based on some fan fiction, or perhaps even a true story. But is “The Idea of You” a true story?

The movie centers on Soléne Marchand (Anne Hathaway), an art gallery owner who just turned 40 and recently went through a painful divorce after her husband (Reid Scott) cheated on her. When she takes her daughter Izzy (Ella Rubin) to Coachella for a VIP meet-and-greet with Izzy’s favorite childhood boy band, Soléne accidentally stumbles into the trailer of Hayes Campbell, one of the group’s members.

At 24 years old, he’s much younger than her, but the two have instant chemistry, with him even dedicating a song to her during his show. When Hayes eventually tracks Soléne down, the two fall into a passionate romance. Of course, given their age difference and Hayes Campbell’s fame, they face a lot of scrutiny.

We won’t spoil whether or not they’re able to make it work, but we will help you out on whether this story actually happened.

The “real” story

“The Idea of You” is actually an adaptation of a book by the same name, written by Robinne Lee. It became a hit during the pandemic, as people discovered the story during lockdown.

Given the male lead is a British member of a world-famous boy band, many began speculating that the story started as Harry Styles fan fiction. And of course, Hayes Campbell’s penchant for older women — we learn in the film that Soléne is not the first women he’s dated that’s several years older than him — reminded many of Harry Styles’ highly scrutinized relationship with director Olivia Wilde.

But, Lee maintains that “The Idea of You” was never meant to be a story about Styles. That said, she has conceded that he is at least a small piece of the character of Hayes Campbell.

“I made him into my dream guy,” Lee said in a 2020 interview with Vogue. She added that Hayes was meant to be “Like Prince Harry, meets Harry [Styles],” combined with a few of her own ex-boyfriends, her husband, and even Eddie Redmayne.

“The Idea of You” star Anne Hathaway has roundly debunked the idea that this story is based in reality and, in a new essay for Time, Robinne Lee herself is pushing back on those who label this story fan fiction.

“Labeling it as ‘fluff’ or ‘fan fiction’ — particularly when done by those who have not read it — is both reductive and dismissive,” she wrote. “And this is not something that happens to male authors.”

She added, “Assuming a novel with a fictional celebrity in a relationship must be based on an existing celebrity — in this case, the internet has decided, Harry Styles — is unimaginative at best and sexist at worst.”

“The Idea of You” is now streaming on Prime Video.


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