|REEL FACE:||REAL FACE:|
Born: June 13, 1986
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Born: November 8, 1986
Birthplace: Orlando, Florida, USA
Fort Myers, Florida, USA
Renee Yohe (young)
Chad Michael Murray
Born: August 24, 1981
Buffalo, New York, USA
Born: January 24, 1980
Birthplace: Morehead City, North Carolina, USA
Born: October 1, 1981
Oxfordshire, England, UK
Born: August 6, 1979
Birthplace: Manhasset, New York, USA
Death: December 14, 2012, Lake Mary, Florida, USA (car accident)
Yes. In 2006 at age 19, Renee Yohe was denied entry into a rehabilitation program for being too great of a risk, because she had open wounds on her arms from cutting herself. The treatment center also had no detox. Like in the movie, they told her to come back in five days. "I was too great a risk," says Renee. "They didn't even know if I would make it through the detox." Renee had attempted suicide, was depressed, a self-injurer, and was addicted to marijuana, cocaine, pills and alcohol. So for the next five days, her friends, including David McKenna and Jamie Tworkowski, set out on a mission to help heal her. She detoxed at David McKenna's house. As in the movie, Jamie was David's roommate at the time.
Next, they needed money to pay for Renee's treatment. Jamie had typed a two-page story about Renee, titled "To Write Love On Her Arms," which highlighted the details of Renee's struggle. He posted the story on the social networking site MySpace and it quickly went viral. Using his experience in the t-shirt/clothing industry, they created t-shirts to sell from the MySpace page (with the story printed on the inside) and planned to use the proceeds to pay for Renee's treatment. -NBC Nightly News
Yes. In the David McKenna interview for I Am Second, he openly talks about his addiction to cocaine and says that he was arrested many times. His offenses included five DUIs, possession, trafficking, possession with intent to deliver, and burglary. He was arrested in a low-speed chase and found in a pool of his own blood. Once after a 3-day cocaine binge, David drank a bottle of vodka and flatlined. He said it was the lowest point of his life.
Yes. In the movie, David (Rupert Friend) places a statue of the Virgin Mary next to Renee's bed and tells her that his father kept it next to him when he detoxed at his parents' house. "I remembered going over to my parents' house, 27 years old or whatever, a few years ago," recalls the real David McKenna. "And literally just lying on the couch at my parents' house, and my father just sitting there, holding my hand, putting his hand on my head like any parent would do for a sick little boy." -I am Second
Yes. In the movie, Renee (Kat Dennings) gives Jamie (Chad Michael Murray) her last razor blade because she doesn't want to hurt herself anymore. "It was an important moment in my life," says Jamie, "and it's an important moment in the film. While they were shooting that scene, Chad actually stopped and asked to talk to me. He wanted to know what the moment was like in real life. He wanted to get it right. That meant a lot to me." -TWLOHA.com
Yes. In a short time, thousands of young people found the MySpace page with Renee's story. They began to share their own struggles with depression, addiction and isolation, and an online community was born. "We had kind of stumbled upon a conversation that felt really significant," says the real Jamie Tworkowski, "and maybe one that represented people everywhere." -NBC Nightly News
Musicians and bands caught on to the TWLOHA movement and started wearing To Write Love On Her Arms t-shirts during performances and in photographs. Some of the first bands to show their support were Anberlin and Switchfoot.
In an article posted on their website, the To Write Love On Her Arms non-profit organization responded to the movie by writing, "It's based on a true story. The broad strokes of the film are true. It's not as if every moment and every sentence is 100% true, but the film definitely gives people a sense of the true story." The organization pointed out that their office space was not nearly as big as it is in the movie.
"...the idea of my story reaching more people through film is beautiful," says Renee. "There were some scenes that were never part of my story but also parts that feel true, and it's kind of beautiful to see it being portrayed. Artistically, it's a good movie, and the soundtrack has some great songs that I personally fought for. ... If I set aside how accurately or inaccurately it depicts me, my story, or the people in it, I would say it carries a message that is significant and powerful." -TWLOHA.com
No. In researching the To Write Love On Her Arms true story, we discovered that Jamie and David, portrayed by Chad Michael Murray and Rupert Friend in the movie, grew apart in the years following Renee's recovery. "As the years went on, our friendship was challenged," says Jamie. "David managed Renee, because she trusted him and because he knew business. And there was not a handbook for what was happening - how to navigate attention and money and mistakes and sobriety and privacy all mixed together. I was painted the hero as TWLOHA took off. There were highs and lows, arguments and lawyers and entire years of silence. Mostly there was distance."
However, the making of the movie brought Jamie and David back together and helped to repair their broken friendship. "Over the course of the movie being made, our friendship was restored," says Jamie. "Before he died, the last thing that he said to me was that he loved me." Jamie says that the amends he made with David was his favorite part about being involved in the making of the movie. -TWLOHA.com
Yes. Prior to the movie's five-week shoot, Jamie Tworkowski and his onscreen counterpart, Chad Michael Murray, met at Starbucks. Chad actually filmed Jamie reading the "Jamie" lines of the script so that he could learn Jamie's voice. Jamie was also often on set during the filming. -TWLOHA.com
Renee says that she was initially very involved with the script, but once filming started she didn't have much input. "I didn't actually watch a lot of the scenes that [Kat Dennings] filmed," says Renee. "I think she may have asked that certain scenes not be open to the public or that I wasn't there, which I respect wholeheartedly. It makes complete sense... it would be so hard to get into that space in front of the person you're portraying, you know?" -TWLOHA.com
Yes. She credits her favorite bands with helping her to get through some of her darkest times. Later on, the To Write Love On Her Arms organization (often abbreviated TWLOHA) would receive its biggest initial support from bands that would wear TWLOHA t-shirts. -Official TWLOHA Movie Website
Yes. The real Renee Yohe signed with Working Group Artist Management, and she released an EP in June 2012 as part of her music project Bearcat. It is available on iTunes. An acoustic version of the EP was released in December 2013.
Renee is writing and recording new songs for her music project Bearcat. She has also developed an interest in jewelry making and sells some of her creations, in addition to wearing them herself. You can see her jewelry creations on her Facebook page Maudeduam Jewelry. She also devotes time to sharing her story and helping those struggling with depression, addiction, self-harm and other similar struggles to those that she has endured. "It feels really good for people to be able to see and know other parts of me as my story continues," says Renee, "and I think that in itself offers hope... that I'm still here, and though I'm far from perfect, I keep showing up and it matters." -TWLOHA.com
Yes. Jamie Tworkowski's two-page story about Renee Yohe, which went viral on MySpace in 2006, is available to read on the TWLOHA website. Read Jamie Tworkowski's Original Story "To Write Love On Her Arms".
Expand your knowledge of the To Write Love On Her Arms true story with the videos below, including Renee Yohe and Jamie Tworkowski interviews, as well as the real David McKenna speaking about his own struggles with addiction.
WATCHRenee Yohe and Jamie Tworkowski Interview
This news segment chronicles how Renee
Yohe's story led to an online movement.
Her friend and To Write Love On Her Arms
founder Jamie Tworkowski is interviewed.
Renee also speaks.
WATCHRenee Yohe Talks About Her Addiction and Recovery
Renee Yohe shares her personal account of
drinking, drug addiction, self-mutilation,
and recovery. She talks about trying to
kill herself by getting hit by a car and
keeping her drugs, cutting and suicide
attempts from her parents. She says that
her friends at school stopped talking to
her. Renee eventually moved in with her
drug dealer and became very addicted to
cocaine and pills. With little hope left,
her friends intervened to help her detox
and get treatment.
WATCHDavid McKenna Shares His Story of Drugs, Felonies, God and Recovery
David McKenna talks about his descent from
a happy childhood into a life filled with
partying, abusing and dealing drugs, five
DUIs, felonies and jail time. On a road
that was basically a fast track to the pit
of hell, David turned his life around
after he was released from jail, worked
through a rehab program, and was
introduced to God. McKenna is portrayed by
British actor Rupert Friend in the To
Write Love On Her Arms movie.
WATCHJamie Tworkowski Addresses Depression and Recovery at TEDx
Jamie Tworkowski founded To Write Love On
Her Arms, a non-profit
organization/movement dedicated to finding
help and offering hope for people
struggling with depression, addiction,
self-injury and suicide. Here, Jamie talks
about the numbers of people who struggle
with untreated depression and how his
organization is encouraging them to seek
help and get better. He also touches on
his own battle with depression. Jamie is
portrayed by actor Chad Michael Murray in
the To Write Love On Her Arms
WATCHDavid McKenna Interview
This David McKenna interview was conducted
several months before his death in 2012,
just after To Write Love On Her
Arms premiered at the Florida Film
Festival. He is portrayed by British actor
Rupert Friend in the movie. In 2006, Renee
Yohe detoxed at David's house after the
treatment center considered her too high
of a risk to admit.
WATCHTo Write Love On Her Arms Movie Trailer
Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls)
portrays Renee Yohe, a Florida teen who
struggles with addiction and abuse. When
friend Jamie Tworkowski (Chad Michael
Murray) begins to share Yohe's story via
MySpace and sells t-shirts to help fund
her treatment, several high profile
musicians take notice and soon a global
movement begins. It leads to the founding
of the TWLOHA non-profit organization to
help people struggling with addiction,
self-injury, depression, and thoughts of