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Clouds: History vs. Hollywood


Fin Argus
Born: September 1, 1998
Des Plaines, Illinois, USA

Zach Sobiech
Born: May 3, 1995
Birthplace: Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA
Death: May 20, 2013, Lakeland, Minnesota, USA (cancer)

Neve Campbell
Born: October 3, 1973
Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Laura Sobiech
Born: August 17, 1969
Birthplace: Minnesota, USA
Relation: Mom

Tom Everett Scott
Born: September 7, 1970
East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, USA

Rob Sobiech
Born: August 1, 1964
Birthplace: Minnesota, USA
Relation: Dad

Sabrina Carpenter
Born: May 11, 1999
Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, USA

Sammy Brown
Born: abt 1995
Birthplace: Minnesota, USA
Relation: Best Friend/Singing Partner

Madison Iseman
Born: February 14, 1997
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA

Amy Adamle
Born: abt 1995
Birthplace: Minnesota, USA
Relation: Girlfriend

Dylan Everett
Born: January 24, 1995
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Sam Sobiech
Born: April 19, 1993
Birthplace: Ramsey, Minnesota, USA
Relation: Older Brother

Summer H. Howell
Born: May 22, 2004

Grace Sobiech
Born: October 11, 1998
Birthplace: Ramsey, Minnesota, USA
Relation: Younger Sister

Vivien Endicott Douglas
Born: December 10, 1990
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Alli Sobiech
Born: August 6, 1990
Birthplace: USA
Relation: Older Sister

Historical Accuracy (Q&A):

What type of cancer did Zach Sobiech have?

The Clouds true story reveals that Zach had osteosarcoma, the most common type of bone cancer. Like other cancers, its deadliness depends on whether it's a high-grade or low-grade tumor, how responsive it is to chemotherapy, and whether the disease has spread. Osteosarcoma most commonly affects males under the age of 25, and as with Zach, it often begins at the end of long bones. Zach's developed in his hip.

Actor Fin Argus (bott om) and the real Zach Sobiech (top).

When was the real Zach Sobiech diagnosed with bone cancer?

In researching Zach Sobiech's true story, we learned that he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at age 14. When we catch up with Zach in the Disney+ movie, he has already been battling cancer for several years. It's 2012, and he's in his senior year of high school. He soon discovers that his cancer is terminal. In real life, he got the news in the spring prior to his senior year. The movie condenses the timeline a little.

Is the Disney+ Clouds movie based on the memoir?

Yes. The movie is based on the book Clouds: A Memoir written by Laura Sobiech, Zach's mom, who is portrayed by Neve Campbell. She began writing the book three weeks after Zach passed away, completing it 12 weeks later. Laura had started a blog several years earlier after Zach was diagnosed, which she mainly used to keep family and friends updated on Zach's battle with osteosarcoma. When she learned Zach's condition was terminal, the blog turned into a place to log precious memories that she could keep close after he was gone. She would later use the blog as the basis for the memoir. Laura decided to write the book after a friend's agent, who had been following her blog, asked her if she would want to turn it into a book.

Zach's mom's memoir Clouds provided the basis for the movie.

Had Zach and Sammy been best friends since childhood?

Yes. Sammy Brown, who is portrayed by Sabrina Carpenter in the Disney+ Clouds movie, had been best friends with Zach since they were in diapers. As teenagers, they were in a band together called A Firm Handshake. In researching the Clouds true story, we discovered that their goodbye song to each other, "Fix Me Up," is featured in the film and can be heard in the movie trailer. Other songs they recorded can also be heard in the film, including "Sandcastles" and "Blueberries."

Best friends Sammy Brown and Zach Sobiech, who started the band A Firm Handshake together. Photo: Fix Me Up Album Cover

How did Zach Sobiech meet his girlfriend Amy?

Zach met his girlfriend Amy Adamle through his best friend and longtime music-making partner Sammy Brown. Zach and Amy got to know each other during their junior year. "We both knew we liked each other, so by the end of junior year we started dating," Amy recalled, "and that’s when we found out he was terminal, so our relationship was pretty serious pretty quickly. We had to be really open with each other, and we had to talk about things that no one really has to talk about when you're 17."

The real Amy Adamle (left) and actress Madison Iseman (right) who portrays Amy in the movie.

Did Zach miss a date with Amy because of a collapsed lung?

Yes. For one of their first dates, Amy and Zach had planned to go on a picnic together. Instead, he discovered he had a collapsed lung and needed immediate surgery. In real life, he didn't stand up Amy on the date. He couldn't remember Amy's number, so he called Sammy who then called Amy to let her know. Amy said that it was the first time his disease became real for her.

Zach Sobiech's girlfriend Amy later surprised him with a special make-up date, a picnic on the field at the Minnesota Vikings NFL stadium. The surprise make-up picnic is not included in the movie.

Did Zach and Amy temporarily break up in real life?

No. The breakup never happened in real life. It was done for dramatic effect to give Zach's character motivation and to move the story along.

Did Amy remain with Zach up until his passing?

Yes. The true story behind Clouds on Disney+ confirms that Amy Adamle (portrayed by Madison Iseman) and Zach started dating shortly after he found out his cancer was terminal. Amy talked it over with her mom, and her mom asked her, "Would you still date him if he didn't have cancer?" Amy said yes. Zach and Amy continued dating throughout their senior year of high school. Zach even took Amy to prom not long before his death in May 2013.

Both Amy and his best friend Sammy met their onscreen counterparts and visited the Clouds movie set. Amy shared some of the letters that she and Zach wrote to each other with Madison Iseman and Fin Argus, who play Amy and Zach in the movie.

The real Zach Sobiech and girlfriend Amy Adamle. Screenshot from My Last Days Documentary

Were Amy and Sammy close friends in real life?

Yes. According to Sammy, this is something that's not emphasized enough in the film since its focus is on Zach. "I want to make sure people know Amy and I were really good friends in real life, and still are!" says Sammy.

Is Zach's teacher and mentor, Mr. Weaver, based on a real person?

No. From what we can tell, Mr. Weaver (Lil Rel Howery) is a fictional character. There is no Mr. Weaver in Laura Sobiech's memoir. He seems to have been very loosely inspired by Dan Seeman, the general manager of the local radio station who was instrumental in making things happen for Zach, including getting him a studio and a group of professional musicians to help him record "Clouds."

Did Zach write his songs as a way to say goodbye?

Yes. Like in the Clouds movie, Zach had learned to play guitar when he was little and he wrote the songs as a way to say goodbye to his family and friends. This is well-known and is clearly evident in the lyrics to his hit song "Clouds."

In the movie, actor Fin Argus (right) wore some of the clothing that belonged to the real Zach Sobiech (left).

How did Zach Sobiech's song "Clouds" manage to go viral?

The song, which he posted to YouTube, first went viral in his home state of Minnesota, mostly due to people and the media sharing his story. It then spread around the country and eventually around the world. On the day of Zach's funeral in 2013, "Clouds" hit number one on iTunes.

Is Zach's younger sister, Grace, portrayed accurately in the movie?

Yes. According to Zach's friend Mitch Kluesner, actress Summer Howell did an accurate job of portraying Zach's younger sister Grace, even down to the amount Grace rolled her eyes in real life.

Left: The real Zach Sobiech and his sister Grace. Right: Fin Argus and Summer H. Howell as Zach and Grace in the movie.

Did Zach decide against a radical surgery?

Yes. Though it's not depicted in the movie, the Zach Sobiech true story confirms that he could have had his left leg amputated, including his pelvis bone, but decided against it. Zach and his family felt that his quality of life was more important. If he had gone through with the amputation, it may have removed the cancer in that region, but he wouldn't have been able to sit up for several months. By that point, the cancer had spread to his lungs. The chemotherapy had largely stopped working. Zach decided to stop chemo, opting to live the remaining days of his life to the fullest.

Did Sammy love Zach?

The movie implies Sammy loved Zach as more than a friend, going so far as to have Sammy admit her love to him after he stumbles across an entry in her diary about him. If you watch the documentary, you might have been left wondering if she indeed had feelings beyond friendship. In her book, Zach's mom Laura states that Zach was fiercely overprotective of Sammy and that the two shared a "precious and sacred" friendship. Laura talks about Sammy knowing Zach so well that she often knew what he was thinking without him saying it. Zach was also suspicious of most guys who would try to date Sammy. However, the book doesn't talk of their love for one another as going beyond friendship. It seems that the movie has embellished their relationship a bit as it attempts to foreshadow the deeper love that they might eventually realize is there for one another.

Did Zach get to drive his dream car, a Nissan GTR?

Yes. As a car enthusiast, Zach had reasoned that a Nissan GTR would be an affordable high-end sports car that might be within his reach someday. The Clouds true story confirms that his family indeed surprised him by getting him a GTR on loan to drive for a week. However, his dad didn't get the car without involving his mother. In reality, it was actually the director of the documentary (and later the Disney+ movie), Justin Baldoni, who managed to have Nissan ship the car up from Nashville for a week.

Like in the movie, Zach got to fulfill his dream of driving a Nissan GTR. He was able to drive the car for a week. He is pictured driving above, and below he is sitting in the car with his sister Grace.

Did Zach's parents drift apart from each other as they focused on Zach?

Yes. In Zach's mom Laura's memoir, she discusses how as Zach's condition grew worse, she and Zach's father, Rob, pulled away from each other. They didn't want to open up to one another and share the pain they were feeling for fear that it would add to the other's burden. Laura says that they spent months only discussing things that were "neutral and mundane." They both recognized there was a problem and agreed to go on a marriage retreat together. Immediately, a floodgate of feelings that they were bottling up began to pour out and they started to connect again.

Did they really take Zach to France?

Yes. The trip to France indeed happened in real life, but it took place in March 2012, not during Zach's senior year. The trip was also prior to Zach finding out his cancer was terminal, which he learned two months later on May 31, 2012. They spent three days in Rome first, before spending two days in the town of Lourdes, the portion of the trip depicted in the movie. It's true that they dipped into the healing waters at the baths, which was the primary purpose of the trip. In real life, a total of eleven people went on the trip, including family and friends. After Lourdes, they spent a few days in Paris.

Was Zach unable to make it through a performance at a fundraising concert?

No. The actual concert took place at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis on February 16, 2013. It was a fundraiser for the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund. His mom did ask him if it might be too much for him to perform, but his condition at that point wasn't as dire as it's portrayed to be in the movie. In the film, the concert happens several months later. Zach finished his entire set at the concert. He never stopped partway through "Clouds," prompting the crowd to jump in and finish it for him. That was done in the movie for dramatic effect. At most, his mom noticed his voice sounded a little raspy, but she reasoned it might be from talking so much before the show. Also, Zach didn't perform the song with Sammy. He performed "Clouds" with Vicci Martinez, who had been recently featured on NBC's The Voice. At the end of the concert, confetti fell from the rafters and Zach held open his arms to the crowd and mouthed, "Thank you."

Unlike the movie, the concert wasn't a combined prom event. The real Zach Sobiech attended prom several months later in early May when his condition was significantly worse. They were unsure if he'd make it and how long he could stay, but he and Amy were there for several hours and had a great time.

Zach Sobiech thanks the crowd after a fundraising concert on February 16, 2013.

Did Zach Sobiech sign with BMI?

Yes. An executive at a local radio station had contacted BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) about Zach. They liked his music and his story and wanted to sign him. Like in the movie, Zach and his family traveled to New York. He was given the VIP treatment at BMI, something usually reserved for bigger artists. In real life, the signing happened after "Clouds" had gone viral online and was being played on local radio stations, not before. The film positions the signing prior to Zach writing "Clouds" because it depicts BMI signing Zach and Sammy's group A Firm Handshake. However, in reality, it was just Zach who was signed by BMI. Sammy wasn't present on the trip.

Did Zach ask Amy to prom by putting the question on a theater marquee?

No. Zach didn't kneel down in the street underneath a theater marquee with the question, "Will you go to prom with me?" displayed above him. In real life, Zach Sobiech asked his girlfriend Amy Adamle to prom while they were on air doing a radio station interview.

How did Zach's family get through their grief when they lost Zach?

Zach Sobiech's mother, Laura, says it was the family's faith in God that got them through the grief. "I was certain that I was not going to survive losing a child, but I survived it, not because of anything special about me, but by God's grace." Laura speaks about her Catholic faith in her book Clouds: A Memoir.

Zach himself credited his older sister with helping him stay close to his faith. "I want to be remembered as a kid who went down fighting, and didn't really lose," Zach said.

The Sobiech Family (Alli, Grace, Rob, Zach, Laura, Sam). Sobiech Family Photo

Was Zach's family involved in the making of the movie?

Yes. Director Justin Baldoni had previously worked with Zach and his family while working on his documentary series My Last Days, which told the stories of people who were dying. Zach's story was featured in the episode "My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech," which you can watch through the link.

Baldoni worked closely with Zach's family while making the Disney+ Clouds movie. They even lent him some of Zach's things for actor Fin Argus to use in the movie. Fin wears Zach's clothes and uses his crutches. Zach's handwriting was even used to create the movie's logo, in addition to many of the marketing materials. Zach's room and the Sobiech's home were meticulously recreated for the film.

Actress Neve Campbell and the real Laura Sobiech at the annual Clouds Choir benefit concert at the Mall of America in 2019.

Do Zach Sobiech's family and friends have cameos in the Disney+ movie?

Yes. 70 of Zach's family and friends were extras in mainly two of the movie's scenes. To appear in the film, they traveled from Minnesota to Montreal, Canada where the movie was shot. The scenes include the Jason Mraz concert and the prom scene. The cellist in the prom scene is played by Zach's real-life friend Mitch, who also appears in a classroom scene sitting behind Zach (Fin Argus). Zach's younger sister, Grace, plays a high-school student towards the beginning of the movie. His former girlfriend, Amy Adamle, is in a dance studio scene next to her onscreen counterpart played by Madison Iseman. We identify all of the cameos in our video Clouds Cameos: Zach's Family and Friends in the Movie.

Zach Sobiech Music Videos & Documentary

Further explore the Zach Sobiech true story by watching his My Last Days documentary episode. Also, check out some of his music videos.