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To Write Love on Her Arms (2015)

Starring Kat Dennings, Chad Michael Murray, Rupert Friend
based on Jamie Tworkowski's MySpace Story About Friend Renee Yohe

Kat Dennings
Born: June 13, 1986
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Renee Yohe
Born: November 8, 1986
Birthplace: Orlando, Florida, USA
Isabella Iannuzzi
Born: 2005
Fort Myers, Florida, USA
Renee Yohe (young)
Chad Michael Murray
Born: August 24, 1981
Buffalo, New York, USA
Jamie Tworkowski
Born: January 24, 1980
Birthplace: Morehead City, North Carolina, USA
Rupert Friend
Born: October 1, 1981
Oxfordshire, England, UK
David McKenna
Born: August 6, 1979
Birthplace: Manhasset, New York, USA
Death: December 14, 2012, Lake Mary, Florida, USA (car accident)
There are parts of the film that I love and there are moments I wish were different, but overall, knowing that some folks have been waiting years to see this thing, I'm proud and glad that it's finally coming out. -Jamie Tworkowski,, February 2015

Questioning the Story:

Was Renee Yohe really denied treatment?

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

Kat Dennings (left) in the To Write Love On Her Arms movie and the real Renee Yohe (right).

Was David McKenna really British?

No. The To Write Love On Her Arms true story reveals that despite being portrayed by British actor Rupert Friend in the movie, the real David McKenna was not British. He was born in Manhasset, New York.

Was David McKenna really a former addict who served jail time?

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.

Did David McKenna's father really help him to detox?

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

Did Renee Yohe really give Jamie her last razor blade?

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."

Renee Yohe and Jamie Tworkowski on the set of the To Write Love On Her Arms movie.

Did famous bands help to spread the word about Renee and the TWLOHA movement?

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.

Did Jamie Tworkowski work in the clothing industry prior to founding the TWLOHA organization?

Yes. Prior to founding the non-profit organization To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA), Jamie Tworkowski worked in the clothing industry. Born in Morehead City, North Carolina, Jamie's family moved to Melbourne Beach, Florida when he was approximately 6-years-old. His father was a surfer who sold t-shirts for a living, and Jamie followed in his footsteps. At age 18, Jamie was an avid surfer who became an assistant sales rep for the clothing company Quiksilver. He left college midway through his junior year to accept a full-time position as the Florida sales rep for the clothing brand Hurley. Once TWLOHA began to take off, he gave up his six-figure position at Hurley to work on the non-profit full-time. -CNN

How does the TWLOHA organization feel about the movie?

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.

What does the real Renee Yohe think of 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."

Renee Yohe in 2012 (left) and as a child in the early 1990s (right).

Did Jamie Tworkowski and David McKenna remain friends?

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.

Did Jamie meet actor Chad Michael Murray prior to filming?

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.

Actor Chad Michael Murray (left) portrays TWLOHA founder Jamie Tworkowski (right) in the movie.

Was the real Renee Yohe involved in the making of the movie?

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?"

Has music really been a big part of Renee's life?

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

Did Renee Yohe start a band?

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.

The real Renee Yohe (right) credits music with getting her through tough times. She performs and has recorded an EP as part of her music project Bearcat.

What is the real Renee Yohe doing today (at the time of the movie's release)?

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."

Did David McKenna, portrayed by Rupert Friend in the movie, die after the filming of the movie?

Yes. "David passed away after the filming of the movie," says Jamie Tworkowski. "Knowing that people will be introduced to his life (when they see the movie), that means the world to me." In 2006, after the treatment center wouldn't let Renee in, she went back to David's house and detoxed with the help of David and her friends. Jamie and David were roommates at the time.

David McKenna was killed in a car accident on December 14, 2012 when his Infiniti SUV, travelling in excess of 100 miles per hour, crashed into the back of a box truck that was traveling roughly 65 miles per hour. This happened several months after the To Write Love On Her Arms movie, on which David was a producer, premiered at the 2012 Florida Film Festival. -Orlando Sentinel

Renee Yohe and David McKenna prior to David's death in 2012. David is portrayed by British actor Rupert Friend in the movie.

Can I still read Jamie Tworkowski's original 2006 story about Renee Yohe?

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".

Renee Yohe Interviews and Related TWLOHA Videos

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.

 Renee 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.

 Renee 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.

 David 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.

 Jamie 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 movie.

 David 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.

 To 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 suicide.

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