But while author/screenwriter/director Stephen Chbosky's book was a touchstone for many teenagers of a certain age, it was new to Whitman.
"I actually hadn't read the book," she said. "But my best friends Miles Heizer and Sarah Ramos, who play my brother and cousin on 'Parenthood' - it's their favorite book. So it had been floating around in conversation, and that's why I finally read it.
"Sarah actually gave me the copy that her father had given her, which is really special. So I read it, and it was right around the time that I heard about the movie being made. It was kind of like kismet. I read it in a day and a half, and it was just the best - so special - and I felt this dying passion. Johnny Simmons and I were just talking about it, that you don't want to get too emotionally invested in it because you know you're just going to crumble if you see someone else playing that role. But it also really makes you want to fight for it and try to tap into that passion.
"I had a meeting with Steve first, and we ended up talking about random stuff for hours. Our tones and our energy are really similar, and I think that was a big part of finding people for him - their energy and their feelings about the book and their story. Because once he put us all together, we were all crazy about each other."
Even Emma Watson?
"She's incredible," Whitman said, bubbling over with enthusiasm. "I don't know how she does it. She's so together and so smart. And people are always like 'Was it weird to work with Hermione' - because I'm probably the world's number one Harry Potter fan - but you meet her and for a split second you sort of recognize Hermione, but then the second she speaks, this eloquent light human being comes out and you're just like 'Emmmaaaaa!' She's like her own Patronus [a Harry Potter charm, for the uninitiated]. She casts this beautiful light out, and you never think of her as anything else ever again."
So, Mae, is "Perks" what your high-school experience was like?
"Maybe my dream high-school experience," she said. "High-school is tough. I don't think I know a single person, maybe other than my boyfriend, Landon, who had a miraculously great high-school experience, but mine was terrible and I was an outcast and I had to find places to eat lunch that were secret and away from people.
"One of my favorite teachers once took pity on me because I was eating by myself on the floor and he said, 'Do you want to come into the classroom while I'm grading papers?' and I said, 'OK,' so I was with him at his desk and I was eating and one time he looked over at me and I was just pathetically sitting there and he opened up his bottom drawer and there were frosted animal crackers in there so we sat there sullenly, me helping him grade. That was when I knew this is a problem, that I was stuffing myself with animal crackers - alone.
"For me, this movie was the high-school experience I never had, in a supportive wonderful way. We were all thrown in, . . . and everyone was really kind."
* Nakoula Basseley Nakoula
the California man behind "Innocence of Muslims," was arrested Thursday for violating terms of his probation, said a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Nakoula has been on probation for a 2010 federal check-fraud conviction that brought a 21-month prison sentence. Under terms of his probation, he was not to use computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer.
* Reese Witherspoon has given
birth to her third child, naming the boy Tennessee James.
Everyone is healthy and thrilled.
Reese is already a mom to Ava, 13, and Deacon, 8, from her prior marriage to Ryan Phillippe. New husband Jim Toth is an agent for Creative Artists Agency.
* Rock-music veteran Patti
Smith will be honored with the 2013 Katharine Hepburn Medal by Bryn Mawr College for her artistic accomplishments and pioneering spirit.
The college called Smith "a trailblazer in the male-dominated world of rock 'n' roll."
Bryn Mawr will award the Hepburn Medal to Smith at a campus event on Feb. 7. A performance for students is being planned.
The medal is given to women who embody "the intelligence, drive and independence" of the Oscar-winning college alumna.
* Reba McEntire is ending her
run as host of the Academy of Country Music Awards in order to concentrate on her new sitcom, "Malibu County," co-starring Lily Tomlin.
She's stepping aside after a record 14 appearances. Her last two were with co-host Blake Shelton, who will return on the 2013 edition of the awards show.
No word on whether Shelton will have a co-host next spring in Las Vegas. But Academy CEO Bob Romeo says "The Voice" star has "got something big up his sleeve."
How does co-host Miranda Lambert sound?
- Daily News wire services
contributed to this report.