FilmNewsSDCC '14

SDCC 2014: ‘The Maze Runner’ Cast Talks Testosterone, Heart, and Retro Film at San Diego Comic Con

Sophia Ritchie ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Dylan O'Brien in The Maze Runner. Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein/Twentieth Century Fox.
Dylan O’Brien in The Maze Runner. Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein/Twentieth Century Fox.

The next big YA-book-to-movie adaptation is James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, but director Wes Ball insisted it’s not the average teeny bopper sensation at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. Dashner, Ball, and stars Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, and Will Poulter took to a press conference to discuss the film.

Q: When we read the book and see the movie, we’re with Thomas because he doesn’t know about this world either. Did you try to stay in the dark or did you read ahead to know more than your character?

Dylan O’Brien: It’s an interesting thing, playing a character who has sort of rebirthed, almost. His memory’s erased, and he has a previous life he isn’t even aware of. As an actor, it’s kind of a cool thing, you can create things from there. It’s more about the character’s journey, what he discovers about himself in this resurrected life.

Wes Ball: Their job is to react the things that we’re throwing at them constantly, so not knowing what’s coming next is a good thing for them.

The first scene in the elevator, it’s very much what James wrote, I saw it as him being born into this world, soaking wet, scared. That is the overall arc of the movie, this vulnerable boy who comes into this movie and eventually leaves a man, or at least someone who is about to become a man. So I think that whole mystery that kind of drives the movie really works for the actors.

Maze Runner has a very strong visual component. Tell us about filming on location.

WB: James wrote a world that’s very original and very unique, and it was fun creating that visually. The situations themselves are so cinematic, there’s so much tension and drama. It was a lot of fun to have, as a filmmaker, the chance to create those edge of your seat moments with that kind of intense suspense. And at the same time, we also show some heart, maturity, and sophistication to what these characters are dealing with.

Kaya, coming from a film like The Truth about Emanuel, how did you like being the lead female in the Maze Runner cast? And if you were in the Glade, what task would you do?

Kaya Scodelario: Lead female? It’s just lead now, right? We don’t have to keep calling it male/female now, do we?

In a manner of ways, Emanuel is a very special film and totally different to this. It’s very indie and low-budget, and quiet and still a lot of time. [Maze Runner] for me was really exciting, because I got to run around and be physical for the first time. And being a part of such a big cast, that is so fully rounded…we all feel so like a family, to think of it as people being on different levels is so strange to us because we never were. We were always on the same level when it came to anything, so it’s lovely to be a part of that now.

[On her job in the Glade] I’d want to do something a bit hippie. I’d be like the spiritual counselor or something. Art workshops!

Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Alexander Flores, Kaya Scodelario, Dylan O'Brien and Ki Hong Lee in The Maze Runner. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.
Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Alexander Flores, Kaya Scodelario, Dylan O’Brien and Ki Hong Lee in The Maze Runner. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

James, I was wondering how much creative input you had in the film. And so if there’s anything that the guys did that you thought, “I wish you hadn’t done that?”

James Dashner You know, I feel like I am the luckiest author in the history of authors because contractually,m I didn;t really have any power with this film because we sold the rights at the very beginning and I’m just an up and coming author, but Fox has treated me like an important part of this process from the very beginning. The producers called me, and we had a long talk about how excited they were. They said, “Look, you’re the creator; it can only help us if you’re involved in this.” And so from the very beginning, I consulted on the script, and Wes and I spoke a lot about question, especially regarding fans and their reactions to certain scenes. I went to set a couple of times, I went when they recorded the music, just all kinds of cool stuff. So I felt very involved, and I felt like they respected my input, and I knew they were the experts at making films but I was thrilled to even give any advice. And I can honestly say the only part I hated in the movie was when it ended.

DO: He’s also the most adorable author in the history of authors.

Wes, when you take over this movie and it’s another young adult book being turned into a movie, were you aware that you might get lost in the shuffle? What did you do to make it special?

WB: I was very aware of that. I think ultimately the concept itself stands out from the others. Obviously, we always get compared to the Hunger Games. The thing about Hunger Games is that it’s about kids being pitted against each other, and this is not that. This is almost more of a shipwreck movie. It’s a strange situation, these kids are placed in this environment and have to kind of create their own little world and society and work together. It’s about brotherhood and family, and those kind of themes coming together. And then we get this really great balls to the wall action. And for me, I wanted to get back to what I grew up on, The Goonies, Alien, Jurassic Park, these kinds of movies that have balls to them. We didn’t get bogged down in the, not that I don’t like that stuff, but the romance, what it’s like to be a teenager…we don’t do that stuff. This is purely about dealing with some really hardcore, intense situations, and how these characters react to it.

It was lot of fun, I think that’s where we’re gonna stand out. Not only that, but what I think separates us is it’s a bunch of boys. Right now, for the last couple years, there’s been a long of girl-centric stuff, and of course we have one girl on our thing, but even Theresa-

KS: She’s got the biggest balls.

WB: Exactly! She becomes one of the boys!And hopefully, if we’re fortunate enough to continue on this saga, we’ll be able to explore the kind of character things they’re dealing with even further. And have more fun opening up this world and the saga and the story, and I think we’ll see that it’s even more different than all the others.

Aml Ameen, Kaya Scodelario and Dylan O'Brien in The Maze Runner. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.
Aml Ameen, Kaya Scodelario and Dylan O’Brien in The Maze Runner. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

Dylan, you got your start in YouTube videos that were pretty impressively edited for your age. What was it like working with such a young director, and has that inspired you to go into that side of producing?

DO: Yeah, absolutely. Something that I always think about when…choosing a director to work with, I mean, it’s not like I have my choice. Ideally it’d be somebody I can learn from and somebody who can be a hero of mine, and somebody who I am just in awe of in the way they go about their filmmaking process, and Wes is absolutely that guy. And he’s only ten years older than me! When I was making those YouTube videos, he was my age now, and that’s insane to me. It’s his first movie, and the impression that I got from him immediately, out of the gate, was how hardworking he was, what a genius he was, and what a gift for storytelling he does have. And for just filmmaking in general, we have the same taste in films, and ideally, again, it’d just be a perfect situation for me to be on set, not only learning through experience in acting but learning from a guy like him, and I think he’s gonna be superstar, to be honest.

WB: It’s really a team effort. My approach is: the collaboration is important. The movie really rests on these actors shoulders, that’s what really drives the movie. I learned so much from these guys, just the amount of commitment they gave to this film, and collaborating on things. We worked on these scenes, to find the heart of things and make something that means something, because spectacle alone is not enough without characters that we care about with a real sense of heart. So I’d say we shared this movie.

The Maze Runner is slated for a September 19, 2014 release.

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