Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf), Will Poulter (Son of Rambo), and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Game of Thrones) recently joined us for a roundtable interview following the imminent release of James Dashner’s adapted novel, The Maze Runner.
Dylan, how did you approach a character that had no memory of who he was?
DO’B: It’s interesting to play it as you can, sort of. My favourite thing about it is the discovery. The audience is able to watch a character learn the things he never ever knew about himself. I love that Thomas starts out as the newbie, as the “Greenie”, and the audience kind of experiences that – through his perspective, obviously, as he learns as he goes. Then, to watch him discover these leadership qualities, the real qualities that he has is a really cool thing. The way you approach it, I guess, is just honestly; as honest as you can. That’s all you have to work with in that sort of situation.
How did you feel about taking on such a big project?
DO’B: I felt really comfortable. I loved the script from day one, I loved the story, and I thought it could be something really cool – something interesting and original in this generation of kind of regurgitated projects and sequels and stuff like that, so I am proud to be part of it from that point. The first thing that I saw too was that these guys [Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Will Poulter] were attached to it – Kaya as well, and Emile, but I wasn’t aware of his work at the time – but with those three I was like, “oh they are really strong actors, I like that, that’s awesome”. Then, meeting Wes, and seeing his whole vision for the film – it was just sort of easy to feel comfortable with all of this cast surrounding me and everyone was so good at what they were doing. The only thing I guess you can say, is that I was trying to keep up – really, that was my hope at the end of the day. I wanted to do them justice, do the story justice, and do Wes justice.
Thomas, what were the challenges of playing Newt?
TBS: The same as with any character that comes along really. The fun thing I think about what we do, is to mess around, playing all sorts of people – people that existed, people that exist in a book – fans already have a specific idea of who they are, so you have to work with that, or, you know, people who you can take a completely fresh look at it. Sometime it takes a bit of juggling with all that, but it’s all part of the fun really. Newt, I know – or all I was told – was that he was the nice guy, he still had the English accent, and he had a bit of a limp; so I just played around with that really – *laughs*.
Will, how did you find playing this much more serious, dramatic role?
I feel so lucky to have got the chance to do this, because I feel for me it was something quite different. I love actors and admire those who can do a mix of stuff – all of that versatility, which I don’t feel I have, but I wish to aspire to, and keep people guessing by choosing a role that’s different from the one before.
Had you read any of the books before auditioning?
WP: I think, like Dylan, I kind of started and slightly freaked out when I got half way through reading it because there wasn’t total synergy between my character, the script, and the book – but that’s one of the things that I love about this movie – it’s adapted very well, and the best loved features have been translated perfectly. From an acting perspective it was tricky, and on and off set we would be like “oh doesn’t your character have that thing” and then you could be like “that was just in the book, or are we now confusing it with something that was in the book?” So I actually stopped reading it, but finished it afterwards, then also read The Scorch Trials, which is pretty insane.
What was your understanding of Gally’s role among the Gladers?
WP: I think that in light of the fact that he was one of the first boys up, (as I understand it was George, then Alby, Newt and then myself) so with that in mind, I feel it was naturally part of building that hierarchy, physically too, as he’s a builder and that’s his role. I also kind of see him as like me – or just a few things – I hope there aren’t too many similarities by the way, but one of the things I noticed is that there’s this kind of OCD quality about him – he’s pedantic and likes order, and finds comfort in hierarchy and following the rules, so I think he would be an enforcer of that in many ways, and wanted people to follow him. I think he also has a power struggle thing. He struggles with the fact that there are people senior to him, like Alby, so he tries to see an opportunity to set up his own kind of revolt. He’s ultimately a coward, and he likes that protective bubble.
There’s a lot of tension on screen between Newt and Gally – what was it like filming together?
TBS: There was, but there was also a lot of mutual respect between them. I very much respect Gally’s opinion, and Newt likes to hear what everyone has to say. He’s an open person, and sees everyone for who they are – how they can be best fitted into the establishment that they have. He sees people as how they can help, and how he can help. So I don’t think he completely shuns Gally away, but he does appreciate that he has a different way of dealing with things. I think that as things progress, and things go a bit nuts from the revolt, we just stick with this guy [Dylan O’Brien].
WP: I think that if you’re going to put it in political terms, which by the way, here is a fun fact; I’m shit at politics, then you two come across as more democratic, and consider everybody’s views, and strive for a bit more collaboration in The Glade. Yet, I feel that once there’s a threat to the idea of staying in the Glade forever, then I become a kind of a dictator in a way, and tell people that this is what’s going on now, and lead this kind of revolt situation. Wes always said there are two sides to the same coin, which is a really good kind of allegory, and describes this relationship [Thomas – Gally] – it really nearly kicks off, and there is serious tension, but that was really fun too.
Did anyone get stuck in the lift?
WP: There was this part when we were running through the Glade right towards the ending of the film, and it’s me and a couple of guys who build, and we’re in the box/lift, but it came to this moment where we got the shot, and we heard them taking down the camera, and we were like, “we’re still in the cage … fellas?” – it was quite an uncomfortable experience, but nobody got stuck in the actual box.
Could you share some behind-the-scenes stories with us?
DO’B: Many – but none that we can share *laughs*
WP: So many!
DO’B: It was like being at summer camp with ten of your best friends, in a way.
WP: Stop us if they’re too funny.
DO’B One of my favourite memories ever was when we all had BB guns, but I decided to go out an get an M16.
WP: Another fun fact! It was like the size of a sofa! It was the biggest gun that I have ever seen in my life, and without telling us, split into teams, we were all running around with pistols and stuff, but Dylan comes out in the hallway (kind of like a drug-free Scarface) and sprays the hallway – I was like “eeeeeh!”. Getting lots of M16 BB bullets in my back was a good prank, and to keep it somehow a secret was the best. Did you keep it under your bed?
DO’B: It was so hard for me to keep from telling anybody. Slowly, but surely, Thomas came into my room and I was like *whispers* “I got to show you something”, so I did, but was like, you can’t tell anyone; I’m going to whip it out when we play tonight. Alex [Flores] was like, come here quick, so they both had to be on my team for that reason, but it came to it, and poor Alex had to go onto your team knowing that I had this big gun, and he was like “okay lets go”, but a security guard literally came up at one point, and it was the sweetest thing, as it was like two in the morning and we are running around this hotel shooting with our air-soft-guns, but we were the only ones in the hotel so it was fine, but the security guard comes up, as there must of been some kind of complaint that happened. We were immediately like “oh no, we are really sorry”, like we were in trouble, but he was like “y’all rehearsing? That’s okay, do you think you could keep it down? How long are y’all supposed to be doing this for?” Shocked, we were like “an hour or so?”
WP: He was so kind! He said “I can organize, like, a place that y’all can play, like a conference room?” – but we said “no, this is better for the film and stuff”.
DO’B: So he walks away, and we say “Okay, lets take it from the top!” *laughs* – that was a great moment – so fun.
A lot of the running scenes were CGI – how did you find filming like that?
DO’B: Well, whenever we had to do things like that – Wes was so animated as he talks to you about things; he describes what’s out there in such a way that you want to crack up. It helps a lot, he’s so detailed. He could be like “It’s coming at you! Pew! Pew!” – but you could understand what’s happening exactly, and then we also just had a such great balance of having real world stuff that we were shooting in – like the Glade; they built that entire thing physically. The entire thing that you see in the film is exactly like that. Nothing is cheated – that is the world that we shot in every day, and we actually had the door there to go into the maze, the box in the ground, we actually had a tree house, and even grew a cornfield – it felt very real, and the visual effects are just the icing on the cake. I think that was really important to Wes – to have this real environment, to feel like we were part of it. He was just going to take care of the visual effects in the end, and he had a really great way of articulating what it’s going to be like. He could literally paint a picture for you, or draw a sketch, which looked incredible. At one point we were in a parking lot on the end of the highway in Louisiana. We had a blue-screen along the wall, and these orange poles that me and Ki Hong Lee were running along. At one point I would just cut through, and Wes turns it into this [The Blades sequence]. The guy’s a mad, mad genius.
WP: You could use the word visionary and genius lightly, but they do genuinely apply to Wes Ball. We all feel really lucky to get to work with him at this stage of his career, so that we can say we worked with Wes Ball on his first feature film. That is genuinely how we feel.
We greatly appreciate the opportunity for interviews to this film provided by 20th Century Fox and Substance.