The Maze Runner is the latest in YA dystopian adaptations and follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), who finds himself with amnesia in a community of teenage boys in The Glade. Their field is enclosed by four giant walls which open into the maze that surrounds them and is patrolled at night by the bio-mechanical monsters, the “Grievers”. With the addition of Thomas, the Gladers are forced to head into the maze and investigate who put them there, and what their motives are.
Peter sat down with cast members Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster to talk about the film.
Dylan, how do you approach a character who has no memories of who he was?
Dylan O’Brien: My favourite thing about it is the discovery. The audience is able to watch a character and discover the things that he never ever knew about himself before in his previous life as he cannot remember. He’s the “Greenie”, the new guy and the audience kind of experiences that too. Through his perspective obviously and learns as he goes, and 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 it just honestly, as honest as you can. That is all you have to work with in that sort of situation.
How do you feel about your growth as an actor and taking on such a big project?
Dylan: I feel comfortable. From day one, I loved the script and the story, I thought it could be something cool and interesting. The first thing I saw was that you two [Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Will Poulter] were attached to it, and Kaya as well. Then I met Wes, and saw his vision for the film, it was easy to feel comfortable, everyone was so good at what they were doing and bringing to the table that I was confident. I wanted to live up Wes’ vision and keep up with everyone else.
Thomas, looking back through your career, you’ve already played an extraordinary variety of characters. Were there any new challenges in Newt’s portrayal?
Thomas Brodie-Sangster: The same with any character that comes along. The fun thing about what we get to do is messing around playing all sort of people. People that existed, people that exist in a book and fans already have a specific idea of who they are – so you have to work with that. It takes a bit of juggling, but it’s all part of the fun. All I was told was that Newt 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.
Will, in terms of contrast, how did you feel going from your hilarious role in We’re The Millers, to this much more serious, straight role?
Will Poulter: I felt lucky to have something quite different. I love the actor’s actors, those people who can do a mixture 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 is different from the one before and hope that all goes well.
Had you read any of the books before being auditioned or cast?
Will: Like Dylan, I slightly freaked out when I got halfway through reading it because there wasn’t total synergy between my character, the script and the book, but I think the script is adapted well and the best-loved features have been translated perfectly. From an acting perspective it was tricky, on and off set we would talk about how our characters didn’t have that “thing” anymore. We’d go back and forth over what was just in the book, and what we were confusing with what. So I actually stopped reading it, but finished it afterwards, and then also The Scorch Trials [next book in the series] – which is pretty insane!
Gally cares a lot about Glader traditions, he’s attached to the environment and protecting the Glader community, so do you think he had a hand in creating these traditions? What sort of person do you see him as?
Will: He was one of the first boys up, so I feel it was naturally part of building that hierarchy because physically too, he is a builder. There’s a few things that I identify with, but I hope there aren’t too many similarities. There is a strong by-the-book quality about him, he’s pedantic, likes order and finds comfort in the hierarchy. He’s an enforcer of that but he has power struggle issues too. He struggles with his superiors, Alby particularly, and he sees an opportunity to set up his own kind of revolt. I think a lot of that also comes from fear, he is ultimately a coward and he likes that protective bubble, he’s scared that one day they will need to leave the oasis and leave the maze.
What was it like shooting those scenes between your two characters, Newt and Gally? There is so much tension there and it could have went to quite a dark place, did you keep it wrapped up or try to use it?
Thomas: There was, but there is also a big mutual respect between the two characters. Newt respects Gally’s opinion because he likes to hear what everyone has to say, he is an open person and sees everyone for who they are and how they can be best fitted into this establishment. He sees people as how they can help, and how he can help. He could completely shun Gally away, but Newt has a different way of dealing with things.
Will: By the way, I am awful with politics, but if you’re going to put it in political terms, Thomas and Newy come across as more democratic, and consider everybody views and strive for a bit more collaborative running of the Glade. Once there’s a threat to the idea of staying in the Glade forever then Gally becomes a dictator in a way and tells people what they’re doing, and leads the revolt. Wes always said Gally and Thomas are two sides to the same coin, and it really nearly kicks off because there is some serious tension, so that was really fun too.
How did you find the green screen CGI-heavy scenes?
Dylan: Wes was so animated. He describes what’s out there, in such a way that you want to crack up. He is so detailed, we’d hear him shouting “IT’S COMING AT YOU, [BANG BANG CRASH] AHH!”. You could understand what is happening exactly, and we also had a great balance of having real worlds that we were shooting in. The Glade was built, and geographically specifically too. The entire thing that you see in the film is exactly like that. Nothing is cheated, we actually had the door there to go into the maze, the box in the ground, a tree house, they even grew a cornfield! The visual effects are just the icing on the cake. Having this real environment to feel a part of was really important to Wes. He would paint a picture for you when you were shooting, he’d draw sketches that looked incredible.
Will: I don’t use the words 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.
Is Wes signed on to direct any of the future films?
Dylan: Hopefully! He’s so passionate about it, he’s adopted this project as his baby.
Last one. Any humorous stories from the set that you can share with us?
Dylan: It was like being at summer camp with ten of your best friends! In one of the hotels, we had BB guns, but I decided to go out and get an M16…
Will: It was the size of a sofa! We were all running around with pistols and stuff, but Dylan comes out in the hallway, looking like a drug-free Scarface, and sprays the hallway! Getting lots of M16 BB bullets in my back was a good prank. Somehow, he kept it a secret too. Did you keep it under your bed?
Dylan: It was so hard for me to keep from telling everybody. Thomas came into my room and I whispered “I got to show you something” … and I said “you cannot tell anyone, but I am going to whip it out when we play tonight”. At one point, a security guard came up, it’s two in the morning and we’re running around this hotel shooting with our air-soft-guns. (We were the only ones in the hotel though). We were immediately like “Oh no, we really sorry”, as if we were in trouble, but he just said “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?”. We were so shocked. “An hour or so?”
Will: He was so kind! He said “I can organise a place that y’all can play, like a conference room?” but I said “No, this is better for the film and stuff”, so he walks away and we’re left pretending we’re rehearsing! “Okay, let’s take it from the top.”
The Maze Runner is in UK cinemas now.
For more from Peter visit his website at roomtoreview.co.uk