Arriving in theaters September 19 is The Maze Runner, director Wes Ball‘s adaptation of James Dashner‘s hit YA novel of the same name. The story centers on a group of teenagers stuck in a place known only as “The Glade” with no memory of who they are or how they got there, and only one way out – through a giant, ever-shifting maze harboring deadly creatures called “Grievers”. The Maze Runner stars Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Patricia Clarkson.
Last weekend at Comicon I spoke with O’Brien, Scodelario, Poulter, Ball and Dashner about the film. They talked about the overwhelmingly positive reaction from the first fan screening, filming in the harsh Louisiana conditions, why the maturity of the film will surprise people, what they’re most excited for fans to see, and more. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
DYLAN O’BRIEN: No, we just met a fan right now, she won a contest from last night and she’s like a diehard fan who saw it last night. She was just like, “It’s perfect. Everything is perfect.”
JAMES DASHNER: I was sitting in the crowd for the screening and the instant it ended they all leaned in toward me and said, “It was perfect. It was amazing. We loved it! Can’t wait to see it again.” And they were crying.
Oh wow, well that’s what you hope for right?
WES BALL: Definitely. Its scary for me personally, because I had to change a few things.
DASHNER: He’s worried about that, but I don’t think he needs to be.
O’BRIEN: He was at dinner and he was so funny.
BALL: I kept thinking that the sound was wrong, the picture was wrong…you work on this stuff for so long and you want it to be perfect.
You guys have been on this for so long, you’ve been actively promoting it for so long, and it’s not even out yet.
O’BRIEN: I know!
What has the journey been like for you guys so far?
BALL: Yeah, we wrapped it over a year ago.
KAYA SCODELARIO: It’s nice because we can just hang out together all the time. It’s not ended.
WILL POULTER: The crazy thing for us also, the actors, is we got a pretty – I guess half realized idea of what the film was going to be like, but we did go away and left it up to Wes and his team and the producers. And then obviously there was an element of reveal, and it just blew us away when we saw it and it made us so excited to go on tour and do all this promotion, because we knew audiences were going to get the same thing. They were going to get this unbelievable movie.
SCODELARIO: Plus, you know, I screamed my head off when I first watched it. I was so scared. Did you hear me?
SCODELARIO: “Calm down Kaya, for god’s sake, it’s your movie.”
Have the rest of you done a lot of these?
BALL: We just did the one last year, that’s it.
SCODELARIO: This is my first one.
How’s it going so far?
SCODELARIO: It’s crazy. Look, there’s a guy dressed as a hot dog down there. It’s amazing. Where are we? What is this place?
O’BRIEN: We had some storm troopers before. Those were my personal faves.
DASHNER: I’ve been here about five times for books and stuff, but being here for a movie is about ten times more exciting.
BALL: Hall H should be very interesting. We’ll be doing that in a couple hours.
DASHNER: Never in a billion years did I even think I would get into Hall H much less be on the actual panel.
BALL: Me either.
POULTER: It’s so cool.
SCODELARIO: Yeah, it’s crazy.
DASHNER: I’m going to cry.
What are you most excited for people to see?
O’BRIEN: The whole movie. The movie.
POULTER: I’m excited for people to see the Grievers, I have to say. I think the initial thing is obviously gong to be how perfect a representation The Glade is of what you wrote in the book, and then for them to see the Grievers – because they are terrifying.
SCODELARIO: I think the most shocking thing about them is that they’re disgusting as well. They’re not just scary they’re physically – ugh, disgusting.
O’BRIEN: The sound.
SCODELARIO: That gives you such a new sensation when you see it. It’s not just fear, it’s a different feeling all together. That’s what interested me the most about them. I could almost feel them on me and smell them.
DASHNER: As the author I’m excited for everyone to see the characters come to life in such a perfect way.
BALL: That’s my answer too.
DASHNER: Because you can have Grievers and all the excitement you want, but if the viewer doesn’t connect with the characters, they don’t care what happens to them. These guys…
BALL: They did such a good job.
DASHNER: They did such an amazing job, man.
SCODELARIO: Thanks guys.
O’BRIEN: It started off in the casting. I’ve seen the book and I’ve seen the movie and I just feel like every single character the fans are going to be so happy to see them breathed to life just because it’s so perfect, everyone fits their character so perfectly. They’ll all automatically just become that character to them now.
BALL: Yeah, everyone has their little moment. And this is kind of really n introduction to all these characters that are part of a larger saga. So hopefully we’ll get a chance to keep exploring those. That’s kind of the goal.
Of course, did you plant any seeds in this first film looking forward to possible sequels?
BALL: [Laughs] Oh yes! Oh yeah.
DASHNER: He planted a forest.
BALL: The forest is already growing. You’ll see in the end. It’s all in there. So we’ll see.
DASHNER: It’s amazing how true to the actual plot line it is. It begins exactly how the book begins and it ends basically exactly where the book ends. You don’t get that very often with adaptations.
BALL: I think it’s because you wrote something that works on a cinematic situational level that you could do that. Any change that we made was usually about just pacing that you can’t get away with in a movie. It’s really all about the escalation continuing up. In a book you can kind of take time and have lulls in places. You kind of can’t do that in movies, so usually where we took things out was kind of just about compressing time.
BALL: I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s probably one little plot difference about how possibly we kill our first Griever, and there’s a couple little ripples from there, but that’s kind of it. It’s just plot stuff.
DASHNER: But it’s so well done. It’s translating the spirit of what happened in the book to the best way to present it on screen. I would guess I’m the harshest critic because I wrote it and I am fully supportive and love the small changes that had to be made.
I think that makes a huge difference to fans to know that you’re totally on board.
POULTER: That’s the most comforting thing for the fans that he approves the changes. And the fact that James loves the film is the biggest kind of stamp that we could possibly have on the movie we made because it’s from the man himself that he loves the film. That’s freaking awesome.
DASHNER: And I can’t shut up about it, so.
BALL: And the thing is we’re not replacing the book. The book will always still exist. We’re just sort of along parallel to the book it’s own little entity. So it’s cool.
I understand you guys shot on location rather than a sound stage.
BALL: For half of the movie anyway.
Ok, what was the biggest challenge of working in that environment?
I read a lot about the snakes!
SCODELARIO: And horseflies.
BALL: These flies are literally as big as a quarter.
SCODELARIO: We had them in England this year. They turned up in England. What the hell?
O’BRIEN: It was insanely challenging conditions, just because we were in Louisiana.
BALL: It was hot. Humid.
BALL: It shows up on screen.
O’BRIEN: It’s so real.
BALL: It’s real sweat on their faces.
O’BRIEN: Yeah, everything that you’re seeing. Real dirt, real sweat, everything. We’re all really exhausted. I just think it helps being in those environments, especially the one that we had, it was so real.
BALL: I just kept telling them pain is temporary film is forever. So we could push through it.
O’BRIEN: Yes, you really kept telling us.
DASHNER: Most your cuts and bruises were real right?
O’BRIEN: A hundred percent, they just had to match them on my hands and stuff.
POULTER: I’ve been in situations where makeup had to spray your face with water to make it look like sweat – those bottles didn’t exist. It was like, “Can we get a towel on his face? Because it looks like he’s just run a marathon.”
BALL: [Laughs] Right, it’s too much.
O’BRIEN: Honestly, that made it challenging, but it made it so real. It just brings such a good spirit to it.
Do you think there’s anything about the movie that’s going to surprise people and catch them off guard.
BALL: Yeah, actually, I think the level of maturity and sophistication to it. I think it’s kind of easy to think it’s going to be a kid’s movie or something, but we tried to bring something that has real weight to it and that starts with the actors. They did a really good job of doing something that’s true and real. I’m really hoping that people will respond to that idea. we’re trying to make entertainment first, but something with substance underneath for real. I hope that comes to pass.
O’BRIEN: That’s something that might separate this, I think, being like one of those YA movies that are coming out. I so genuinely don’t think it’s like that. It totally exists in its own right and like he said, it could easily be taken as a kid’s movie just objectively, but there is a real sense- there’s this gravitas to it It’s really, really mature in that aspect of performances and just the story.
BALL: Yeah, there’s something about the YA label that kind of puts a target on your back. And we certainly didn’t try to make a YA movie, we just made a movie.
DASHNER: It’s beautiful too. It looks beautiful, it’s very cinematic.
BALL: It’s very raw and real and gritty. For the eight weeks we had to shoot the movie and the limited resources we had, we’re all proud of what we made together.