Writer/director Andrew Niccol’s adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s The Host opens this weekend. The film stars Saoirse Ronan as Melanie Stryder, one of the last remaining humans on Earth after a race of parasitic aliens have taken over most of the world. Melanie is unique in that she forms a bond with her parasite and sets out to free other humans, if they’ll accept her as one of them. The film also stars Max Irons, Jake Abel, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Frances Fisher and Boyd Holbrook. For more on the film, here’s 5 clips, the trailer, and a featurette.
At the recent Los Angeles press day, I landed an extended interview with Ronan. We talked about making The Host, how she got involved in the project, what it was like to work for Niccol, what’s special about all the great directors she’s worked with, Kevin MacDonald‘s How I Live Now, Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut How to Catch a Monster, and her love of Breaking Bad. Hit the jump to either read or watch the interview.
Finally, you may wonder why we spent so much time talking about Breaking Bad. As I walked in the room, she immediately freaked out over my Breaking Bad t-shirt and after a few minutes of talking off camera about the show I eventually pushed record, and that’s how the interview started.
Here’s the full video interview followed by a transcript. The Host is in theaters tomorrow.
Warning: Breaking Bad spoilers are discussed at the beginning of this interview. Skip further down the page to avoid.
Ronan: Last year. Somebody told me about it and I started watching it. And then I went away from it just because I was working. I think I got through Season 1 and half of Season 2. And I told my mom and dad about it recently. While I was away, they didn’t know what to do with themselves, so I said, “Why don’t you watch Breaking Bad. Watch it on Netflix.” So they said, “Okay.” They asked me what it was I about; I said, It’s about this guy who’s a chemistry teacher, makes crystal meth, give it a look.” Within a week and a half, they had gone through all four seasons. And then I came back and we watched the last one.
It’s pretty… I found that once you turn it on, it gets into your system.
Ronan: Can’t turn it off.
And that’s the thing about great TV and there is a lot of it right now.
Ronan: So much.
This will lead me into a sidebar question, which I wasn’t going to ask, but fuck it. You’re clearly working with some amazing directors and working on some phenomenal projects. Is there the possibility that you’re like … you see these characters on TV and you’re like, “I could see myself playing that person for five years.” Or is it “no”?
Ronan: I don’t know. I am amazed at how good television is now and how high the quality is in television. I don’t know if I would want to spend seven years at my age playing one character. At the same time, I’d love to do an episode of Breaking Bad, something like that. But, you see actors like Alec Baldwin and amazing Bryan Cranston and people like that who are just fantastic and you know I didn’t really see Bryan in much after Malcolm; he wasn’t … he didn’t really do that much for a little while, and then suddenly he comes back and he gives this brilliant performance in a fantastic show that’s gone on for like four years or whatever it’s been, three years, and it’s been wonderful. So if you can do that, then great.
Ronan: I’m heartbroken.
That’s it, it’s over. It’s like I think they just filmed the finale, the series finale, recently.
Ronan: “Crystal Clear.” That’s the name of the last one.
Is that true?
Ronan: Yeah. I think it’s going to go back to his 52nd birthday. You know the way at the start he’s in that diner in California and he breaks up the bacon and so obviously Skyler isn’t around.
I had this conversation with … I interviewed Vince on the red carpet, and I basically said, “You know we just … for the last season, we did eight episodes, but the very first beginning of episode 1 of the season, you haven’t caught up to that,” and he’s just smiling, “Oh, we’re getting there.”
Ronan: It’s the last episode! Something’s going to happen. But I wonder, is he still gonna die? Because I think Walt should die at the end of it. I do think he should die.
That’s a big thing with a lot of people. But I think that what’s interesting is that they, Vince said, “By the way, they’re going to kill me, everyone’s going to kill me,” but the idea of the show was start with a guy who was so good and straight and we watch over the years as he progressively gets worse and worse, til finally he’s 180 degrees of what he was, he’s a drug kingpin, you know.
Ronan: You can see that. The fact that he suddenly doesn’t care that a kid’s been shot. He poisons a kid, it’s like, and he will do anything now to be the best.
It also comes back to the whole animosity of being the best of that firm and then getting sort of kicked out so he was so close to being the best at something.
Ronan: Yeah, but that’s the root of it all, isn’t it. So should we talk about The Host?
Yeah, ‘cause I also wanted to talk about a whole bunch of other things and Breaking Bad is now…
Ronan: I just want to say, Breaking Bad, we love you guys.
Jumping into The Host, I watched the film last night and I’m thinking to myself as I watched you on screen, did you say yes because of the script or you’re like, “There’s two guys that are pretty good-looking who are going to be coming after me for 90 minutes. Let me think, I can do this one.”
Ronan: It was because of the script. The guys hadn’t been cast at that stage. No, it was because of the script. I hadn’t read the book before I read the script and I really liked the concept. I thought it was very interesting. I thought to put a story like that on screen, in particular for a young audience, was a great idea, and could really make something, you know, special. So I wanted to be a part of it. I love Andrew Niccol as well. I love his style, I love his writing. He’s a fantastic writer. He’s a bit of an artist, really. And yeah, and I wanted to be involved. When the boys were cast as well, it was perfect. I had met them briefly before we had shot the film or anything like that. I knew what they were like, I knew how nice they were, and that they were good actors and they took it seriously and it wasn’t that they were just being cast based on their looks or anything like that, it was because they could really bring these characters to life.
I’m curious, when you have a writer-director, how much were you guys sticking to the script on set versus, you know, being allowed to sort of change in the moment?
Ronan: There wouldn’t have been much we’d be allowed to change just because when it’s based on a book especially, you do need to stick to the story as much as possible. There’s certainly different styles that you can try, there’s different takes on it and things like that, but you can’t get so radical, especially with something like this because it does need to be a very honest adaptation of Stephenie’s work. We couldn’t veer away from that original story so much. Also because so much of it is about the history of the Souls and where Wanda’s been and all that kind of stuff. But I mean we were allowed to try different things performance-wise, obviously, and develop our relationships between each other, that was kind of left up to us, which was nice.
Ronan: Kevin MacDonald.
That’s right. Actually, I’ll talk about that in a second. What is the common thread about all of them that makes them special? If you can identify one.
Ronan: Something that I always take away from a director if this has been the case and if this has happened, and it has happened with pretty much everyone you’ve mentioned there, when an actor and a director really have a connection and they really develop a strong relationship with each other and the kind of understanding where you can almost tell each other something through a look, you know, something like that. To have that kind of relationship with a director is so special and it’s so important when you’re making a film. I don’t know whether they all share one similar trait, I mean I guess they all appreciate actors and understand them, but most of these guys… I’ve gotten on with every director that I’ve worked with and have stayed in touch with them all. They’ve all been really lovely people. They’ve all been really, really great men to work with, and a couple of women as well.
I was at AFM last September, October, whatever, and I saw a little bit of footage from How I Live Now, which I guess hasn’t even been released yet. It looked really cool. Talk a little bit about that and working with Kevin because I’m a huge fan of his work as well.
Ronan: Yeah, as you can tell from the massive smile on my face, I’m very excited about How I Live Now. I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s Kevin, from working on it, I think Kevin’s going to do a great job on it. The great thing about Kevin is that he’s made some fantastic films, but he’s also made wonderful documentaries, and he brings that practical element into his filmmaking. He’s very hands-on. A lot of it looks like it’s been shot, I mean a lot of it has been shot on a handheld camera, and Franz Lustig, who’s the DP on it, he’s very spontaneous when it comes to camera work and camera operating. There were a lot of scenes — it was just a bunch of kids, it was just all kids that was in it, really — there was one scene where we’re all around a breakfast table and every single take was different because we had a 10-year-old who would do something different every time. We had goats running through the shot because it’s set on a farm and Franz was just kind of running around capturing it all, with the result, the energy that you get throughout this film, it’s so balls in the whole way through. It’s so electric. I’m really excited about it, so I can’t wait to see it. There’s going to be like, really cool music in it. The way it’s shot is great, the look of it, the actors in it are brilliant. We’ve got Tom Holland and George MacKay and Peppa Pig, do you know the cartoon Peppa Pig?
Ronan: It’s this kids’ cartoon. So the little girl who voices that plays my cousin in it. Just like a really great group of people.
I’m just out of time. I’m going to push slightly forward, just because we spent a lot of time on Breaking Bad.
Ronan: We did.
We really did. Right, real fast, I’m so excited about Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut. May, Detroit, you’re filming. Talk a little bit about how excited you are to possibly work with him in that film. I could have talked about Wes Anderson and there’s a million other things, but Ryan Gosling.
Ronan: No, I’m really excited about it. I met Ryan a few years ago and thought he was just the loveliest guy. I really think he’s such a great actor as well and he’s made great decisions. I know that as a director, he’ll make great choices with this. I know he’s going to do a great job. He wrote it as well. It’s very cool. It’s very stylized. I think it’ll be great fun to do. The thing is, he’s an actor’s actor, so he really respects other actors. I think that’ll come through as a director too.