45 Things to Know about THE MAZE RUNNER from our Set Visit

     April 29, 2014


It’s late at night.  In front of me are a huge group of kids.  They’re in a circle, surrounding two of their own, with a burning fire in the center.  As I look closer, I can see two people fighting near the flames.  After watching them struggle, all of a sudden I hear one of them scream out, “My name is Thomas!”  As soon as he does, the entire group embraces him, like they’ve been waiting all along for him to remember his name.  As soon as the group shares in the happy moment, we hear a horrible sound coming from behind a massive gate in the distance.  I then hear one of the kids say to Thomas, “It’s the Grievers.  We’ll protect you.”  As Thomas looks into the distance to try and make sense of the situation, I hear director Wes Ball call cut.

Last summer, when The Maze Runner was filming outside New Orleans, I got to visit the set along with a few other reporters.  If you’re not familiar with James Dashner’s YA novel, it centers on a group of teens who appear in an area known as “The Glade” but have no memory when they wake up. The only way out appears to be through a shifting maze of massive walls that harbor dangerous creatures known as Grievers. Only one of the teens, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), holds the secret to their escape. The Maze Runner also stars Kaya Scodelario, Aml Ameen, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, and Patricia Clarkson.  Hit the jump for more.

While on set I was able to participate in group interviews with the cast and filmmakers and learned a lot about the movie.  I’ve listed the highlights as 45 things to know.  Check them out after watching the trailer.


45 Things to Know About The Maze Runner:

  • The-Maze-Runner-movie-posterWes Ball initially thought the story would have more of an old school Amblin vibe, but eventually decided upon a “very raw, very real, very edgy” feel more in line with Lord of the Flies.
  • When he pitched his version of the film to the studio, he described as “Lord of the Flies meets Lost.”  It’s like Lost because they don’t know where they are.
  • Ball also calls it a kids movie with teeth.
  • Ball was actually working with Fox on a big three-film feature adaptation of his short film Ruin when the studio asked him if he’d be interested in The Maze Runner.
  • Author James Dashner was very involved in the film, speaking with Ball a lot as the script was being written.
  • Ball mentions Jurassic Park as one of the films that has most influenced his style, as he wants to make a PG-13 movie that doesn’t pander to kids.
  • Ball watched a lot of Terrence Malick for inspiration as he liked the idea of a mature, sophisticated look to the movie.
  • The production filmed over 18 acres of land on a local farm.  The farm has 200 acres.
  • The movie shot for 42 days.
  • While most Hollywood sets are safe and clean, the production decided to film on a location filled with massive bugs and poisonous snakes.  The production had to hire snake wranglers to make sure the areas where they were filming were snake free. Before filming began the wranglers found 25 venomous snakes.  The biggest one they found was a 5 foot rattlesnake.
  • The majority of the film takes place in the Glade with the rest in the maze.
  • The-Maze-Runner-movie-imageThe movie will most likely be a hard PG-13.  People will die.
  • There are an undetermined number of grievers in the maze.  There might be 8.  One for each section of the maze.
  • Producer Wyck Godfrey had his 3 boys offer casting advice.  He would show his kids the auditions and get their feedback.  His kids have read the books.
  • The movie opens with Thomas arriving from the elevator in the Glade.
  • The Glade were originally barren but as more kids arrived they turned it into a home.  The Glade have many locations that the kids have built from the council hall (where the Gladers decide their laws) to a map room where they try and study the ever changing maze.
  • The production wanted the look of the Glade to be like a group of people actually built everything.
  • The maze changes every night.  In the film you’ll see the kids lying in their beds and see them react to the sounds of the maze changing.
  • Wes Ball shot a ton of set ups per day.  One day he shot over 60.  He did this because he wanted to get as much as he could with his short shooting schedule.
  • The-Maze-Runner-movie-imageThe first Glader came up 3 years ago.  There are between 30-40 people in the Glade now (it’s an undetermined amount).  Usually a kid comes up in the box once a month and they’ve been there around 3 years.
  • Catherine Hardwicke was originally going to direct The Maze Runner.
  • Blake Cooper reached out to Ball on Twitter to pitch himself as the actor to play Chuck (one of the fan favorites). After repeated attempts, Ball finally relented and had Cooper send his tape to the casting director, who told Ball he was amazing.
  • Ball hopes the film turns out to be like Taps where, years from now, people will look back on it and see a bunch of famous actors who were young and just starting out.
  • Dylan O’Brien was initially passed over in the audition phase because Ball thought he had “MTV hair” and had trouble seeing him as the everyman character of Thomas. Fox subsequently pitched O’Brien to Ball based on The Internship.  Ball remembers thinking he “looked familiar” and later realized it was the same kid he passed on in the early days of casting.
  • Having seen her work on the UK series Skins, Ball wanted Kaya Scodelario to play Teresa from the beginning.
  • When Ball started filming, he tweeted the fans and asked them their favorite scenes from the book. He said he made sure those were all included in the film.
  • Though their characters aren’t friendly in the film, Dylan O’Brien and Will Poulter struck up a strong rapport on set.
  • O’Brien describes Ball as “the most laid-back human being.”
  • O’Brien is naturally a fast runner and loves sprinting which is a help for his character.
  • O’Brien didn’t hardly have any time to physically prepare for the film because of his busy Teen Wolf schedule.
  • The-Maze-Runner-movie-imageOne of the reasons O’Brien wanted to do the film was because Ball’s vision was so specific, and he had already done a lot of drawings and prep work when O’Brien was auditioning.
  • Changes from the book to the movie include downplaying telepathy between Teresa and Thomas, and downplaying Teresa’s coma.
  • Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s character Newt is the only one who keeps his British accent.
  • The grievers, described in the book as slug-like, have been changed to resemble something more nightmarish, but have kept their bio-mechanical aspects from the book.
  • The production built practical walls for the maze that the actors can run across, climb and jump on, and then extended them to their full height through CGI. They took over a defunct Sam’s Club warehouse to build the ivy-covered movable walls of the maze.
  • The cast did a bootcamp with a ranger to learn survival skills, which led to them asking Ball to spend a night camping out on set. The last night they slept on the location not knowing how many snakes were in the area.
  • Even the extras were part of the week-long bootcamp training and subsequence scene rehearsals.
  • The production team used most of the natural landscape of their location, but built a road, enhanced the existing pond, and used the surrounding woodland for lumber to build their set.
  • The-Maze-Runner-movie-imageThey’re considering taking parts of the second book and making them into digital shorts, like character backstories
  • Kaya Scodelario had no issues being the only female in the all-male cast.
  • Scodelario says there’s no romantic link between Teresa and Thomas since they’re so focused on trying to work out the mystery surrounding them.
  • Scodelario became interested in the role of Teresa when it became clear that she wasn’t just another damsel in distress. She submitted her audition on video.
  • The first scene of Scodelario’s character arriving in the middle of the Glade surrounded by 30 boys is the very first scene she shot.
  • Everyone took turns cooking on set during the first week.
  • Ball has been described as a very open and personal director with an amazing background in CGI and technical special effects.
  • Scodelario’s dream roles include playing a young Keith Richards, doing something set in the late 60s, and playing a Bond girl who doesn’t sleep with Bond but kills him.

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