James Dashner’s bestselling novel The Maze Runner comes to life on the screen in a feature film starring Teen Wolf‘s Dylan O’Brien, Game of Thrones‘ Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Will Poulter, and Kaya Scodelario. The sci-fi action film from director Wes Ball tells the story of a group of teenage boys who’ve had their memories erased and who’ve been sent to live in the center of a gigantic maze. Strangers forced into working together to survive, the group’s dynamics change dramatically when Thomas (O’Brien) breaks the rules after discovering their is possibly a way to defeat the creatures who inhabit the maze and to escape from the massive maze.
Together for a press conference in Los Angeles in support of the 20th Century Fox release, the cast discussed the physical challenges of starring in The Maze Runner and what it was like to be a part of this much-anticipated adaptation of Dashner’s novel.
Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Ki Hong Lee Press Conference
Can you talk about working with a young cast and very few older adults?
Will Poulter: “It’s weird. I mean the age range in our cast was kind of crazy. I guess the youngest guy on set would have been Blake [Cooper]. He was playing Chuck. And he was…”
Dylan O’Brien: “12.”
Will Poulter: “13 or 14. Was he? Yes.”
Kaya Scodelario: “He was 12.”
Dylan O’Brien: “He’s 13 now.”
Will Poulter: “He’s 12 and very kind of mature for his age and gives an amazing performance as you can see, quite confident. And then right up to I guess Aml [Ameen] who was the oldest, so we had this age range that was lovely. We’ve said it a lot and maybe it’s getting sick, we legitimately became like a real kind of family, you know, very, very close indeed and kind of looked after each other. And there was varying levels of experience in terms of life and also acting, and so we all really looked out for each other. Don’t get me wrong, some adults helped us make this. We had a lot of help in that respect. But it was an amazing kind of experience. We all got very close.”
Dylan O’Brien: “Sort of our own little side project.”
Will Poulter: “Yes, that’s right. I think we’ve managed okay in the cast in terms of not having too many adults, I think. We had fun anyway.”
If you could choose a movie and take that movie’s ensemble of characters, put them in the maze along with your characters, which movie would it be?
Dylan O’Brien: “Goonies.”
Thomas Brodie-Sangster: “Cool. Very cool.”
Dylan O’Brien: “How about E.T.?”
Will Poulter: E.T.?
Dylan O’Brien: “Yes. I don’t know. It would just be like, ‘Come on, come on.'”
Will Poulter: “I thought those Stand By Me fellows would be fun.”
Dylan O’Brien: “Yes.”
Kaya Scodelario: “Can I have some girls, please?”
Thomas Brodie-Sangster: “Sorry.”
Kaya Scodelario: “Bring It On! The cast of Bring It On.”
Will Poulter: “The Spice Girls, real girl power. The Spice Girls and E.T., Scary Spice going at the Grievers – I think that’ll be good.”
Kaya, what was it like to be on set with just a bunch of dudes?
Kaya Scodelario: “They are dudes, to be fair. I grew up in London with quite a mixed group of friends, and as human beings we just all got on. I never felt like the only girl. They never changed the way they acted around me, which I really respected. I didn’t feel like when I walked in the room suddenly they were really polite. They were still dirty and rude and fun.”
Dylan O’Brien: “But still polite.”
Kaya Scodelario: “They were still polite, yeah. But we just had so much fun as a group. I never felt like the only girl. A lot of the boys’ girlfriends came on set and sisters and stuff like that. So, there were females to interact with. But in the words of Aml, I am quite laddish anyway.”
Dylan O’Brien: “‘Laddish’ you must have been.”
Ki Hong Lee: “He called you laddish?”
Kaya Scodelario: “Yes, he called me laddish. Can you believe that?”
Not every scene from the book could make it into the film. What were some scenes that each of you missed getting to film?
Dylan O’Brien: “I mean, the beetle blades is something that I always thought was cool in the book and we even shot for the movie, but just didn’t make the final cut for whatever reason, just because I guess it derailed the story a little bit where we had the scenes that included those. But that was something that I always thought was cool in the book. You know how Thomas sees these things like scurrying through the woods and they’re cameras? I always thought that was wicked.”
Kaya Scodelario: “I liked the big introduction in the book, how it goes onto each individual character and introduces them and introduces their job. And, obviously, we didn’t have time to do that.”
Dylan O’Brien: “Yes, it’s much more.”
Kaya Scodelario: “But I love that about the book. You get to see each part of the world of the Glade and how everyone is a part of it and brings something to it. But there wouldn’t have been enough time to do that.”
Dylan O’Brien: “Yes.”
Kaya Scodelario: “‘This is Bill. This is Sam.'”
Dylan O’Brien: “Wes [Ball] actually told me that the full introduction to The Glade would be on the DVD.”
Kaya Scodelario: “Oh, cool.”
Dylan O’Brien: “Because apparently that had to just get chopped down a lot, and he really loves it.”
Will Poulter: “Apparently along with a 20-minute gag reel, which I don’t know if that speaks a lot to our professionalism. It’s 20 minutes of us cracking up and not doing our jobs properly.”
Thomas Brodie-Sangster: “20 is a lot, yes.”
Dylan O’Brien: “I’ll be on the DVD too.”
Which was the most challenging stunt and which did you have the most fun doing?
Will Poulter: “We had fun doing the wrestling thing. That was kind of fun.”
Dylan O’Brien: “Yes, that was great. That’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie.”
Will Poulter: “And Dyl’s awesome. He loves the physical stuff. He’s really good at it. We were joking around about how kind of apologetic we were through the entire rehearsal, worried about hurting each other, and I would push Dyl and he’d be like, ‘Dude, you can push me harder than that.’ I’d push him a little bit hard. He’d be like, ‘Properly push me, man. Come on!’ He really got it out of me. But, yes, that was fun. The wrestling was fun, and the push.”
Dylan O’Brien: “Yes. Climbing on the vines and stuff on the wire, that was literally like a whole 12-hour day where I was just hung up on a wire. They would just bring me food. They didn’t want to lower me because it would just take a lot more time. Wes would literally come over because it was real ivy and stuff that they used on those walls and so we’d be doing a thing where The Griever’s jumping on me, and it’s that part where I’m running away from The Griever and it jumps on the wall over me, and so they shake the wall. All this debris was shaking down. We just had to do a shot where I’m looking up, and it kept just getting in my eyes. I’d be like, ‘Oh, there’s something in my eye.’ And Wes would just be like, ‘I got it, baby. Don’t need a medic.’ He’d come over and he’d literally just take it out of my eye.
Before that I was never someone who was comfortable having someone touch their eyeball. But now I am. Seriously, seriously, is that funny?”
How many of you had actually read the book? And if you had read it, what did you want to bring to the screen as your character?
Dylan O’Brien: “I didn’t know about the book or start reading it until like I was aware of the project and that I was doing the movie. Was there anyone who knew about the series before?”
Kaya Scodelario: “My little cousins did.”
Dylan O’Brien: “Really?”
Kaya Scodelario: “My family did in Brazil and stuff. They knew about it, but I didn’t know.”
Dylan O’Brien: “I found out later that a bunch of my little cousins too had read it. I wasn’t aware of it though. And then, I don’t know, you just want to bring everything you can to the character from the book. You know for me, I’ve been saying it’s like I feel like it was a lot to do with just coming from a really honest perspective. I always look at Thomas as very honest and heroic and just a truthful character, especially one being so sort of rebirthed from the time we meet him in the film and the book. He’s the fresh Greenie. He’s like the one who just has his memory wiped and is just redeveloping it almost in a way as a person.”
Will Poulter: “I also think questions that we’ve got in relation to the research that you might do as an actor, this is generally one of the easier sort of roles for a lot of us in some ways because obviously our characters don’t have a lot of memory from the past. So, there isn’t really a background. I mean, what we’re experiencing in terms of living in The Glade is our background. That’s kind of always been our environment in a way, seeing as we were all rebirthed at some point. And so, yes, the other thing being that obviously you know you’ve got the book to rely on. That’s like an amazing resource. Your research is right there in the hundreds of pages that James Dashner wrote. So, you know a lot of the job is kind of done for you, which is really nice – I have to be honest.”
What do you think young people are going to take away from this movie?
Ki Hong Lee: “I think we’ve said this before in other interviews, and Dylan’s mentioned it a bunch of times. I think what’s different from our movie is that we’re a group of guys, or girls too, that help each other get out of the maze together. We are stuck in this Dystopian society where we could just easily kill each other and eat each other and things like that, eat the pig or whatever, but I think it’s a story about a group of people who are stuck in a predicament, and just like we are in this world, and hopefully they take away the fact that we’ve worked together and we united. And, we have our differences. Obviously we have our strengths and weaknesses, and we have runners. We have builders and things like that. So, I think if we just unite and work together, it’ll work out. Hopefully we can. The maze is a crazy place.”
Dylan O’Brien: “I don’t even want to jump on the heels of that. That was awesome. You got it, baby.”
Do any of you love to run and how much did Wes Ball require you to run?
Dylan O’Brien: “Well, Wes’ whole thing, he’ll say this like a thousand times over. ‘Pain is temporary, man. Film is forever.’ So, literally he drives us into the ground, you know? But it’s fun. It’s awesome. You’re so spent and you’re just going. None of us are marathon runners, you know? I myself have particularly always hated long distance running. I love sprinting, though, like for a short amount of time. I think if anything I’m way more of a sprinter. And so this was perfect but also exhausting, and again Wes’ philosophy always came into play.”
Ki Hong Lee: “Yes. There’s a scene in there… I don’t know if you guys remember, but there’s a scene in there where I actually pulled my hamstring as I was running.”
Dylan O’Brien: “Oh, dude, in that parking lot?”
Kaya Scodelario: “Did you?”
Ki Hong Lee: “We would literally run all day, 12, 14 hours, in an abandoned parking lot and there was like rocks and things and everything. And even inside the maze, I fell like three times.”
Dylan O’Brien: “Dude, the maze was super slippery. They’d hose it down and it was you know real mud and stuff in there.”
Ki Hong Lee: “I’m like, ‘It doesn’t look really hard. Let’s throw some rocks on it.'”
Dylan O’Brien: “You’d just like eat it. We’d have to be full sprint around a turn. Anytime we had to slightly angle, we’d eat it. And it wasn’t until like maybe the last week that they got that special stuff to put on the ground.”
Ki Hong Lee: “They’d spray that cool thing on there.”
Dylan O’Brien: “We were like, ‘This is perfect. We needed this the whole shoot.'”
There isn’t any romance in this movie, which is kind of different than most teen movies. Was that a relief or a disappointment?
Kaya Scodelario: “There’s hormones everywhere else.”
Ki Hong Lee: “In the movie that’s a lot of bromance.”
Dylan O’Brien: “Funny enough, we were all in little relationships on the side with each other. And in the film it’s so unromantic. Me and Kaya have always loved that about our storyline. It’s so realistic and we just think it’s so appropriate for the circumstances. It’s so cinematic to just kind of add a relationship to something where let’s stop and think for a second. These kids would not just be like smooching and flirting in this situation. They do have a connection, and they have maybe feeling like for one another, if so.”
Kaya Scodelario: “There’s no time. I think what I liked was the honesty of it. And as a woman, it was so nice to be able to go into a project and know that I wasn’t going to have to play that side. I mean it is a huge part of being a teenager, falling in love for the first time and everything. But I feel like we haven’t explored that so much. And for me, it was interesting to explore a young woman who’s put into a situation. She doesn’t need to make friends. She’s not trying to make friends with anyone. She doesn’t need them all to like her; she’s purely about survival. And that’s so brave and so kind of against the grain nowadays with female characters in films. So, I really liked that. It’s like Dylan said, there would be no time for them to be like, ‘Oh, let’s go for a little walk in the forest together.'”
Dylan O’Brien: “There was little stuff in the original script that we shot where we had little flirty scenes.”
Kaya Scodelario: “I don’t remember.”
Dylan O’Brien: But as Wes did with every part in the film, I mean he made the best part of the film come out. He made such appropriate cuts and made the movie just never stop moving and just 90 minutes of just focus on exactly what it should be about, and sort of things like that didn’t make it. Maybe you’ll see it on the DVD or something like that. I hope not though.”
Kaya Scodelario: “No, I hope not. I think it works without it.”
Thomas Brodie-Sangster: “It’s not needed, really.”
Dylan O’Brien: “It’s really not.”
Thomas Brodie-Sangster: “There’s enough love and emotions going around just within The Gladers themselves. I mean, not every teenager is in and out of love all the time. I certainly never fell in love as a teenager. I don’t think I even had a girlfriend as a teenager. So, I don’t think you have to put that into every teen film. I personally loved the fact that that was never present.”
What was the moment in your life, your own personal life, where you felt like you were taking that bold, new step into the unknown?
Dylan O’Brien: “I don’t know even know if this counts at all, but I’ve always been super protective of my friends and my family, just people I love in general. When I was younger and more impulsive and less of a fully developed human, I’m very impulsive. Me and Ki Hong talked a lot about this. I was very impulsive and would react physically to situations. But I remember this time when I was eight years old, and my sister was getting bullied right in front of me and I just attacked this kid. Not attacked him, but I chased him around the playground and tackled him and we had a fight. I was crying because he was just beating up on my sister basically. And so, I don’t know. That’s something in me that I have always sort of related just to that scene. That’s sort of just how I thought about it. We’re all standing there, and the rules say that we can’t go in after dark. But Alby and Chuck for Thomas were really like the only two people in his life, really, at this point and he feels no other way than to go in and save one of his friends. There’s just no other instinct.”
Was it a lot of fun playing the badass in this film?
Will Poulter: “Yeah, dude. You know I’m so grateful that Wes kind of took a punt on me in that kind of respect. I guess it’s not the most expected casting choice, and hopefully it goes down okay. But I really appreciated the chance to play a role different from what I just kind of just played. I love doing drama and comedy. Like, Dyl is somebody who does drama and comedy. I mean all these guys, like the entire cast, I feel so blessed to work with them because it’s most versatile group of actors I’ve ever worked with in a kind of ensemble sense. Everyone is so dramatically awesome, and then they’re also sort of able to be so funny when we were all hanging out, you know? So, everyone kind of has that in their locker. So, just for me to kind of just unlock that part was great.
And Gally’s not like the out and out villain, you know? We’d tried to kind of make him, I guess, more of kind of a conflicted character, and try and kind of make sure he was a bit more justified in what he was doing and the way he went about his business, a bit more rational than perhaps he was in the book. That’s something that James [Dashner] was totally cool with. And you know [screenwriter T.S. Nowlin] who did the latest passes was keen to do it in the script. So, yes, that was fun. I really enjoyed it.”
Dylan, you’ve had a lot of comedic roles up to this point. What was it like getting into your first dramatic lead and how are you taking that back to the role of Stiles on Teen Wolf?
Dylan O’Brien: “It’s just nice to get a chance to do something else, you know? I was really nervous about it at first. But I did feel right as Thomas, and I felt comfortable in that role. But, I was nervous. I had such an amazing cast around me, and all guys who I’ve seen like do really good work in the past, both comedic and dramatic. My first favorite things about the project too, were that these guys were attached already and so I was just wanting to basically do them justice and do the movie justice. I knew Wes was like going to kill it, and I was kind of nervous about it but it felt good.
It’s always good to get to do something different. That’s one of the things that I love or want to explore as an actor, and I think I need to practice drama the most for sure. So, it was amazing to get to do this. And then it’s great to then just be able to go back to Stiles and see that I’ve taken things and just keep switching it up.”
Will Poulter: “And he killed it as Thomas.”
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