James Dashner’s popular 2009 young adult novel “The Maze Runner,” described by one critic as a cross between “Lord of the Flies,” “The Hunger Games” and “Lost,” has now reached the screen, and its young stars Dylan O’Brien (MTV’s “Teen Wolf”), Kaya Scodelario (the original British “Skins”) and Will Poulter (“We’re The Millers”) visited Dallas recently on a whirlwind promotional tour for the movie.
They seemed utterly at ease with one another. “I can honestly say, I’ve never closer to a group of people that I’ve just met, ever,” Poulter remarked. “I’ve made a group of best friends out of the experience. And of course it was really, really helpful when it came to portraying the characters on the screen and conveying an organic sense of togetherness as a group of Gladers. But more importantly, it’s sets us up beautifully for the next couple of films—that we have that natural camaraderie. And also just in life, that we’ve made such amazing friends out of the experience. That’s a huge, huge bonus.”
Scodelario added, “And that was from the very beginning. It was never awkward. I met Dylan first, and I fell in love with him straightaway. I knew that we’d have an honest friendship with each other. And Will was like a piece of home to me. We could talk about London, and music. [It was] from the very, very beginning, and thank God, it’s not changed at all a year later.”
O’Brien agreed: “Oh, man, yeah—it’s just only gotten stronger. We’re dear friends for life. We got so lucky—it doesn’t happen all the time. The one thing we never feel awkward about is talking about one another—it’s so ingrained in us to love one another.”
They were equally enthusiastic about their director, first-timer Wes Ball. “Step by step, Wes just becomes more impressive every day as a director,” O’Brien said. “He’s so impressive on so many levels.” In addition to his CGI skills, O’Brien added, “you tie in his feel for storytelling, his overall passion, how he is as a human being to work with—he’s just the nicest, most calm [man], never raises his voice. He’s so stoic and confident, without a shred of arrogance and unbelievably talented.”
Scodelario plays the only female character in a small universe of boys, but she said, “Genuinely, I never thought of it like I was the only girl. I never felt like the only girl. They’re not kids, they’re actors who take their job seriously, and they’re people first. So I felt like a person, and then I felt like a friend, and then I felt like family. I never felt like the only girl there. And I think that’s a testimony to all the boys, that they didn’t change their behavior for me. They were themselves, and we just got on as people.”
“The Maze Runner, “of course, is being compared to other futuristic films featuring teen casts. “We truly believe that it’s unique,” O’Brien quickly said. “Once it comes out, I think finally this will all stop. It stands apart in so many ways. There’s no romance, and that applies to the whole real aspect of the film, because why would there be a romance in such a situation? Just to appease audiences, just to make a movie out of it? First and foremost we tried to make it as real and gritty as we possibly could.
“Another thing that’s completely different from these other films is the pitting kids against one another, the competition. It’s just so the opposite of what’s conveyed here. This is about coming together, this is about brotherhood and family and camaraderie and strength in coming together rather than fighting one another. [And] there’s an authenticity we were really trying to focus on. It’s all real sweat, it’s all real dirt.”
“It was like playtime,” Scodelario added. “It was like taking acting back to theatre in Shakespearean times. To get to have real things—to have the heat and the sweat and woods and materials and goats—it’s like, wow, this is amazing. It gives you that energy, it gives you that feel that you just can’t replace any other way. It was like a giant playground.”
O’Brien said, “That glade you see in the movie is really there, and we were really in it, shooting in it every day. It all goes back to that authentic feel we were trying to get, and as actors there’s nothing better than to be able to constantly feel that you’re actually immersed in that world. There was never a moment when we were in blue suits on a blue screen, with a blue floor. We were always there, in that world.”
“You know, when it’s a hundred degrees in Louisiana and you’re shooting dialogue in the middle of a field,” Poulter said, “you can’t even imagine being anywhere else.”
But it wasn’t all complete seriousness. “There were very in-depth discussions about our characters and our relationships—we worked to sort of carve that out,” Poulter recalled. “But at the same time there was some of the most outrageous goofiness and joking around and pranking that you’ve ever seen in a workplace. It was the ultimate well-rounded experience.”