Imagine waking up in a pitch black industrial lift, having no idea who you are, where you’re being taken, or what exactly is happening. Imagine being dumped into a strange prison-like world colonized by young men and told that the only way out, a giant ever-changing maze, could kill you. You’d feel helpless and terrified, wouldn’t you? Welcome to The Maze Runner! Based on the first book in James Dasher’s thrilling young adult series, director Wes Ball’s visceral action-adventure follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his crew (Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Ki Hong Lee) as they attempt to break free from the dangerous maze.
Since we had so much fun at the post-screening Q&A held on the 20th Century Fox lot, we wanted to share with you a few of the film’s best behind-the-scenes details straight from the stars’ mouths.
5. The Maze Runner is an ensemble feature. Though Thomas is the narrative’s “chosen one” protagonist, there’s a lot of team spirit pulsing through this film’s veins. It’s about how they work together as a group in order to find their way out. That said, if the stars could choose another ensemble film’s cast they’d prefer to be paired with in the maze, they would relish the opportunity. O’Brien (Teen Wolf) thinks the cast of “E.T.” could help tremendously. Poulter (Son Of Ranbow) thought, “Those Stand By Me fellows would be fun.” Scodelario (Skins) thought the cast of “Bring It On” or “The Spice Girls” would be fun.” Poulter concurred, “Real girl power – Scary Spice.”
4. There’s no romantic interest or gender politics. In a cinematic universe where 99% of young adult novel adaptations contain a love interest (e.g. The Twilight and Hunger Games series), The Maze Runner eschews convention for something refreshingly unique. In fact, that missing element was one of the things that attracted Scodelario to the project. She says, “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. It was interesting to explore a young woman who’s put into a situation where she’s not trying to make friends with anyone. She’s purely about survival. And that’s so brave and so against the grain nowadays with female characters in films.” O’Brien thinks it wouldn’t be appropriate to have romance play any part in the film. “It’s so realistic. These kids would not be smooching and flirting in this situation,” he says. Brodie-Sangster (Game Of Thrones) agrees, “I mean not every teenager is in and out of love all the time. I certainly never fell in love as a teenager. I never 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.”
3. A few of the cast’s beloved scenes from the book were cut from the film. As with any novel-to-screen adaptation, fans are forced to deal with some of their favorite scenes being excised for time or pacing purposes. Sadly this was the case for the cast, who are all fans of the novel, as well. O’Brien is sad they had to lose the beetle blade. “I always thought was cool in the book, how Thomas sees these things like scurrying through the woods and their cameras, and we even shot for the movie. But it didn’t make the final cut for whatever reason.” Scodelario misses, “The big introduction in the book, how it goes onto each individual character and introduces them and introduces their job. Obviously we didn’t have time to do that. I love that about the book. You get to see each part of the world of the Gladers and how everyone is a part of it and brings something to it.”
2. Ki Hong Lee really pulled his hamstring. Director Wes Ball demanded a lot out of his cast when it came to the physicality exhibited in the film’s third act. O’Brien says Ball’s motto on set was, “Pain is temporary; film is forever.” Lee took this a little too much to heart and went method with his acting. “There’s a scene in there where I actually pulled my hamstring as I was running. We would literally run all day, 12/ 14 hours, in an abandoned parking lot. There was like rocks and things. Even inside the maze, I fell like three times.” O’Brien adds, “The maze was super slippery. They’d hose it down, and it was you know real mud and stuff in there. There’s some nails involved. We’d have to be full sprint around a turn. Anytime we had to slightly angle, we’d eat it. It wasn’t until maybe the last week that they got that special stuff to put on the ground. “We were like, ‘This is perfect. We needed this the whole shoot!’”
1. The Maze Runner is heavy on spectacular stunt sequences. Since this is an action-adventure, the film’s stunts help propel the character’s arcs. In order to do so, the cast had to get rather physical with each other. Poulter mentions he and O’Brien, “…had fun doing the wrestling thing. Dyl loves the physical stuff. He’s really good at it. We were joking around about how apologetic we were through the entire rehearsal, worried about hurting each other. I would push Dyl. 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!’ I’m really glad he got it out of me.” O’Brien says the most challenging task was climbing on the maze’s vines. “That was always like a whole 12-hour day where I was just hung up on a wire. It’s that part where I’m running away from The Griever, and The Griever jumps on the wall over me. And so, they shake the wall. All this debris was shaking down. We had 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!’ Wes would just be like, ‘I got it, baby. You don’t need a medic.’ 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.”
THE MAZE RUNNER opens on September 19 and is rated PG-13.