The Maze Runner – Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster Interview

The Maze Runner - Dylan O'Brien, Will Poulter, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster

The Maze Runner is the latest in YA dystopian adaptations and follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), who finds himself with amnesia in a community of teenage boys in The Glade. Their field is enclosed by four giant walls which open into the maze that surrounds them and is patrolled at night by the bio-mechanical monsters, the “Grievers”. With the addition of Thomas, the Gladers are forced to head into the maze and investigate who put them there, and what their motives are.

Peter sat down with cast members Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster to talk about the film.

Dylan, how do you approach a character who has no memories of who he was?

Dylan O’Brien: My favourite thing about it is the discovery. The audience is able to watch a character and discover the things that he never ever knew about himself before in his previous life as he cannot remember. He’s the “Greenie”, the new guy and the audience kind of experiences that too. Through his perspective obviously and learns as he goes, and then to watch him discover these leadership qualities, the real qualities that he has is a really cool thing. The way you approach it I guess it just honestly, as honest as you can. That is all you have to work with in that sort of situation.

How do you feel about your growth as an actor and taking on such a big project?

Dylan: I feel comfortable. From day one, I loved the script and the story, I thought it could be something cool and interesting. The first thing I saw was that you two [Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Will Poulter] were attached to it, and Kaya as well. Then I met Wes, and saw his vision for the film, it was easy to feel comfortable, everyone was so good at what they were doing and bringing to the table that I was confident. I wanted to live up Wes’ vision and keep up with everyone else.

Thomas, looking back through your career, you’ve already played an extraordinary variety of characters. Were there any new challenges in Newt’s portrayal?

Thomas Brodie-Sangster: The same with any character that comes along. The fun thing about what we get to do is messing around playing all sort of people. People that existed, people that exist in a book and fans already have a specific idea of who they are – so you have to work with that. It takes a bit of juggling, but it’s all part of the fun. All I was told was that Newt was the nice guy, he still had the English accent, and he had a bit of a limp. So I just played around with that really.

Will, in terms of contrast, how did you feel going from your hilarious role in We’re The Millers, to this much more serious, straight role?

Will Poulter: I felt lucky to have something quite different. I love the actor’s actors, those people who can do a mixture of stuff, all of that versatility, which I don’t feel I have, but I wish to aspire to and keep people guessing by choosing a role that is different from the one before and hope that all goes well.

Had you read any of the books before being auditioned or cast?
Will: Like Dylan, I slightly freaked out when I got halfway through reading it because there wasn’t total synergy between my character, the script and the book, but I think the script is adapted well and the best-loved features have been translated perfectly. From an acting perspective it was tricky, on and off set we would talk about how our characters didn’t have that “thing” anymore. We’d go back and forth over what was just in the book, and what we were confusing with what. So I actually stopped reading it, but finished it afterwards, and then also The Scorch Trials [next book in the series] – which is pretty insane!

Gally cares a lot about Glader traditions, he’s attached to the environment and protecting the Glader community, so do you think he had a hand in creating these traditions? What sort of person do you see him as?

Will: He was one of the first boys up, so I feel it was naturally part of building that hierarchy because physically too, he is a builder. There’s a few things that I identify with, but I hope there aren’t too many similarities. There is a strong by-the-book quality about him, he’s pedantic, likes order and finds comfort in the hierarchy. He’s an enforcer of that but he has power struggle issues too. He struggles with his superiors, Alby particularly, and he sees an opportunity to set up his own kind of revolt. I think a lot of that also comes from fear, he is ultimately a coward and he likes that protective bubble, he’s scared that one day they will need to leave the oasis and leave the maze.

What was it like shooting those scenes between your two characters, Newt and Gally? There is so much tension there and it could have went to quite a dark place, did you keep it wrapped up or try to use it?

Thomas: There was, but there is also a big mutual respect between the two characters. Newt respects Gally’s opinion because he likes to hear what everyone has to say, he is an open person and sees everyone for who they are and how they can be best fitted into this establishment. He sees people as how they can help, and how he can help. He could completely shun Gally away, but Newt has a different way of dealing with things.

Will: By the way, I am awful with politics, but if you’re going to put it in political terms, Thomas and Newy come across as more democratic, and consider everybody views and strive for a bit more collaborative running of the Glade. Once there’s a threat to the idea of staying in the Glade forever then Gally becomes a dictator in a way and tells people what they’re doing, and leads the revolt. Wes always said Gally and Thomas are two sides to the same coin, and it really nearly kicks off because there is some serious tension, so that was really fun too.

How did you find the green screen CGI-heavy scenes?

Dylan: Wes was so animated. He describes what’s out there, in such a way that you want to crack up. He is so detailed, we’d hear him shouting “IT’S COMING AT YOU, [BANG BANG CRASH] AHH!”. You could understand what is happening exactly, and we also had a great balance of having real worlds that we were shooting in. The Glade was built, and geographically specifically too. The entire thing that you see in the film is exactly like that. Nothing is cheated, we actually had the door there to go into the maze, the box in the ground, a tree house, they even grew a cornfield! The visual effects are just the icing on the cake. Having this real environment to feel a part of was really important to Wes. He would paint a picture for you when you were shooting, he’d draw sketches that looked incredible.

Will: I don’t use the words visionary and genius lightly, but they do genuinely apply to Wes Ball. We all feel really lucky to get to work with him at this stage of his career, so that we can say we worked with Wes Ball on his first feature film.

Is Wes signed on to direct any of the future films?

Dylan: Hopefully! He’s so passionate about it, he’s adopted this project as his baby.

Last one. Any humorous stories from the set that you can share with us?

Dylan: It was like being at summer camp with ten of your best friends! In one of the hotels, we had BB guns, but I decided to go out and get an M16…

Will: It was the size of a sofa! We were all running around with pistols and stuff, but Dylan comes out in the hallway, looking like a drug-free Scarface, and sprays the hallway! Getting lots of M16 BB bullets in my back was a good prank. Somehow, he kept it a secret too. Did you keep it under your bed?

Dylan: It was so hard for me to keep from telling everybody. Thomas came into my room and I whispered “I got to show you something” … and I said “you cannot tell anyone, but I am going to whip it out when we play tonight”. At one point, a security guard came up, it’s two in the morning and we’re running around this hotel shooting with our air-soft-guns. (We were the only ones in the hotel though). We were immediately like “Oh no, we really sorry”, as if we were in trouble, but he just said “Y’all rehearsing. That’s okay. Do you think you could keep it down? How long are y’all supposed to be doing this for?”. We were so shocked. “An hour or so?”

Will: He was so kind! He said “I can organise a place that y’all can play, like a conference room?” but I said “No, this is better for the film and stuff”, so he walks away and we’re left pretending we’re rehearsing! “Okay, let’s take it from the top.”

The Maze Runner is in UK cinemas now.

For more from Peter visit his website at roomtoreview.co.uk

Plastic – Film Review

Plastic

There is a need for us to support smaller British films and not be unnecessarily cruel when discussing their relative merits. It is for this reason that I won’t linger too long on today’s release of Plastic and will be as kind as possible.

Ed Speleers, Will Poulter, Alfie Allen, and Sebastian De Souza star as a group of British boys/men/youths who run a successful small time fraud ring that steals credit cards, buys expensive goods, and sells them on to their unconscientious peers. All goes awry when they steal from the wrong man and find themselves owing a strange amount of money to a generic gangster type. After stealing £50k worth of goods to prove their worth (far too easily for it to seem like the challenge the plot required) they are offered three options; bring the thug £250k each week forever more, pay off a lump sum of £2 million in two weeks, or get buried out in the forest.

Most of the gang want to go for the monthly payment plan but their lead conman Sam chooses the one off payment. Everybody protests but reluctantly agree with him. At this point I did the sums in my head and decided that this was by far the better deal. You know I love a good sum. This brief interlude whilst I did quick maths by myself was the most fun the film was going to give me. From here the lads (LADS!) recruit a potential love interest and inside (wo)man played by Emma Rigby to get them the credit cards of big spenders for one big con before everyone heads to Miami for some nonsense. The plot unfolds in a relatively predictable fashion and a farcical plot is taken far too seriously.

Despite the young cast and glamorous setting the film fails to fulfil on its promise of fun and adventure. Plastic ends up being a mix of Hustle and The Inbetweeners but rather than featuring the best parts of each, the clever plotting and the laugh out loud humour, we are left with a ludicrous mess.

The director is trying all he can and the cast put in their best efforts but none of it can bring the mediocre script (the result of no less than three writers) up to an enjoyable level. There is a relatively well executed shoot-out and one decent stunt but this is all that can be said for a film that, as a whole, is a failure. And to think that this review was me being kind.

There’s a chance that Plastic might please the young crowd but it doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny.

Plastic is in UK cinemas from today.

BAFTA Rising Star Nominees 2014

Bafta Rising Star Nominees 2014

This year’s BAFTA Film Awards will be presented on the 16th of February and there is one award in particular that never fails to catch my attention; the Rising Star Award. The unique nature of the award is that the winner is voted for by the public and this is both intriguing and to the awards detriment. The award will sometimes go to the nominee with the biggest fan base or highest profile rather than an up and coming talent that could really do with the encouragement.

Yesterday BAFTA announced the five nominees as selected by a panel of industry experts and I’m here to pass judgement on them and see who I think should win.

Dane Dehaan

Dane Dehaan
Dehaan first grabbed my attention with his Season 3 role in Gabriel Byrne’s dialogue heavy TV epic In Treatment as the troubled teen Jesse D’Amato. Since then he has perfected the role of troubled genius in films such as Chronicle and Kill Your Darlings. Dehaan managed to ground the supernatural Chronicle and make it all the more real by putting in a truly threatening performance. I may not have enjoyed Kill Your Darlings but it certainly wasn’t Dehaan’s fault. His next major appearance is taking over the role of Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (a casting spookily predicted by Stephen on this blog) and I for one am quietly excited. As someone with some solid but low-key performances under his belt and more mainstream fare up ahead I can easily see what makes Dehaan a candidate for the Rising Star Award.

Will Poulter

Will Poulter
Oh Will, where did it all go wrong? Six years ago Poulter debuted in the adorable British film Son of Rambow directed by Garth Jennings in which Will played the role of Lee Carter. Since then he has taken on a few TV roles, appeared as Eustace in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and acted in the critically acclaimed Wild Bill. Most recently he has undone all that good work by helping to make the atrocity that was We’re the Millers. Sorry Will but I really can’t get past that film.

Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong’o
Lupita Nyong’o has a 100% flawless record of five-star films by virtue of the fact that her sole cinematic release to date is the, as yet unreleased in the UK, 12 Years a Slave. In this future Oscar winner (trust me) Lupita plays a young slave woman who is separated from her child and suffers the worst brutality seen in the film. As an attractive young woman she suffers from the amorous advances of her “owner” and the jealous rages of his wife all while grieving for her absent child. Nyong’o’s performance is striking and heartbreaking and I’d say she deserved this award if I didn’t already think she was on her way to the Best Actress Oscar instead.

Léa Seydoux

Léa Seydoux
Léa Seydoux has been working solidly in French cinema since 2006 and made a few appearances in high-profile American fare including Midnight in Paris, Inglourious Basterds, and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. What has really brought Seydoux to everyone’s attention is her supporting role in the epic love story (and my favourite film of 2013) that is Blue is the Warmest Colour. Much as I loved her performance in the film I can’t help but think that her co-star Adèle Exarchopoulos is more deserving of a position on this list. Exarchopoulos carried the film on her shoulders and has a much less developed CV than Seydoux. All that said I am very excited to see where Léa’s career goes next particularly with her role in the remake of La belle & la bête coming up later this year.

George Mackay

George Mackay
Sadly, despite his recent role in the Proclaimers musical Sunshine on Leith, I have no idea who George Mackay is. Perhaps this anonymity makes him the perfect nominee for an award aimed at encouraging a burgeoning career or perhaps I just need to widen my cinematic horizons so that an actor’s entire career doesn’t pass me by again. Sorry George!

For me the winner has to be Dane DeHaan. Despite having a good crop of films behind him DeHaan has not yet become a household name and has put in a series of solid performances in smaller films. The others in the list have either risen too much in my opinion or made one bad film with Jennifer Aniston that i can’t get past. Not naming any names obviously. George Mackay prove me wrong, I’ll be sure to watch How I Live Now when it comes out on DVD.

Disagree with me? Of course you do! Have your say by voting over at the Rising Star Award page.

We’re the Millers – Film Review

We're the Millers

David (Jason Sudeikis) is a drug dealer with a problem. After all his drugs and money are stolen in a tame mugging that escalates bizarrely he is tasked with collecting a large amount of weed from Mexico and bringing it back to the US in order to settle his debts with a tonally jarring crime lord played by Ed Helms. In order to raise minimal suspicion as he crosses the border David hires himself a family in the form of unemployed stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston), sweet but neglected Kenny (Will Poulter), and homeless teen Casey (Emma Roberts). The four travel to Mexico in a giant RV and surprisingly few hijinks ensue.

We’re the Millers opens with quite a dark, almost angry, tone with each of the four main characters leading miserable lives and the only laughs coming from the bleakness of their existence, snide asides at one another, and a general sneering attitude towards happy families or anyone with a decent job. You might think that this is a brave choice, that making an essentially joyless comedy might allow it to stand out amongst the general mediocrity of mainstream comedy, but instead it produces a comedy that makes you feel sad and a little bored rather than wanting to laugh out loud.

We're the Millers 1

The first third of the film is relatively uneventful as the Millers (as our faux-family like to be known) make it to Mexico and back with only minor set backs and with any conflict restricting to selfish bickering within the RV. Only once they have the characters back in America do the four (FOUR!!!) screenwriters realise that they need to conjure up some events to stop the film ending after 45 minutes and without anything going wrong. As such the film changes gears so forcibly it’s amazing it doesn’t break down like the Miller’s RV inevitably does (nice simile there).

Suddenly the Millers have driven from their slightly dull but pleasantly dark comedy into a road runner cartoon where a wrench to the face is only a minor inconvenience and any seemingly uptight couples are secretly looking to swing. Plot devices and characters are introduced one at a time to briefly amuse us before being discarded to make room for the next set piece to be awkwardly set up without any real flow in between. With a road trip comedy there is clearly too easy a temptation to essentially make a series of sketches tied together by a quartet of unlikable self-seekers. The result is a film that is far too long (110 minutes!!!), slightly incoherent, and nowhere near funny enough.

We're the Millers 2

I will excuse Will Poulter who played Kenny from my unlikable and unfunny branding as he somehow manages to make his slightly wet character the only sympathetic person on-screen and is the source of the film’s few real laughs. Yes the film had some laughs, and some of them were genuine too. Occasionally though I would find my companion laughing and then looking deeply ashamed at himself. Sometimes in a comedy you laugh because you feel you should, not because anything particularly funny is happening. A portion of the audience at our screening did enjoy the film and a rather well spoken older lady sat behind us did the classic laugh-and-clap at least once. (Pre-screening eavesdropping revealed that she is worried that her lodger has a drinking problem but that’s not for us to worry about now.)

The occasional laugh spread out over 110 minutes is not enough compensation from the sheer boredom the rest of the film brings. The cast do what they can but ultimately there isn’t enough film for them to hold together. Despite being genuinely unpleasant to one another throughout we are encouraged to buy into a sudden shift towards the end that has them seeing themselves as a real family. This conclusion is not justified by anything that precedes it and shows the writers’ complete lack of commitment to any characterisation they could previous have claimed to have achieved.

In summary: Good grief.

We’re the Millers is released in the UK on 23rd August 2013 and frankly you’ve got better things to be doing.