I found out on Twitter just how popular The Maze Runner was. When I mentioned I was interviewing the cast at WonderCon, my feed was flooded by wonderful, enthusiastic Gladers, with whom I’ve remained friends all year. So when 20th Century Fox had the cast come to the studio lot for another Q&A, I was very enthusiastic to see them again.
Dylan O’Brien plays Thomas, a teenage boy who wakes up in The Glade with no memory except his name. He learns fast through Gally (Will Poulter), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Minho (Ki Hong Lee) how the maze that surrounds them works. Wes Ball directs the film adaptation of James Dashner’s book. Here is the Q&A with the cast. The Maze Runner opens September 19.
Q: So, you guys kind of know a world now without adults. How do you think it runs better, with or without adults?
Will Poulter: That’s an interesting one. Yes. It’s weird. I mean the age range in our cast was kind of crazy. So, I guess the youngest guy on set would have been..
Dylan O’Brien: Blake [Cooper]
Will Poulter: Blake. He was playing Chuck. And he was 13 or 14.
Kaya Scodelario: He was 12.
Dylan O’Brien: He’s 13 now.
Will Poulter: He was 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. Right?
Kaya Scodelario: Yes.
Dylan O’Brien: Yes.
Will Poulter: So we had this age range that was lovely. We’ve said it a lot and maybe people are getting sick of it, we legitimately became like a real kind of family and very, very close indeed and kind of looked after each other. And you know there was varying levels of experience in terms of life and also acting. 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.
Q: 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?
Kaya Scodelario: Ooh.
Will Poulter: That’s a good question.
Kaya Scodelario: Best question yet.
Dylan O’Brien: Goonies.
Thomas Brodie Sangster: E.T.?
Will Poulter: I thought those Stand By Me fellows would be fun.
Kaya Scodelario: Can I have some girls please?
Thomas Brodie Sangster: Sorry.
Dylan O’Brien: 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.
Q: 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. And 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. And a lot of the boy’s 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.
Ki Hong Lee: He called you laddish?
Kaya Scodelario: Yes. He called me laddish. Can you believe that?
Nuke the Fridge: In any movie based on a book, some beloved scenes have to go. 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. And I mean I always thought that was wicked. Hey!
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, 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. This is Bill. This is Sam.
Dylan O’Brien: Wes actually told me that the full introduction to The Glade would be on the DVD because apparently that had to just get chopped down a lot, and he really loves it.
Q: You guys had to film a lot of stunts in this. Which was your most challenging for you or funnest?
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. And Wes [Ball, Director] would literally come over because it was real ivy and stuff that they used on those walls.
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. So, they shake the wall and all this debris was shaking down. And we just 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” and Wes would just be like, “I got it, baby. Don’t need a medic.” And 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.
Q: Out of the other roles that each of you have played, which one do you think would survive the longest in the maze, and why?
Dylan O’Brien: We’ll start at that end. Go ahead.
Ki Hong Lee: None of my other roles can compare with Minho or any of these guys. I played a high school student, another high school student. I think for me too, if I was personally as Ki Hong in the maze, I would be freaking out. I’d be like just put me in the box. I’m going to stay there. I’ll be friends with the pig and I’ll be good. I would not get out, man. I’m just scared. But, yes, no, none of my other roles, definitely not. No.
Kaya Scodelario: The only one kind of I think of was a character I played in Skins, and she was just high all the time, so I don’t think she’d be any good.
Ki Hong Lee: She’d be tripping out with me.
Kaya Scodelario: Yes.
Thomas Brodie Sangster: I don’t know.
Kaya Scodelario: Who did you play in the Beatles thing?
Thomas Brodie Sangster: Paul McCartney would kill himself.
Dylan O’Brien: Serenade.
Will Poulter: Serenade those Grievers to death. They’d be like, oh, wow.
Dylan O’Brien: They’re just huge fans of his.
Will Poulter: “It’s not working. Run away.” I think I literally have not played anyone who isn’t a dork. Let me think. Maybe Lee Carter in Son of Rambow when I was really young. I think I was 12 or 13. I don’t remember. I would have been like a Griever snack, at that size, just a quick bite, a slider. Yeah, I think probably maybe Lee Carter.
Dylan O’Brien: I mean Stiles, I don’t know how well he’d do, from Teen Wolf. But like I have no other really roles to go on. I played a kid called Jimmy in a little movie called High Road. That was one of the first things I did.
Will Poulter: Jumping in the box with these guys.
Dylan O’Brien: Yes. I think he’d kill it.
Kaya Scodelario: We’d have a happy life in there.
Will Poulter: But you’d all get really hungry. Hey, great, would that happen? If you were all high, you’d all eat the pig eventually.
Ki Hong Lee: Eventually.
Will Poulter: How would you deal with these guys eating your friend?
Ki Hong Lee: Well, if I get hungry…
Will Poulter: Survival. Sorry. We’re having a conversation about this.
Q: I love running. I’m a marathoner. It’s my favorite form of exercise.
Dylan O’Brien: You’re more of a runner than anyone in this room, combined.
Q: My question to the cast is do you guys love to run? And number two, how intensive did Wes Ball [Director] require you to run? Is there some sort of a way of running from a scene that you guys had to do?
Dylan O’Brien: 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.
But I think if anything I’m way more of a sprinter. And so, this was perfect but also exhausting.
Ki Hong Lee: Yes. 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?
Ki Hong Lee: So, 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: They’re 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.
Nuke: Some of the maze was green screened. Is there like 100 meter stretch of green screen that you could run across?
Dylan O’Brien: No. We never had that much extra room I think. I think the largest green screen, the largest sort of highest percentage visual effects sequence in the film is that sequence where we’re in the parking lot. And that was probably the largest blue screen we had. It was literally maybe 100 meters in a giant abandoned parking lot. We shot a lot on that for a week.
Ki Hong Lee: It was blue.
Dylan O’Brien: It was blue. Yes.
Q: There’s no romance in this movie, which is kind of different than most teen movies. Was that relief? Was that 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: No. 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 have explored that so much. And for me, it was interesting to explore a young woman who’s put into a situation. And 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. And 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, 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. 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.
Kaya Scodelario: Yes.
Thomas Brodie Sangster: 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.
Q: I have a question. One quality of Thomas that I love is that he’s bold and like Alby says he’s not like everyone else. He’s different. And I think for me that defining moment in the movie is when Thomas runs through after Minho and Alby. And so, what was the moment in your life, your own personal life, where you felt like you were taking that bold, new step into like the unknown.
Dylan O’Brien: I don’t know even know if this counts at all, but I’ve always been super protective of like my friends and like 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 like 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. And I was crying you know because he was just beating up on my sister basically. 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.
Q: I’ve got a question for Will. In your previous films, you use the word dork. I’ll use underdog.
Will Poulter: Respect. Thank you. I wish the kids on the playground had used that.
Kaya Scodelario: You underdog.
Q: 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. And I love doing drama and comedy. Like Dyl is somebody who does drama and comedy. And 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, 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. And that’s something that James [Dashner] was totally cool with, and T.S. [Nowlin, screenwriter] who did the latest passes, was keen to do it in the script. So, yes, that was fun. I really enjoyed it.
Nuke: These books have such a passionate fan base. What have been some memorable interactions you’ve had with the fans, either in person at your appearances at Comic-Con and WonderCon or just any other ways that they’ve shown their support?
Dylan O’Brien: I think one of the cool ones was when we were in Baton Rouge, or even a couple hours north when we were like shooting The Glade, like St. Francis or something like that. We were in the middle of nowhere. We got put up at this hotel, and two fans just heard that we were at the hotel and drove all the way out and took picture with us the first night that we were there. You guys remember that?
Kaya Scodelario: That was literally the first night.
Dylan O’Brien: It was like in the pictures we were all holding plates of food and we were all so shocked. We were like what? You’re fans of this movie that we haven’t even shot yet? I think that was the first time for me that you know just the strength of the fan base for the book kind of reached out. And I’ve seen a little more since.
Will Poulter: Through Twitter as well, we’ve all just had such amazing experiences with the fans. And right after we all got announced to be involved, people following us and saying, “Oh, I’m so glad you’re playing Newt, so glad you’re playing Teresa, so glad you’re playing Gally.” It was just crazy to have that level of support. And they are generally very kind of positive fans.
Kaya Scodelario: Yes. They are.
Will Poulter: The relationship that James has with his readership has kind of translated. As well as the movie’s been adapted, I think the readership have adapted kind of into the viewership from the movie in a really nice way.
They are really excited about how we’ve you know handled their material, because obviously they feel a sense of ownership over it. And that’s the major challenge when you adapt the book into a film. We really wanted to get it right for them. I just hope we’ve done that.
Ki Hong Lee: It doesn’t matter what we tweet about. It’s always like, “Oh, I can’t wait for The Maze Runner.” It’s awesome. I’m having a bad day. “I can’t for The Maze Runner. Minho, I love you. I love you.” It’s great.
Q: I have a question for 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. And 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 thingsthat 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.
“The Maze Runner” opens in theaters on September 19th and stars Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter and more. The film is directed Wes Ball.
Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape.