Despite the roller coaster nature of the genre, studios can’t get enough young adult novel adaptations. FOX has an underdog on its summer slate that they’re hoping to score big with and at Wondercon, director Wes Ball, stars Dyaln O’Brien and Will Poulter and writer James Dashner sat for a press conference to talk about their film, Jennifer Lawrence and bringing the Grievers to life.
Q: Dylan, what was it like for you to come from a comedic background into this big action blockbuster?
Dylan O’Brien: It was certainly a challenge, but it’s the kind of role you look for, you know, the unsung hero, underdog type character. Those are the kind of roles I looked for growing up.
Q: It seems a lot of these YA movies have been centered in post-apocalyptic type worlds. Why do you think that is?
Dylan O’Brien: Jennifer Lawrence. (laughs) I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to replicate her success with The Hunger Games. But seriously, I think it’s just that young people like to be treated like adults.
Wes Ball: Our movie just has young people in it that are dealing with very adult situations.
Will Poulter: I sort of reject the term, “YA” because I find it patronizing to young audiences and sort of pigeon-holes them into watching only sci-fi drama. I think that’s unfair.
Q: Dylan, you mentioned The Hunger Games. This is your first big blockbuster movie. Do you feel any pressure to be the next Hunger Games?
Dylan O’Brien: No. I never felt like we were going to be the next Hunger Games. I never felt the weight of that. All of that stuff comes months after we finished filming. Our movie was such a small movie, especially for a film like this, we had the smallest scale, budget, time, we were just constrained by a lot of things so it never felt like this was the next Hunger Games.
Q: Will, given your success with your BAFTA Rising Star win and role in We’re The Millers, how does your life feel different from where it was a year ago?
Will Poulter: Thank you. You make me seem so much cooler than I really am. It’s funny and lovely. It still feels like some administrative errors went down, but I’m very grateful. I mean nothing really has changed. The term “Hollywood” doesn’t apply to me cuz I still live with my mom in west London.
Wes Ball: I’m really excited to see what happens with Will now, especially after We’re the Millers and to see his range because this is a very different character for him. He’s much more serious and has a hard edge to him. I think people are going to like him.
Q: What kind of pressure has there been to make a successful movie adaptation?
Wes Ball: It’s actually been a really good pressure. I was a fan of the book so I just tried to stay true to the spirit that James created and the sense of adventure and sense of truth to the world itself. So the only real pressure was trying to execute the perfect movie I had in my head on screen.
Q: James, the Grievers are a really big part of this first book. What was it like bringing them to life?
James Dashner: Well, all I can say is that their vision perfectly matched mine. They took the Grievers from the book and made them even better.
Wes Ball: Yeah, it’s a unique design. I’m hoping it’ll be one of those unique movie monsters that stands out from all the rest. I took what James described in the book – biomechanical, nasty and scary, metallic and all these things and came up with the design with my artists.
Q: James, did you set out to write a young adult novel or did it just turn out that way?
James Dashner: Well, I guess for me, when I was a teenager, that’s when I fell in love with reading. Stephen King was my young adult reading section. It’s always stayed magical to me, that period of life in terms of storytelling. So when I write, I just naturally go to what I loved at that age, but I never, ever think about the age of my audience. I don’t ever write or think this is too much for them, this is too big of a word. I think that’s why it has crossed over to so many adults. I just write the coolest think I can write.
Wes Ball: And for the movie, I just made the movie for the kid in everybody.
Q: You mentioned this movie was going to be emotional and that of course means soundtrack and music. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Wes Ball: I’m a big soundtrack buff. I love soundtracks. That’s all I listen to, since I was 16 years old. John Paesano is the composer on this and he’s a guy who got his training from John Williams then he went off and worked with Hans Zimmer for a while then it was hand-picked by John Powell to do the TV version of How To Train Your Dragon so he’s got a real eclectic mix, that old school film sound where music becomes a character in the movie and supports the emotion. But it also has this modern edge to it that sort of hip and cool. So I’m real excited for people to hear it, especially soundtrack buffs. There’s some really cool tracks in there.
James Dashner: One of my happiest moments, was when I asked Wes, “We’re not going to have one of those typical pop song soundtracks are we?” and he said, “No, we’re going full, epic orchestral score.” I was lucky to go to the studio when they were recording the score and it blew me away. It’s awesome.
Q: So since you’re such a soundtrack buff, do you have a favorite soundtrack?
Wes Ball: Jurassic Park would be one for me.
James Dashner: Aliens has an awesome soundtrack.
Will Poulter: I’m going to go with the Bourne trilogy. I love the violin in there, it’s genius.
James Dashner: I know Dylan’s favorite is La Bamba. (laughs)
Dyaln O’Brien: The last Superman one was pretty good.
Wes Ball: There’s also this one score you gotta check out, it’s The Maze Runner. It’s fantastic. (laughs)