At Comic-Con I had the chance to chat with James Dashner, Wyck Godfrey, and Wes Ball of The Maze Runner film about how the film is an extended metaphor for life, and casting Dylan O’Brien! Also, we touched on producer Wyck Godfrey’s YA adaptation empire (Twilight, The Maze Runner, The Fault in Our Stars…) and where he feels he’ll be in a few years time.
Can you talk about the hero’s journey or the writing structure of your book?
James Dashner: Sometimes it’s hard for me to articulate the process going into writing. Normally, I just
follow my instincts. But I have loved movies and have loved books my whole life, so I think it’s just in my brain. But Thomas definitely goes through the hero’s journey, and I wanted the reader to experience that with him, which is why the first 30 or 40 pages are kind of disoriented; you don’t know what’s going on.
Wyck Godfrey: You should talk about how you view the movie as an extended metaphor.
Wes Ball: It’s kind of corny, but I always did think about it as… The way we approach Thomas arriving in this world, to come up almost naked and soaking wet and confused and disoriented and you don’t know where you are, it’s very much like being born. So they’re spit out into this world with no identity or who they are and all this stuff. There’s this idea that you’re born into this place you can call it a house surrounded by walls. They are your protection. They’re there to keep you in this place. Everything outside those walls is dangerous: don’t go out there. It’s like your parents telling you you can’t go outside the door and all that stuff. So I think this movie is very much around that period in your life when you’re ready to leave the nest, essentially, and face the dangers that are beyond this world: those monsters, the different paths you can possibly take outside the walls… So that kind of metaphor, I think, is an obvious one.
And then I think it’s movie two, where I always kind of saw it as essentially, you’re going into high school or you’re going to college. You’re kind of on your own and get into your own trouble now, but there’s still a little bit of that, if you know the stories at all, there’s still a little bit of that parental, sort of adult supervision over top of you. And then the third movie’s really about, you know, you’re on your own to figure out your own life, and all that stuff.
So, I kind of broke it up in my mind. That was kind of the journey, I guess, that we would take on this movie. We didn’t do anything heavyhanded with it, but it’s good to have in the back of your mind what you’re trying to tap into, you know. There’s a lot of stuff with like, when Thomas comes up, the classic things you go through when you first go into high school or whatever it is. There’s a lot of those sort of familiar emotions. It’s kind of obvious stuff.
So James, having written the character of Thomas, what made Dylan the right actor to play that role?
James Dashner: Well, you know, I always pictured Thomas as this devastatingly handsome guy, so… [laughs] It’s hard to say why, but you know, as soon as they told me about Dylan, and I of course did my research and looked up lots of images, and Teen Wolf, and all that stuff… He just matches my vision of Thomas. It’s hard to describe why, but especially after seeing some of the footage… We joke about how there’s no sound, but to me that was even more stark, that just his facial expressions the confusion and fear I saw in his eyes and on his face, and the terror in some of the scenes that I saw it gave me chills. He became Thomas right before my eyes. I am easily the most excited person to see the movie. Fan #1.
Mr. Godfrey, you are a household name in the young adult novel adaptation business. Are you at a point in your career now where you can look back in prospective and how long will you stay in this young adult universe?
Wyck Godfrey: You know what’s cool is that my kids are 14, 12, and 10, and so they really are like guiding light for me in terms of some of this material. I really credit my 12yearold with turning me on to The Maze Runner. My kids give me crap about Twilight and how lame it is, and how lame the Nicholas Sparks movies are because, you know, they’re all girl movies. This is the first thing that I’ve done in a while that they were just like, “Oh my god, I can’t wait to come visit!” So you know, I think that if you’re going to work for a living, it’s cool to be able to do something that your kids can participate in and be a part of. As they get older, of course, once they get into more trouble, they’re probably gonna want me to do raunchy comedies or something, but we’ll see. I was an English major, I love reading. That’s why I’m here; that’s why I do so many book adaptations. I love books. I’ve always wanted to see some of my favorite books become movies, so it’s fun to be able to latch onto James’s talent and turn it into something else.
Can you talk about the development process at all?
Wyck Godfrey: I came in even after Wes was on it, and he really should speak to the development, because he and his best friend from college T.S. Nowlin kind of rehashed the script, and then I was a part of it for the last 8 weeks or 3 months, really. But it was fun. We kind of took the script apart while we were on location and rebuilt it, and the studio was really great about giving us the power. I think the one thing that I tried to do when I came in was make Wes understand how important the source material was.
Wes Ball: Make sure, because you can kind of veer away and not know it. He would always be like, “Remember this, and remember this scene!” And you’re like, “Oh yeah, you’re right! Okay, we’ll put that back in.”
Wyck Godfrey: And that would be the thing, is just making sure… You can expand upon the book, but you also want to get those scenes that you know the audience loves and get them right. That was really what I tried to help with. But Wes deserves most of the credit in terms of really creating the script.