Lois Lowry, Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush Talk ‘The Giver’

Griffin Conlogue ‘15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush in The Giver. Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company.
Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush in The Giver. Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company.

The Giver, based on the Lois Lowry novel of the same name, releases in theaters on August 15th, 2014, but Emertainment Monthly got the opportunity to sit down and talk with author Lois Lowry and stars Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush about the exciting feature length adaptation.

How much involvement did you have in the making of the film?

Lois Lowry: I had no official involvement, but they decided that they would consult me, I guess would be the best term. Philip [Noyce], the director, throughout the process emailed me almost every day, almost three times a day. Just with little questions. They had me look at Odeya’s screentest before she was cast. They had me look at costume designs. There was one dress that they designed for [Odeya] and I said that it was too sexy. She’s not supposed to be sexy. Make her dress a little longer. It was very short in the beginning.

Odeya Rush: I didn’t like that dress. Because I had to ride a bike in that dress. It was so uncomfortable. (all laugh)

LL: Anyway, so I was involved throughout the process, just not officially.

What attracts you guys to [act in] a movie like this? Cause it’s not like a Hunger Games type action movie, it’s more thoughtful.

LL: Yeah. That’s a good word.

Brenton Thwaites: That’s a great word!

LL: That’s the first time I’ve used that word since we’ve done these interviews.

OR: I’m gonna steal it!

BT: In all of my interviews I’m going to try and fit that in.

OR: I think so many elements of this project attracted me to it. Mainly, when you look at it you see Philip Noyce is attached you see Jeff Bridges is attached you see it’s based on a book by Lois Lowry. All of those things already make it very attractive but I think after reading the script and being so moved and seeing a character who is so challenging and has such a journey. It’s one of those scripts that I read that made me keep thinking about it. I was reading the script the night of, right before the audition, but it’s one of those projects that really stays in your head and made me think about it a lot. Every time I think about this movie and every time I do an interview there’s something else that comes up. There’s a new idea about the movie that comes up, there is new questions that arise.

BT: Well for me bro, it was the chance to work with Philip Noyce. He was one of my favorite directors as a kid seeing all of his Aussie movies. He’s one of those directors that Australian directors look up to because he’s made it in Hollywood. He’s made some great films in the late nineties, directed some cool pilots. And I guess this is his big chance to come into the big screen, hopefully with this film. I kinda really wanted to work with Phil, Jeff Bridges was on board at that point and so I was super excited to work with Jeff, I was a huge fan. And then I read the book and I discovered that the story was so powerful and had a great message. Those mixed together was a cocktail of excitement.

What were the Philip Noyce pictures you enjoyed as a kid?

BT: For this movie I watched all of his 90’s movies again. One of my favorite ones has to be Catch a Fire. It just has so much heart to it you know? He’s the kind of director that really emotionally gets involved in everything you’re doing. He was the leader of the ship and he was just so passionate about this story. For some reason I’m kinda connecting it to that because we shot in South Africa and he has a lot of experience in South Africa. Have you seen Newsfront? Backroads?

LL: He told me that Newsfront, which I have not seen, uses black and white and changes of color.

BT: Yeah, I mean he’s experienced with the saturation change. And we kind of use that in this film to an extent.

Well that’s gotta be tricky, because of the way you would have written it. Isn’t it sort of just a lack of color? Which isn’t necessarily black and white.

LL: Well, it could be greys and monochrome but the difference with the movie is that in the book, when you’re reading the book, you don’t know there is no color until suddenly he begins to see color, and then you realize he never has. In the movie of course you are seeing monochrome. So you are aware of that and then color begins to enter. You may be aware that when they first released the trailer for this movie on the internet it was all in color and it provoked huge outrage among fans of the book. I think the movie makers were surprised by that. They had planned all along for it to begin in black and white but they hadn’t realized the degree to which the audience was going to care about that.

Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges in The Giver. Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company.
Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges in The Giver. Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company.

*So what is it like working with someone like Jeff Bridges or Meryl Streep so early in your careers?

BT: Well, 18 years before we got to work with him Lois Lowry got to work with him.

LL: Well, nothing happened for those years.

BT: But he was still a huge actor back then right?

LL: Yeah, his first movie I think was The Last Picture Show, I don’t remember was year that was but he was a teenager.

BT: That was black and white too wasn’t it?

LL: Yeah. So he was big. But it was later that he won the Academy Award and became so megastar-ish. That’s not even a word.

BT: Well it is now!

So he bought the rights to it?

LL: 18 years ago he bought the rights. He was gonna direct it, and he was gonna star his father in it, Lloyd Bridges, who was a fine actor. Then it just never got put together, never got financed. And his father died. And after time passed he realized he could play the role. I think he still has never directed a film.

BT: Sorry man, we kind of short changed your question. Yeah, it was great. It was such an opportunity. As a young actor working with a old actor, as a young anything working with someone in your field very experienced and very successful. It can be quite nerve-wracking to meet them and to start that relationship but Jeff is such a cool guy. He welcomed me with open arms and in a way that’s something that The Giver does, so that was a nice parallel between the both of us.

OR: I think Jeff is also just a very giving person. When people say “oh did he give you any advice just by watching them?”He is someone who has sat me down several times and told me about the press-junket, he gives you advice about that. About filming, he says don’t be afraid to be the fool and to just jump in. He tells you stories about when he was younger and stories about his dad. He is someone who is very giving and open and the fact that I got to work with him so early in my career is gonna have such a big impact on what I do next and it has on every role I’ve approached after that.

I was reading online and I saw that some fans of the book we nervous about this being translated into a movie. What would you tell those fans?

LL: I’d tell them relax. I think people lose sight of the fact that a movie and a book are two different things. You can love a book and it’s never gonna be exactly the same on the screen. And you just have to relax and let it happen.

BT: Yeah, I mean the moments of Harry Potter that weren’t on the screen, originally I was kind of annoyed but they are still in my mind and I can keep them to myself. In a way that’s kinda cool. You keep the moments that aren’t translated to the film to yourself, and they can be the things you take away.

LL: That’s a nice way of looking at it.

So are you happy with how the book was adapted into a film then?

LL: I’ve always been a movie fan. So I didn’t expect or even hope that the book would become the movie and be exactly the same. That’s just not going to happen. The one thing that worried me and I know worried Jeff as well, was the decision to make the characters older than they are in the book. Cause in the book they are 12. And that decisions was made for several different reasons, and I think they are legitimate reasons. One was simply marketing, that they would acquire a larger audience for the movie if the characters were older. Apparently marketing research told them that teenagers, a big movie audience, won’t go see a movie about 12 year olds. You don’t wanna lose a large part of your audience. Another reason that I hadn’t even thought about was that 12 year olds, if they are in a movie, can only work for a certain number of hours.

OR: You can work 9 hours, and 3 of them have to be schooling.

LL: So it makes the movie more expensive, and it takes longer to make it.

OR: That’s how I used to work.

LL: So I was worried about that and Jeff was worried enough about that that he said he almost withdrew from the movie when he heard the kids were going to be older. And then we both got over it when we met the kids that were going to play the roles. We saw them on the screen and saw that it was going to work. They had the same air of youth and naivety and vulnerability that the characters in the book have. They are older but they have the same characteristics.

Jeff Bridges and Brenton Thwaites in The Giver. Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company.
Jeff Bridges and Brenton Thwaites in The Giver. Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company.

*Do you think it will hit with the same audiences that young adult novels like Divergent and The Hunger Games do?

LL: Well the audience that wants violence and action aren’t going to love this cause there is nobody killed in this movie, is there? Well the baby.

BT: No, no, the released! Sent to elsewhere.

OR: There’s no one “killed”really.

LL: Incidentally, a very spooky scene in this movie that is not in the book that I like in the movie, is the old people in the ceremony. When all of the old people come to the stage and you see them going across…It looks like a denture commercial, all those spooky smiles. That scene is not in the book. Any rate, in answer to your question the audience will be somewhat different I suppose. I think for one thing an adult audience will be attracted by the fact that Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges are in it. We have yet to know who the audience will be.

*A lot of the marketing and the trailers highlight the last 20 minutes of the film which is the most action packed. So the initial trailers seemed like a Hunger Games type of movie.

LL: It did. And in the movie, the drone that picks up Jonas and the baby, in one of the trailers it looks like a spaceship or something.

OR: Yeah, I was like “did we have that? That looks cool!”

LL: So I think they focused on that probably to attract a certain kind of audience, but I think the audience that wants a lot of violence will be disappointed.

Do you think that that audience will come to this movie and they’ll see something they don’t expect but maybe they’ll like it anyway?

LL: Well that would certainly be the hope! Maybe they’ll be better people for coming to see the movie.

The scene you singled out with the elderly people coming on the staged seemed to be a clear nod to Soylent Green.

LL: Oh gosh, that goes way back. Do you guys even know an old movie called Soylent Green?

BT: No, I don’t!

LL: Well it’s a futuristic dystopian book in which, I’ve forgotten the details because it was so long ago, but it turns out that the food in this movie turns out to be the old people.

BT: Oh, like Sweeney Todd all over again!

Yeah, it’s a future where there is no food, so everyone is being given this substance called Soylent Green and no one questions what it is.

BT: Wow, I mean our food just comes up in the oven and we take it.

But the elderly are basically retiring themselves, they are offering themselves up to go to the next place without knowing what is going to happen to them in reality.

BT: Wow, that’s another way of saying gut instinct isn’t it? My grandmother is telling me something I can feel it in my gut.

What do you guys look for when you’re looking for movie roles? Cause this year you’ve done three different types of movies, so what do you look for?

BT: I don’t look for anything, man. I just read everything and hopefully something sparks a chord that hasn’t been struck before. My ideal career would be to do a film that differentiates from every single other one. Our industry at the moment is very like sequels and prequels and third, fourths.

LL: You mean you won’t do the sequel to The Giver?

BT: If you write the screenplay Lois! So it’s cool to have those little individual crazy ideas like The Signal and Oculus and play very different characters mentally and physically.

OR: Now, I think I look more for the director because you really don’t know how a movie is going to be perceived, what it’s going to look like in the end. You know working with a great director or working with a director who’s really new or just working with these different types, I think that’s what changes. It’s not so much the role, I feel like. You kind of have to get accustomed to how a director works. There are some directors like Phil who likes to do a lot of takes and try a lot of things and be very straightforward. There are some directors who give you so much freedom. And there are some directors who know exactly what they want. And I think that’s what really attracts me in a project is getting to kind of change the way I act by working with the different ways a director directs.

 Questions marked with an asterisk were asked by Emertainment Monthly.

The Giver hits theaters on Friday, August 15, 2014.

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