I had the chance to chat with author James Dashner all about his experience working on The Maze Runner film, and he touched on many exciting points! We talked the casting process, other times his book almost became a movie, and the surreal time he spent on the set in Louisiana. He was very involved in the making of the adaptation of his book, and he even got to film a cameo in the movie. This is the first part, see a link to the second part at the bottom.
Were there any other times when The Maze Runner almost became a movie?
Actually yes, we optioned it right when the book came out. Fox really pushed it forward pretty immediately. It actually had a director and screenplay, but they decided to go a different direction. So for about a year, it hit the breaks a little bit, until they finally decided on a new director about a year ago – they signed up Wes Ball. Then it just started taking off again! So, from the time we optioned it, to the time they started filming it was about a three year period.
Did you have any say in the casting process, or did you just find out Dylan O’Brien was Thomas right when everyone else heard?
You know, they really could have done this whole thing without me. I’ve been really blessed that Wes [Ball] and Wyck [Godfrey] and all the people at Fox made the decision to have me involved from the beginning. So, they’ve asked me for feedback, I’ve helped a little bit with the script. Wes has contacted me over and over just with questions. It’s just really meant a lot to me, how involved they’ve asked me to be.
Did you get to see any of the green screen maze area when you went on set? [The scenes in the Glade were shot on location, and the ones actually inside the maze were shot on a sound-stage.]
I went to set twice! The first time, I got to see the Glade and Wes gave me a personal tour of the maze and the set where they do scenes in the maze and all that, before the actors came. Then I went back towards the end of filming, and actually got to meet the actors and watch them film a few scenes. It was just so amazing on two fronts, one because I love movies, and one, because it’s my book! It’s just weird. It’s surreal, and crazy, and awesome.
Was there any difference in the ambiance on set, since you went in the beginning and at the very end?
Yeah! Everyone seemed a little more comfortable, they had finished all the glade scenes by the second time I came, so I didn’t actually visit the glade location. So, it had a different feel, but everyone was just so close. It was kind of like a family atmosphere. It was really just a cool thing to experience.
Could you tell us a bit about the different areas? Since you go from the Glade, which is really rugged, to the maze, which is rocky and more organized. Then, you go to the WCKD area, which is a lab…so futuristic and a total departure! So, could you talk about the contrast? Did you get to visit all three sets?
Yes! I got to see the lab. It’s really fantastic because it’s jolting. Just to see such a drastic change in the same film is jolting to the audience – which it’s meant to be, that’s exactly how it is for people who are reading the book. So I think that vision has really been captured in the transition in the film.
Wes Ball was saying that you have a cameo appearance in the film – I know you probably can’t say a lot about it!
Yeah! That was absolutely incredible. I’ve been joking with my family and everything, that I’m a Hollywood star now! Just to be on set, to get a costume, and get makeup, and get the director to call action. I mean…I’m in a scene! It was just an absolute surreal dream come true. But yes, I am in the movie!