James Dashner was at Comic-Con this year for his 2nd venture into the crazy convention. I was able to snag a few minutes with him to talk about The Maze Runner movie and a little bit about the main character in his upcoming book, The Eye of Minds.
I attended the Maze Runner Conversation for a Cause even at the Nerd HQ the day before, so I was fortunate enough to be one of the 250 people that were there to see the raw footage of the movie, as well as ask Dylan O’Brien the first question during the panel.
James did note before we got started on the interviewing part, that he actually had more questions directed to him than to Dylan (His agent told him that most questions would probably be fielded to the Teen Wolf star. But this was a Maze Runner panel, after all).
What I’ve found about James is that he’s just an all around amazing (fan)guy, with a fondness for movies and the word “amazing”, and he’s probably one of my favorite authors to have ever chatted with.
In regards to the raw footage that was shown during the panel, he apparently was just as floored as I was, and probably everyone else, too.
Oh man! I saw about half of what you guys saw about a week before you did, so half- this is a terrible way to put this… it’s like the thing Bilbo says in Lord of the Rings- half of what you saw, I was seeing for the first time.
[Don’t worry, I got what he meant.]
So, sitting up there, I don’t know if people could tell, but I got emotional. I was fighting back tears. The fact that it was so raw, it’s literally just the initial filming – there’s no special effects whatsoever yet, except they did add the wall to that one scene. I just- it’s just blowing me away. I cannot believe how much they’ve captured my vision.
So, was it as you expected or more than you expected as far as how it look? Because to me it was more than what I had imagined.
That’s an interesting way to put it, because it is more than I imagined, which, this sounds dumb, but I mean that is obviously a good thing. It’s almost like, I get this feeling that the movie is going to be better than the book. (we both laugh at the prospect) I’m so thrilled with it, it’s like his vision for this movie is just incredible.
I, like you, was flipping out over the raw footage of The Maze Runner. I seriously almost cried. I don’t cry during trailers, as much as I love the books, but something about the way that the actors portrayed the characters, there was not a lot of dialogue in that footage, but what you saw was the emotion.
You just nailed what struck me. I have yet to see, on film, a word of dialogue because they haven’t done sound editing yet. Everything has just been footage with music added, which is amazing because I have seen more emotion and acting and feeling and all that without any dialogue. I can’t imagine when they add the dialogue. I have a really strong feeling that this movie is going to be special.
Being that James had only visited the set twice and had only spent a day and a half there during actual filming, it probably wasn’t fair to ask for his opinion of the actors’ performances, but he did note a couple of people that stuck out for him while he was there, and what stuck out to him in general.
Well, first of all, it blew me away on two different fronts. I love movies, as anyone knows who follows me, so just to be on a movie set and see them actually filming scenes – by itself, was just special. Like, crazy amazing for me. And then you throw in this little thing that it’s my book, it’s like a double whammy. I almost couldn’t handle it.
I was really struck by Will Poulter [Gally], mainly because he’s the one that I saw do more of an individual thing, and it was pretty brief, but it was amazing. And then the majority of what I saw was actually Patricia Clarkson, the Oscar nominee who’s playing Ava Paige. I cannot overstate how lucky we were to get her into the movie, so her appearance in the first movie will be pretty brief, but absolutely spectacular. She really adds a lot, and seeing her film her scenes was… amazing. How many times have I used the word ‘amazing’? I need to think of another one.
I suggested various comparable adjectives, which we chuckled over and to which he’d said he’d use in the future.
Read more on the interview after the jump!
Regarding the filming and being involved in the filming, do you feel like nowadays, with young adults books becoming a little more popular, do you think that authors are being more welcome into the filmmaking process during pre-production or production than they were before?
I think absolutely one-hundred percent yes. I don’t know this for sure, but I get the sense that 10, 20 years ago, authors were kind of patted on the head and said ‘get out of here and let us do our job.’ I think, and again this is not an expert speaking, but I feel like J.K. Rowling with the Harry Potter movies, made everyone realize ‘Oh, it is advantageous to have the creator of this work be involved.’ And everyone knows that Suzanne Collins has been heavily involved with The Hunger Games. Contractually, 20th Century Fox had no reason to have me involved. We sold the rights before the book even came out, so I had no power or anything. But luckily for everybody, Fox wanted me involved, and the director, Wes, wanted me involved. Wyck Godfrey, the producer, wanted me involved. So, basically from the moment they signed Wes Ball to direct, they have involved me. We’ve kept countless phone calls, 2 set visits, countless emails… it has just been a thrill.
That’s awesome! It’s been a few years since you’ve written The Maze Runner. Coming back to it, do you miss the characters or is it refreshing to see them again?
It’s funny, I should never admit this out loud, it has been at least four years since I did any work of any kind of the first Maze Runner book, which is the only book the movie’s based on, so in a lot of ways, the stuff feels new to me. I mean, I wrote the book, and I’ve re-read it a thousand times, so I haven’t really forgotten anything from the book, but things have been in the back of my head that I haven’t thought about for a long time. And so it’s been really fun to have that distance so that it could feel fresh and new to me. It’s just perfect timing.
Do you find it interesting that Ender’s Game, which was written in the 80s, that you loved, is going to open in November yours comes out just a few months afterwards?
What are the odds that this movie that they’ve tried to make for 25 years, that heavily inspired The Maze Runner, is finally made and comes out 2 ½ months before mine? Which is just enough distance that, pretty much Ender’s Game will be out of theaters just as mine’s coming in.
You know, if someone has to press me, it was my favorite book, I read it in high school, it has a lot of controversy associated with it, but I’m with the actors and everyone involved with the film that you separate the artist from the work when you have to because I don’t think any of that controversy will bleed into the film itself. That’s a major tangent we just went off on.
I can’t deny how much that book meant to me and the influence it had on my writing career and my reading career.
Tangent or not, I really admire James for giving nothing but praise about the book, despite the bad press the Ender’s Game author has been subject to. It’s not as if the story of Ender’s Game suddenly changed and became horribly written. Okay, now that’s me going off on a tangent.
So, let’s talk about Michael (in The Eye of Minds). How would you consider Michael different from Thomas?
Michael is in such different circumstances that even if they were similar, they’d be different. How’s that for a brilliant statement? (laughs) So, it’s almost hard to compare them, but Michael is much more relaxed, which Thomas didn’t have the option to be. He’s much cockier, because he’s very good at what he does, and he’s most comfortable in the element and the setting that the book takes place in, which is the exact opposite of Thomas. I mean he [Thomas] could not be more uncomfortable in his setting. So, that made it easy to differentiate them, because their circumstances are so different. But I also feel that just in pure terms of personality, Michael is a little more sarcastic, a little more cynical, jaded, but he has a good heart. And he ends up showing the same kind of bravery that I think Thomas does.
Yeah, I actually found him a lot more snarky.
That’s a good word.
I actually like that about him. I literally laughed out loud during certain scenes [so far].
What inspired you to write about gaming?
Ironically, the basic premise for Eye of Minds came to me years before The Maze Runner. So, when I saw The Matrix movies, which are some of my favorites of all time, from the first movie through the last movie, there was this plot twist that I was just positive was going to happen. And the third movie ended, and it never had happened. And it just stuck with me, and needless to say, that plot twist happens in my book. So, in a way, I stole it from something that didn’t happen in The Matrix.
It’s heavily inspired by The Matrix. It’s heavily inspired by Inception – the concept of a dream within a dream within a dream, except virtual reality, and you can’t tell the difference between what’s real or what’s not real. You can’t be certain of anything ever again. Speaking of dreams, you can wake up from a dream, but still be dreaming, so then if you woke up again, you can still be dreaming. If a dream feels real, and virtual reality is indistinguishable from actual reality, never again can you be 100% sure that you are awake in the real world. It’s a setting for some trippy stuff.
Next up for James is an appearance at Gen Con in Indianapolis on August 15, 2013.
The Eye of Minds is set to be released on October 8, 2013.
And The Maze Runner movie is set to come out in theaters on February 13, 2014.