Love is always complicated. But it’s even more so in a Stephenie Meyer novel. In The Host, out Friday, the author of the Twilight series steers clear of vampires and werewolves and goes the alien route. In the movie, Saoirse Ronan ( The Lovely Bones) plays Melanie, a human who resists being taken over by a soul from another planet named Wanda who takes up residence in her head.
Like we said, it’s complicated — especially since Melanie is in love with Jared, a human played by Jeremy Irons’ model-actor son Max Irons. Wanda falls for the also-human Ian ( Jake Abel). The two guys were at the Mandarin Oriental recently, along with the mastermind Meyer herself. We chatted:
How is your press trip going so far?
Meyer: They let me sleep in this morning.
Abel: We were up early, doing some Spanish television. We had a little earpiece translating for us. But mostly, they have us imprisoned in the hotel. I keep trying to escape!
How did this movie get cast?
Meyer: I actually had Jake in mind for Ian; he was my first choice. As for Jared, Andrew Niccol, the director, said, ‘I know this guy, Max, he’ll be great. When I saw him, I said, ‘Ugh, he looks awful. He’s so unattractive [laughs]’. So we gave him a chance. But then you got all the posing on the set. I told him, ‘Just relax!’
Max, how is modeling different from acting?
Irons: I think it sends the wrong message. They think you’ll do anything as long as you’re in front of a camera, which is true. No, it’s not!
Joking aside, what did you think of the script?
Irons: Of course, blown away. Andrew is so capable when it comes to sci-fi.
Abel: He’s a really great screenwriter, too. He somehow took 600 pages and condensed it down into this really tight nucleus.
Meyer: The movie is like one-sixth of the book. It’s kind of impressive to get the story told so well in that limited frame.
What about people expecting something “Twilight”-y?
Meyer: The Host is so distinctively, completely different. I think the trailers give a good sense and feel and look of the movie.
Abel: It’s a science fiction film directed by one of the best sci fi directors. It’s really Andrew’s closest return to Gattaca, which may frustrate a lot of people. Its aesthetic and its story are very similar — in a great way.
What did you all think of the end product?
Irons: I was hugely pleased. When I went to visit Andrew’s office, every square inch of the wall was covered with bits of inspiration for his interpretation of the movie. It’s rare that a person’s vision completely correlates with your own. When I saw the film it was in keeping with my imagination and the books.
Meyer: I think Andrew actually elevated it. He heightened the reality. The way the Souls looked: their world was just a little bit prettier than ours. People just dressed a little nicer than we do. It’s really cool.
Abel: The most surprising thing for me was at times you felt like you were watching an independent film. The powers that be allowed Andrew to let the movie burn really slowly and let scenes breathe. I think with a lot of these young-adult adaptations there’s not as much care and time put in. For me that was a relief.
How was the chemistry among the actors?
Irons: My audition started out terribly. I forgot my lines about 15 times. I’d almost given up, but Saoirse [pronounced Sheer-sa] makes it so easy. She’s so natural and instinctive. We had a really relaxed connection. The cave mentality kind of seeped in. It felt like a tight unit working on something to get it done.
Meyer: Sometimes when you’re in a room with someone they feel so charismatic then they’re really flat on screen. It’s really interesting. You can’t really predict who’s going to pop.
Abel: Making a film is nothing but downtime. You barely work! I think we got extremely lucky — no bad eggs. Except for me. I’m a tyrant.
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