James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner and Mortality Doctrine series, spoke with us about the process of adapting his books to film and shares some news about upcoming projects.
To celebrate The Scorch Trials’ recent DVD/Blu-ray release, James Dashner took some time to sit down with us and chat about what it was like having the sequel to The Maze Runner be adapted to screen. We also spoke a bit about his upcoming projects and what he has planned for fans in the future.
How was your Scorch Trials experience different from your Maze Runner experience?
Nothing can ever match that experience of having a film made the for first time based on a book you wrote. It was just — it was such pure magic, almost like I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Just, kind of floaty, goofy, happy, awesomeness. I remember the first time I saw the Maze Runner — the completed version — I was bawling and shaking and I could barely speak. You can only have the first time experience once.
The second one, I felt like I was a little more grown up, a little bit more… I could handle it. And a little bit more pragmatic maybe? I don’t know. But I certainly still, well hopefully never, will take it for granted or anything. The second time you’re a little more used to it, but it’s still just as much fun. It’s exciting. It’s a thrill to be a part of it. It’s something I realize, after this series, it could potentially never happen again. Lighting will never strike twice. There’s a lot of differences, but I think the filmmakers themselves have to deal with it a lot more than I do. I’m involved just enough to feel like a part of it and the excitement and joy of it. But the hard work that actually goes into making the film, it’s just brutal for all of those guys.
Teresa had some of the most interesting changes and development in The Scorch Trials. How involved were you with fleshing out her story?
You know, I feel like they involve me quite a bit, which is a thrill. We talk through it quite a bit and then I see the script and I give feedback. And we have all kinds of conversations, but I think it’s cool that, because of some ripple effects from the first movie, Teresa’s story couldn’t quite go the same way as it did in the book. For one thing, we have this amazing actress Kaya Scodelario. We don’t want her to be absent from all the main storylines, which in the books she’s kind of off screen quite a bit in the second book. But what really meant a lot to me was her story arc. She has this story of betrayal and misunderstanding that’s so important in the books and I think that still came through in the movie. Although it was in a different way, I think it’s really true to the spirit of what happened in the book.
Were there any specific changes that surprised you by how much you liked them?
You know, I’ve always been one who’s totally fine with changes. What matters to me is staying true to the characters and trying to capture the spirit or tone of the books. But some of the things that I was thrilled with… You know, Wes [Ball, director] feels really strongly [about] taking things from the book and kind of putting them on steroids so they’re more visceral and in your face and visual. You know, what he did with the Grievers and what he did with the Cranks — that’s basically what they are. The things in the books on steroids. And I just absolutely love the creatures and the settings. Everything is just kind of done a little bit over the top. I’m very happy with what he’s done with it.
Were you involved in any featurettes on the DVD/Blu-ray?
I did a few interviews and on set things that I think make it in there here and there. I don’t know if it’s a whole lot, but I did make some appearances. I’m not really involved with putting those together or anything, but honestly I’m just excited to watch them. The behind the scenes stuff of any film, especially a film based on my own book, is just fascinating and never gets old to see how a lot of that comes to life. I did visit the set, but there’s a lot of stuff that I missed, so I’m excited to see those extras.
‘We’re really trying to make the third movie come back in line with the books quite a bit. That will maybe surprise some people.’
We know The Death Cure will start filming sometime in February. How involved do you think you’ll be with the project?
It’ll be very similar to the others. I mean, just today I got an email from the writer, T.S. Nolan, about the script. So they keep me in the loop just enough that I feel like I’m a part of it and contributing. I’m also smart enough to know that they’re the experts on making films, not me. You know, I write books, they make movies, but I think we work together to try and make it the best experience for our fans. And I’ll be going to the set for sure and it’s just going to be fun. I’m going to try and enjoy every single second since it’s the third movie.
Now that The Death Cure is kind of set up to diverge from its book as well, do you enjoy watching how others play in the sand box you created or are they completely separate entities in your mind?
Oh, I enjoy it immensely. I tell my readers to just embrace it. Look at it as a way to experience the stories for the first time again and not to worry about the changes. But I actually think they’ll be pleasantly surprised. We’re really trying to make the third movie come back in line with the books quite a bit. That will maybe surprise some people. So I challenge my readers all the time to wait and look at the trilogy of movies as a whole before you judge too much — how many differences it has from the books.
And, of course, we have to ask, how’s The Fever Code coming along?
Yeah, The Fever Code! I’ve completed it — an entire draft of it. And my editor has read it and given me some feedback. So it’s very far along in the process. I’m really proud of it.
I think fans of the books and the movies are just going to eat it up because all of these things have been alluded to and all of these characters, some of whom may not have survived all the books, [come back]. Since it’s a prequel, it’s kind of like a resurrection. Everyone is alive and you get to see these scenes with them. And even though it’s a prequel and you think you might know everything, there’s still some twists and turns. So it’ll be a lot of fun. I can’t wait for people to read it.
What other projects are you working on right now?
You know, right now my mind is really focused on my new series. The third book just came out, called The Game of Lives. It’s called the Mortality Doctrine series and people are really starting to discover it. First it kind of got lost in all the Maze Runner hysteria. But it’s three books and I describe it as the Matrix meets Inception. Those are two movies that really influenced it quite a bit. It’s just a fun story, lots of twists and turns about virtual reality and artificial intelligence. So I’m touring for that and it’s really heavy on my mind. But I also have lots of ideas that I’m excited to work on. I’d love to write kind of a horror novel. And, you know, some other ideas. So I’ll keep writing and there will be lots of things to look forward to.
You can order The Scorch Trials on Blu-ray and DVD everywhere movies are sold.