Rick Yancey talks to Hypable about cheerleading, wide-scale destruction, and the heart of his story in the film adaptation of The 5th Wave.
Describe the feeling of seeing The 5th Wave adapted in six words.
There are countries with smaller armies.
What has been the most surprising part of the adaptation process for you?
How fluid it is, which is the nature of making movies. Multiple script revisions, nimble adjustments to setbacks and delays, the mind-boggling logistics. And I thought writing a book was hard. It’s an amazing collaborative process. It’s also similar to war – no death and destruction but many moments of stultifying boredom punctuated by extreme terror.
What was most important for the adaptation to achieve for you?
The first time I spoke with J. Blakeson, the director, I told him, “You know, aliens smaliens, this is really a story about a teddy bear.” He laughed. He understood. They designed a teddy bear from scratch for this movie. That’s commitment.
Having spent some time on the set of The 5th Wave, do any moments stand out as particularly special or unexpected?
On the first day, seeing the chairs with the name of the project printed on the backs: “The 5th Wave.” Later, walking in a neighborhood -– a real neighborhood -– that had been “destroyed” in the second wave. One of the producers said to me, “See what you’ve done?” I felt the weight of the apocalypse upon my shoulders.
The most surreal and shocking moment came when they filmed Cassie beneath the car – the first image from the story that I had. To see it come to life was extraordinary.
Are there any changes from book to script that you are particularly fond of?
The screenwriters found nuggets buried in the text that translate so well for the big screen. There’s an immediacy to the visual arts that the printed word simply cannot capture. What took me three pages to describe in the book is rendered in seconds in film. It’s one thing to read about choppers bearing down on a character – it’s something else to see it happening.
Have there been any changes in the adaptation that you have questioned?
I’ve heard stories about authors who fret about filmmakers adapting their work and honestly I was worried in the beginning since this is the first time one of my novels has been adapted. Then I decided to relax. Movies are not books. Books are not movies. I write books and shouldn’t presume to tell these very talented professionals how to make movies.
After all, they don’t tell me how to write books!
Have you spoken to any of the actors about their characters? If so, has any of the cast said something you hadn’t considered before?
I saw my role on set as a cheerleader. I believe most of the principals had read the book, and I could tell just from watching them they had done their work and developed their characters, sometimes in very unexpected and fascinating ways.
One of the delightful things about reading (and writing) is the gift of being able to envision a character (the particulars of how they look, sound and move around) in your own way. My Cassie is not your Cassie. The core is there, but the particulars, the finite details, belong to each individual reader.
It’s the same for actors. Chloë [Moretz]’s Cassie may not necessarily be my Cassie, but that’s a good thing. It’s one of the things that makes art unique and special.
Has anything about the adaptation – script, actors, filming – inspired you in your writing?
Just seeing one of my books adapted is inspiring. I’ve always loved movies – Oscar season in our household is a very serious, very big deal. I also saw things on set that gave me ideas for the third and final book of the series, which I can’t go into here, of course.
What scene are you most excited for fans of The 5th Wave to see onscreen?
The scenes between the opening and closing credits.
The 5th Wave, starring Chloë Moretz, Live Schreiber, and Nick Robinson, hits theaters on Jan. 29, 2016.