I never thought, stepping off a bus and onto a Hollywood movie set, that I’d be putting myself in grave danger. But here I was in the middle of God knows where doing just that. I knew the night would be interesting when our studio handler for the evening tells us that before we head out into the Louisiana swamp land, the snake wrangler needs to head out first to make sure the area was safe. “I’m sorry…did you say snake wrangler?” “Yes, this area is home to all sorts of creepy crawlers including Cottonmouth and Water Moccasins.” I regretted asking that question immediately. I watch enough Discovery Channel to know those are NOT snakes you want in your general vicinity.
It was 9pm and the day was just getting started on the set of 20th Century Fox’s “The Maze Runner”. While we struggled to stay awake the snakes were just starting to wake up. Given the opportunity to be on the set of The Maze Runner I had a job to do but it was hard to put it out of your mind when the wrangler walks by you with a bucket full of deadly snakes. In fact, I feel a little like a “glader” in that respect. Here I was in the middle of a place I was very unfamiliar with hoping to just make it through the night.
We made our way through very dense forest to get to the massive open meadow that makes up the majority of the Glade. Just out of view we can hear the cast filming a scene chanting and cheering, but the sound doesn’t carry that far so when they are done, the area falls silent. The smoke from the massive bonfire is creeping its way through the tall trees and the set-lights flood the area with an eerie amber glow. When we arrived at the very lively village set the big picture becomes a little more clear. We had arrived.
The Glade itself is larger than a soccer field and seems to be separated into several smaller areas. Within the glade are the living quarters, a garden, a livestock area and so on. On the edge of the forest there were large wooden lookout towers and far into the dark distance we see a huge concrete wall that will be digitally expanded to surround the Glade. However, it’s what is located at the center of the massive field that has piqued my curiosity. A huge square door in the ground is calling to us. As we waded through the thick grass in the dark a service elevator began to appear. It’s this elevator that opens and closes each month that brings both good and bad to the survivors of The Glade.
“The juxtaposition of the natural world with science around it is really interesting, and you know, Louisiana has got tons of stuff like that. We basically spent weeks and weeks just going from field to field that had the right dimensions. This is the thing that Wes is great at. He can walk in and immediately know, from his visual effects background, ‘We can shoot here, and put the walls in here’ or ‘No, that doesn’t work for this reason’ – we’re really happy with what we found here.”
Wyck is the first to praise Director Wes Ball and each and every person we talk to throughout the evening mentions his vision for the film. If you have seen Ball’s short film “Ruin” (see the end of this post) you know that he is a remarkably visual filmmaker and The Maze Runner looks like the obvious next step for him. Wyck continues,
“Nobody had really thought visually about what the movie of The Maze Runner could look like in a way that excited us. I can show you things! The scale, the grand graphic scale and the scope of what was in his brain was the first time even I, having read the books, went ‘Oh my God, it could be that?’ You know? That’s cool! It’s so much bigger and complicated and epic than anything I had in my head when I read the books.”
Next step or not, this is the young directors first feature film and he is stepping into a possible multi-film franchise if ‘The Maze Runner” is successful. That has to be a high-pressure situation no matter who you are. However, Wes is taking the task in stride and seems obviously excited at the opportunity and not taking it for granted. HeyUGuys asked the energetic director:
Can you talk about how you’ve had to manage your expectations? Based on who we have talked to and what we have seen, it’s obvious that you have a very clear vision for this film, but it is your first film, so I’m sure at some point somebody has come to you and said “Wes, we can’t do this…”
“Yeah, every day basically. I mean it is compromise, but that’s my job, to keep pushing that as far as I can. That’s the way I look at it basically and I think we are trying to get a whole lot of movie for the money that we have and I’m very happy with what we do. Honestly I look back on a lot of the projects I’ve done with my little shorts and stuff and I’ve always tried to push myself into that corner where it’s sink or swim and that’s kind of where I’m at right now and so far, I think based on the dailies, we’re doing it.
So I’m really happy. I’m excited about that and we are starting to cut scenes together, but I’m not quite in that mode as much as we are trying to get ahead of all of that stuff, but so far the dailies are fantastic, so that’s the good thing. That’s the art form. That’s the film business, kind if both things and I knew that going in that that was going to be a thing I had to wrestle with, but that’s just part of the process.”
Ball talks about how he pitched his vision of the film to Fox as a Lord of the Flies meets Lost project but adds what movie truly inspired him to become a filmmaker in the first place, which gets audible approval from all of us.
“JURASSIC PARK. JURASSIC PARK is probably the movie that got me wanting to make movies. It’s fun, but it’s not totally gruesome. We are doing something really dark here, but there’s not really a lot of blood. It’s totally a PG-13 movie, so a lot of kids are going to go watch this movie, but they’re not going to feel like they are getting talked down to.”
During our visit I felt like, although the main cast is made up of mostly teenage and early 20 year old guys, there was a good amount of maturity in the air. Not the maturity you say you have because a project is dark and gritty and adult but the maturity of having the entire group being on the same page about taking a project seriously. I think a lot of that can be attributed to Director Wes Ball.
Part 2 of our set-visit to “The Maze Runner” will focus on the young cast including Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter and Thomas Brodie-Sangster. Stay tuned for that later in the week and thanks for reading.
Before you go, here’s director Wes Ball’s short film Ruin,