Posted on Friday, August 14th, 2015 by Germain Lussier
The only thing weirder than the big mansion in the middle of downtown Albuquerque is the post-apocalyptic party going on inside. It’s December 16, 2014, and the Gertrude and Zachary Mansion at 2nd and Lead has been transformed to a very important location in The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Wes Ball’s follow-up to the 2014 hit The Maze Runner.
From top to bottom, the interior of the mansion has been transformed to the spot where Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is separated from his fellow Gladers on their epic quest across the scorched Earth they discovered at the end of the last film. Here he’ll be drugged, endure (or enjoy) hallucinations, kiss a girl, and eventually be reunited with the group before meeting some incredibly important new characters.
On this day, number 36 of 55 shooting days, the temperature on The Scorch Trials set is near-freezing even as the location doubles for a super-hot environment in the film. Despite that, the camaraderie of all the cast members is particularly noticeable. Each seems incredibly excited to be continuing the story of James Dashner’s novels, and especially to be doing it together.
Below, read our full Maze Runner: Scorch Trials set visit report.
A Fast Turnaround
Producer Wyck Godfrey admitted he and his fellow filmmakers were thinking about The Scorch Trials long before the first film came out. They first started writing the script in January 2014 and had a version done in May 2014. Then The Maze Runner was released in September, did well, and five weeks later they were filming the sequel.
Director Wes Ball admitted the pre-production was a rush. “We just finished the last one and we jumped right into this one,” he said. That didn’t mean, however, that changes weren’t going to be made. Ball explained that a straight adaption of the second book in the series wouldn’t have quite worked.
“It’s not as easy to take that second book and just do a straight adaptation. It won’t work basically,” Ball said. “So our approach is to take the rest of this story and find the two movies in that. And that required some things from the third book to come into the second and the second into the third. And make that nice, linear trajectory of a cohesive story that’s all building to one finale in the next one.”
That quick turnaround also meant, for the cast, it was like they never left. They were doing press before the movie came out, it came out, they did international press, and before they knew it, shooting on this one had begun. “We see each other all the time,” said Dexter Darden, who plays Frypan. “Whenever the Londoners are in LA or we together in New York, we’re always doing something crazy whether it’s going to dinner or paintballing or just hanging out playing videogames. That’s who we are and being able to come back into work with them again has been great. But it’s not like, ‘Oh my gosh, I haven’t seen you in so long,’ because we make time to hang out with each other and really make time to spend quality time”
Every night after filming, almost all of the cast hangs out together. They cook, they drink, they play Mario Kart. It’s a rare thing to see on a movie. “Just being with each other every day, our chemistry is so effortless,” said O’Brien. We’re literally just a big group of buddies. Good, good buddies, like lifelong friendships and it’s really cool.”
Even some of the new cast members fell right into this. “I’m sort of a hermit. And when I met these guys, it was just so amazing,” said Rosa Salazar, who plays Brenda. “I can hang out with these guys all night, and I do, every night! And we play Mario Kart, and even though I’m god awful at it, I have the most fun and I feel safe talking about things. It’s like we’re family. They are so organic, and they’re so sweet, they’re some of my best friends for life.”
Drugs, Hallucinations and Making Out
Salazar’s character, Brenda, is a crucial addition to the franchise and played a large role in the on Day 36. The first shot of the day was in a crowded room. “As the Rush Comes” by Motorcycle plays as almost 100 extras dance and the background. Amid the chaos, Ball keeps the shot tight on Brenda. She’s drugged, just like everyone else in the scene, and slowly approaches Thomas. Ball blasts light in from behind them giving the whole scene a very trippy, ethereal feel. There are lens flares, even some purposeful focus buzzes. It’s like they’re all moving in slow motion, but they aren’t.
Thomas is at this party looking for his friends, but she doesn’t care. She tells him his friends are gone and he should just stay here. He needs to relax and she kisses him. Later, an insert is filmed where he’s also kissing Kaya Scodelario, who plays Teresa. That’ll flash and then there’s a stunned look on Thomas’ face. Brenda asks what’s wrong and Thomas says “You’re not her.”
It sounds like there’s some kind of love triangle afoot, but O’Brien explains its more complicated than that. “Everything I love about this story line is that it’s sort of so unromantic and that’s what makes it so romantic,” he said. “There really is no romance going on. There’s kind of just something there, connections there for the audience to root for and I think that’s stronger without just throwing it in your face.