Wes Ball Maze Runner

Getting time with a director when you visit a set is a privilege. The director is busiest person on set. Their attention is constantly fragmented by a million questions, prepping for the next shot, thinking about the next day, and trying to make the current shot as good as it can be. If you talk to a director on set, you’d better jump right in.

Which is what happened on December 16, 2014 on the Alberqueque, New Mexico set of The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. After a long day on set, observing filming and talking to the stars, director Wes Ball finally had a few minutes to chat. Ball directed the first film, which was a surprise hit and spawned the sequel, based on the books by James Dashner. This time, the Gladers have escaped the maze, only to be posed with a new challenge: the outside world, which includes the evil desert referred to as The Scorch.

We’ll have our full report from set soon, but for now, check out our Wes Ball Scorch Trials interview. We discuss the scene we saw shot, the look of the film, pressures of coming back, teases toward part three, blending the final two books, location scouting, the compressed timeline, the new character Brenda, the main love triangle and more. 

Scorch Trials poster

Can you tell us about the look of this sequence? It was really beautiful with the lights coming in from the back, the ethereal slow motion.

It’s just trying to not make it a rave. You know, we’re just trying to make something interesting and kind of creepy, but sexual in some strange way. And, you know, a little bit more fitting with the vibe of the movie in general. Just a little bit more mature and sophisticated and growing up a little bit with these kids. So just taking that approach with it basically. Doing something that hopefully we haven’t quite seen before. That’s the challenge really, is just to make something kind of new and different.

How have things changed coming back for the sequel? Working with the same cast but with a new flavor of a couple of new ones?

It hasn’t really changed honestly. I felt like this is the same old. I thought we just wrapped the last one. So it was fun. We just kind of jumped back into it. We were just doing publicity on the other one just like a few months ago. So nothing’s really changed in that sense. It’s just the vibe of the movie’s so different really. Different locations, obviously. Different place we’re shooting now. Yeah, it’s really been really a lot of fun just to kind of stretch your legs and do new stuff with the same cast and same story, you know what I mean? It’s been actually really, really fun.

How did bringing in someone like Giancarlo [Esposito] and then Alan [Tudyk] who we got to talk to who’s amazing, like how does that kind of even further enhance what you’re doing?

Yeah, Alan’s awesome, yeah. Well it’s cool ’cause we get to have more adults in this movie. And they’re not all just evil adults either. They’re adults that can actually help. So that’s kind of fun. Again, it goes with that thing of just making the movie feel more than just a kids movie now. It’s becoming more and more mature, more sophisticated and all that stuff. So it’s been a lot of fun actually bringing these guys who are just great actors and just watch them do their thing. It’s been another one of those blessings where we just find great, great actors. And you just kind of wind them up and let them go. It’s been cool.

Can you tell us about the new monsters? We heard a little bit about the Cranks. But what about like the Silver Ball and then the Ball Monster?

Yeah, we’ll see. If there’s room for anything. But yeah, the Cranks are our big kind of hero monsters in this one. And we got some cool stuff that’s basically inspired the Grievers basically. It’s taken what James did and trying to push it even further basically. So we’ll see how that shapes up. We’re gonna be doing a good portion of them. Some of them are all prosthetics and stuff, but there’s gonna be some really cool ones that you can’t possibly build in real life.

Are they making them off your drawings?

Yeah, actually. Lots of cool drawings. Yeah, we have lots of the artwork that kind of gets them on the right track. And they’ll bring their own sort of special sauce to everything too. So that’s gonna be really fun. I can’t wait to get into that part too.

Maze Runner Scorch Trials Dylan O Brien

Did you feel any pressure coming back for a sequel with the expectations sort of rising?

Not really. I mean, this is kind of the same thing on the last one. It’s the same sort of issues of trying to make a movie. It’s kind of is always the same. But I guess some of the pressure is just, how fast we have to move. It’s kind of it. Like I said, we were just finished the last one and we jumped right into this one. That’s kind of the only thing really. But it’s a great team around us, an awesome cast. So we keep our heads down, focus and try to make the best movie we can. Yeah.

How was it for you adjusting to a movie with just pretty much two locations to I don’t even know how many you have here?

It’s interesting. It’s been fun. In the last one, even though we had like one location, it was one big location. And there are all these different little locations in the location like the Glade itself. But, you know, base camp was always in the same place every day. Stuff like that. But I love locations, location work especially. So it’s been really fun to go and visit these just crazy, crazy places like this abandoned mall and this abandoned railyard down the road and now this mansion here for two days. And this drainage tunnel for a day.

It’s just crazy actually how many different locations… it fits really well with this concept of kind of the road movie, this traveling kind of epic these characters go through. So it’s been awesome actually. It’s just very tough on the crew ’cause we gotta move constantly. And it’s also just tough on…you have to find your shots on the day basically. You don’t have that experience like in the Glade where you know the shots are gonna work basically. So that kind of keeps you on your toes, but it’s gonna look awesome. It’s gonna be a very interesting kind visual style for this one that I think just kind of takes where the last one left off and just keeps on going with it. It makes it very real, very believable and gritty. So, we’ll see. I’m really excited with what we might be able to kind of achieve here. So…

Cool. And then the cast seems really tightly knit. It looks like they have a lot of fun together. Do you ever have to–?

And that’s just from the last one. Even the new people coming in, it’s the same kind of dynamic, you know?

Right. Do you have to tell them on set like ‘Hey, guys, cut it out? I’m not joking around.’

Sometimes. That’s the only thing that’s different this time. Like, “Guys, you know, focus here a little bit.” It’s so easy for them just to get wound up and just have fun together ’cause they’re such good friends. But they’re the most professional people that I’ve ever met. So it all works out. You just have to kind of remind them occasionally.

The producer mentioned you were bringing in a couple characters from the third book a little early.

Yeah.

Maze Runner Scorch Trials 1

Can you talk about kind of obviously not specifics, but what kind of Easter eggs or little hints there might be of the third?

That’s kind of our approach on it. So I don’t wanna get into too much of the details about what we’re doing there, but the way we’re approaching this now that we’ve kind of we’ve got our first one and fortunately it kind of worked out so we could make the next ones, it’s not as easy to take that second book and just do a straight adaptation. It just won’t work basically. So what our approach is basically to take the rest of his story, the rest of his saga and find the two movies in that. And that required some things to come from the third book come into the second and the second into the third. And make that nice, linear trajectory of a nice, cohesive story that’s all building to one finale in the next one hopefully.

So that’s kind of our approach and that means some characters have to come in, we have to set up certain things that are only in the last bit of the third book. We’re bringing them in now, kind of starting to sprinkle them in. So like I said, it all feels like a one cohesive thing, you know what I mean? So that’s been a little bit of the challenge just to find that balance ’cause the fans are very, very important to us obviously and we don’t wanna disappoint them. But at the same time, let’s look at the last one, you had to make some tweaks and changes to make a good movie. So that’s kind of our goal.

Will there be a big rush again if you do another one?

I have no idea. I really don’t know. I mean, who knows if I’m even gonna do it. It just depends. Right now I’m just focused on the second one. Making it the best one it can possibly be. Obviously now we have a very clear idea of what the end’s gonna be, the end result. Which is nice actually, having a very clear, kind of trajectory of the future movie. But I had no idea what’s in store for us for that third one, you know? That’s out of my hands almost, you know what I mean?

Yeah. But for this one is was such a crazy timeline. Do you think that helped that you just get stay into it?

No. It doesn’t help. No, you always want more time. Even when you have the most time of all, you always want more. You know what I mean? It’s just movies are made in prep. Movies are made in the script writing process and prepping and preparations for the shooting process. When you’re shooting here, it should be about execution and getting the shots and telling that story. So when you’re out there trying to still figure things out, it can just slow things down. So you have to kind of think on your feet and it makes it kind of fun and exciting and challenging at the same time. But more time is always better for any movie. I think any Director would probably tell you that. Any filmmaker really. So we roll with it. We do our thing. Do the best we can.

The last cast member we talked to was Rosa [Salazar]. She seems to be pretty special and we love [her character] Brenda too.

She’s great.

So what has she brought?

She’s gonna be very interesting. I mean, obviously it’s out that she has short hair rather than long hair. That was a big drama thing. But it was really important to me that we just didn’t cast another Kaya. It’s just someone that had to be distinct and different. And that just meant going with an actress that could really bring something, a new kind of flavor to this thing, but also there’s just something kind of cool and cute about her hair. It’s this character that lives with a bunch of scavengers and lives like the survivalist out in this kind of abandoned building. It just kind of fit.

It’s like this little pirate’s cove of just the scum of the Earth essentially. But people are gonna like her. I think the fans will eventually get over the whole long hair thing and they’re gonna fall in love with this girl the way the character of Thomas will. And I think just this tough, very capable and at the same time a really kind of a hard exterior with that kind of vulnerable inside that people are gonna love actually. It’s gonna be really great. So I’m excited for people to kind of meet that side of this world. So that’ll be fun, that’ll be cool.

Maze Runner Scorch Trials 2

What about the dynamic between her, Teresa and Thomas? ‘Cause they brought up today that Teresa’s now with the group. She didn’t get separated as much, so does that change what we get from the book?

Yeah. A little bit. But same kind of dynamic where it’s like, obviously there’s a special connection between Thomas and Teresa. And then this third person starts coming into things. So it’s not a traditional love story triangle thing. But the parallels are obviously there. You know what I mean? There is a little bit of that, I don’t know what you would call it, that competition I guess you’d say. But never heavy handed and we’re never kind of focusing on it.

This is still a movie about adventure and this family that comes together that have to go off and do these things and make hard choices and become the people they’re going to be, good or bad. You know what I mean? So yeah Teresa still is probably more in this movie than she is in the book but she still goes through the same things. And some of her big twists in the movie are significant. We’re gonna really milk that for everything it’s worth.

What was it about The Scorch Trials that you were most excited to actually make this movie? Was there a particular scene, character arc, something about this movie?

It’s a couple things actually. One is the palette. It’s like a completely different world and movie and that’s kind of fun. A sequel that doesn’t have to be a repeat of the last one. We’re in a completely different world. We set it up in the last movie in the last shot. You know, you really see the world we’re gonna be spending it in. So the colors are different. The textures are different. The sort of reality of the world’s even different.

And then it’s like on top of that, it was just fun to go back to the great cast basically. And just continue telling those characters that we were kind of starting to shape in the first one and just continue that trajectory. That was really appealing to kind of go in and do that. While it still feels like a completely different movie, it’s fun to kind of be in there with the same family you started with. And just continue pushing all that forward and exploring those characters. Putting them in the bad places and just milking them for all they’re worth. Those are probably the main things that really kind of excited me up front.

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The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials opens September 18. Check back soon for more from our visit to the set.

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