Interview: Brenton Twaites and Odeya Rush of ‘The Giver’

Brenden Twaites and Odeya Rush star in "The Giver." (The Weinstein Company)
Brenden Twaites and Odeya Rush star in “The Giver.” (The Weinstein Company)

Although the Lois Lowry’s award winning book has been out for as long as many of us have been alive, The Giver is finally taking its turn on screen. Aged a few years, Jonas, played by the 24-year-old Aussie Brenton Twaites, is given the role of the Receiver and learns about the joys and pains that have been removed from his world with the help of the Giver (Jeff Bridges). Despite the rulers of his community fighting against his growing rebelliousness, Jonas knows the only way to help everyone is to escape.

The DePaulia’s Isabel Corona, joined with Natalie Craig of Columbia College and Carrie Graham of Tribeca Flashpoint Academy, sat down with Brenton Twaites and Odeya Rush (Fiona).

Carrie Graham: You two were working with a cast of seasoned actors that are very well known. Did you find that you had any mentors on the set?

Brenton Twaites: Yes, I felt like I had a mentor. And the lesson for me was just to never forget to have fun and don’t take it too seriously.

Odeya Rush: Jeff [Bridges] said that many times, and also he said don’t be afraid to be the fool and just to jump in. And I think that’s what he does, and what Meryl [Streep] does.

BT: It’s way easier said than done. You read that in almost every book. But to see it is something else. To feel it is something else.

OR: I think it’s from watching them. They’re both so vulnerable and open which is important.

Isabel Corona: What sets The Giver apart from other recent dystopian films?

BT: I think it relates to our world more than we think. And I think people connect with that it is a dystopian world and it can easily be our world. There are so many little hidden metaphors of the real world. Like with the pills that we take or the food that’s provided for us.

Natalie Craig: Can you imagine living in a dystopian world like the one in the film?

BT: I can imagine. As artists, can you guys imagine? You know it must be horrible because the only reason that we’re in this room is because we went against the grain. I feel like that’s a hard thing to decide upon as a young person. So we would get kicked out. We would be released straight away.

NC: Why do you think your character was so motivated?

I think it was the love he developed for Fiona, and his eagerness to be free. There’s that question of if it’s worth to release the memories and risk pain, I guess the answer is yes.

IC: So you’ve played a prince and a killer, how did you approach playing a much younger character like Jonas?

BT: There’s so much from Jonas in the original script that was exposition that made me feel falsely young, trying to act like I was 12 years old, which was wrong. So my challenge was trying to find the rawness of the character without trying to be so young because I’m not that young. Phil Noyce and Jeff really helped in having me be myself through the character while staying in the guidelines of the book. Jonas finds so many new emotions and new things and it was a challenge to not make it “oh there’s a wall there and oh we’re breathing air” From a place of wonderment and curiosity and not from a lack of intelligence.

CG: Was there anything that surprised you about the finished film?

BT: Yeah there were a lot of things. I mean Meryl Streep’s involvement in the film surprised me.

OR: (Laughing) She was there for a week.

BT: Yeah I mean she was great in it and that character is so enhanced. It really works. Lois said at Comic-Con she would have liked to extend the character. Rewrite the book with the chief elder more prominent. But she just creates that tension and that sense of danger which is great.

OR: There’s also so many warm and loving parts to it like when you Brenton playing with the babies. It’s a nice break from the cold and dark.

IC: How was it working with the babies?

OR: My character works at the nurturing center so I got time to work with a lot of different babies so it was really fun. And you know, you just look at a baby it makes you smile. They just make you happy just looking at them. I think it’s like a natural thing when you them. They’re such good babies too. They were so cute!

BT: But if it cries, you’ve never felt like such a bad human being.

CG: What was a typical day like on the set?

BT: With me and Odeya in the triangle scenes in the studio we kind of just worked with Phil and jumped into it. We’d start shooting something to get going. And then we’d finish at 10 o’clock at night.

OR: Then we’d do that same scene that was just scheduled for half a day until the next day because there’s so many more things! That’s the great thing about Phil, he discovers so many things as we’re doing it. He just takes you to a whole new level. He’s so incredible with what he pulls out of you.

BT: Like extreme anger! (laughs}

IC: Who are some other directors you’d like to work with?

OR: David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Sofia Coppola, Julie Delpy. I want to work with a female director. I’m waiting for it.

NC: When I read it I was in eighth grade and I remember the scene with you guys sliding, instantly I was taken back to the book.

BT: That’s a scene that feels the same in the movie. That’s a good example of something that’s really translated across. Because it felt like that when we were shooting it.

OR: It was a bunch of little slides that they connected into one big one.

BT: Can I just say she’s pretty crazy? We’re about to slide down this thing and it’s in the middle of a car park with rigs, and it’s a stunt right?

OR: I’m not sure what he’s about to say.

BT: I’m thinking, “Odeya’s gonna eat it on this next one.” The stunt guys are like, “You’ll be fine, you’ll be fine.” And you were like, “Yeah, I’ll be good.” I’m thinking, “No you won’t!” She was a trooper.

OR: Thank you. I think after we did it so many times I did one thinking about something else where I was like, “Wait I think I forgot to act” and you were like “Wait, I think I did too.”

BT: That was the best take.

IC: So no onset injuries?

BT: I have a few, still got one actually. I have a funny story I think. They taught me how to ride a motorbike at the start of the movie.

OR: Wait I think I know this story.

BT: One of my first scenes on my bike is when I’m riding away from the baddies and I go around this corner. The video village is all setup on the corner watching me go around. And I lock up my front brakes and my wheel turns and I just crash this motorbike. It was right in front of Phillip.

OR: Oh my god. Was Phil like, “Okay resetting!”

BT: We all kind of look at each other. The producers are like, “Oh my god, we just almost killed our lead actor!” That was a close one.

OR: He’s fine!

CG: Sounds like you guys were doing a lot of it yourselves, though.

BT: We did. You want to, you know. You don’t want to let the stunt guy have all the fun.

CG: How did you like your costumes?

OR: I remember my first fitting. They were like, “Whatever you like and whatever you wear we’ll have all the girls in the community wear.” I like the Audrey Hepburn style dress, which is not very futuristic. When Lois came she was like “It’s interesting how this is the future, but it goes back to old styles.” It was comfortable, I thought. The outfits had to be practical because we’re all given leisure wear, dressy clothes. It’s like The Sims. Each color represented a different position in The Community. So the costume designers were great.

BT: I had an argument with one of the producers. She wanted me to wear my pants up to my bellybutton. I was like, “This is the future. Kids don’t wear this kind of stuff. I’m not gonna do that.” And she was like (in a voice) “Brenton, you gotta do it. It looks funny hanging on your waist.” I told her, “Sorry I was born in 1989, and kids don’t do that anymore.” I mean I wasn’t gonna wear it like Snoop Dogg or anything.

IC: If you lived in The Community, what role would you give yourself?

BT: I would be a Birth Father. (Laughter) Make sense?

OR: Did you see the scene that [Michael] Mitnick wrote? I don’t know if I should say it here.

BT: These guys are cool, it’s a for college

OR: It’s like the Birth Father, where his job is to have sex with all the Birth Mothers. And he was talking about feelings and how he had a long day at work. His name is like Chip or something.

BT: That’s me. I want to do that. Sounds like the most fun you can have.

CG: What’s coming up next for you?

OR: I have Goosebumps coming out and I just wrapped that last week.

BT: I have a film called “Son of Gun” that was filmed in Australia by director Julius Avery. It’s his first feature film. It’s pretty cool. It’s about a kid who goes to jail and meets his mentor, Ewan McGregor, in jail. They get out and go on a crime spree together.


The Giver is out Friday, August 15.

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