James Dashner spills on The Scorch Trials plot changes, romance and death rumours

As The Maze Runner sequel nears release, the author reveals the challenges of bringing the second book to the big screen, avoiding a sappy love story and writing the prequel

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Shanks, we’ve been patiently (sort of) waiting for the next instalment of The Maze Runner

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It’s the second book from James Dashner’s best-selling trilogy to undergo a big screen makeover courtesy of director Wes Ball. But as ever, fans of the books can never be completely certain what’s going to happen on screen. Is Ball going to go all Game of Thrones on us and kill off a load of characters who survive on the page? How will the changes made to the first book affect the action second time around? What on earth are the Cranks going to look like?

Well, who better to ask than the author himself? Ahead of its September release, Dasher gives RadioTimes.com a sneak-peek at The Scorch Trials…

Can we expect an even darker, more intense film than the first?

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“Yes, I think so. It’s very similar to the books in that way, things got a little bit darker in the second book and the movie definitely represents that.”

What was the biggest challenge of bringing the second book to the big screen?

“The biggest issue was that some of the changes we made in the first one had ripple effects that affected the second book even more so. For the second movie, we really tried hard to stay true to the spirit and tone of the book and keep some of the major scenes, but we had a little bit more of an increase in changes between book and movie. But I think my readers will be happy with it.”

Does that mean Thomas and Teresa are still unable to communicate telepathically?

“You’ve really nailed it. That’s the biggest ripple effect that we had to deal with, because that’s so integral to the second book; how they communicate while they’re separated. I can’t give too much away yet, but that’ll be probably the biggest thing that people notice – the change with where Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) is throughout the movie and that’s because of the change we decided on for the first movie. I think it still captures the spirit of what happens in the book and I do think people will be happy with it.”

Do you get nervous about the changes made to the book?

“I don’t worry about the movie, because I’m very happy with it and I feel just involved enough that I feel good about the changes. Definitely my concern is my readers and the fans who are so passionate about the book. So my goal is to stick by their side and help them understand why the changes were made and help them understand that some things that work in the book don’t work in the movie and vice versa. It’s just a matter of sticking by their side and educating and informing them and I think they’ll end up happy with it.”

Is it true that we can expect part of book three to appear in the second film?

“Basically it just made sense to move a big chunk of the third book to the second film. It’s not a death or anything like that. It’s a major exciting part of the third book that’s now in the second movie. Then when we get to the third movie, things will align back to the books more strongly. I’ve kind of been prepping my fans already to prepare themselves for that.”

Why have you chosen not to split the third book into two films, when it seems like such a money-maker for other franchises?

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“Two main reasons. The first is that the books have always lent themselves to three parts – that’s why I wrote the books in three parts. It seems disingenuous to try and split that into four parts just to make some more money. Secondly, I’ve definitely sensed an annoyance among other fandoms when these books are split into two parts. I felt like it was truer to the books and truer to our fans to keep it to three movies.”

Is it true that there’s a death in the film that doesn’t happen in the book?

“That’s a rumour that’s going around that actually has no truth to it. I don’t know where that came from. Unless something’s happened that I don’t know about! There’s definitely a death in the second movie that matches a death in the second book, so other than that I don’t know what people are referring to. Honestly, it’s just a rumour that has no basis.”

What’s it like to have written a trilogy that has so much fan involvement?

“It’s very surreal for me. After having watched the craziness that surrounded Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Twilight – I don’t think we’ve quite reached that level but it’s still surreal to have that kind of mania surrounding my own books. It’s a lot of fun to watch. I love perusing through all of the insane Twitter comments and Facebook comments.”

Can we hope to see The Kill Order adapted into a film after the trilogy?

“Currently we’re just focused on the original trilogy. Because it has such a complete cast of characters, we’re not in a rush to think about The Kill Order just yet, so we can put all of our focus on the three films. Who knows? We’ll see what happens.”

But would you like to see it brought to life?

“Absolutely, It’s such a stand-alone story and because it has an entirely new cast, if Fox thought it would work, I think it would just make a spectacular stand-alone apocalyptic film, so we’ll see what happens.”

What’s it like writing the prequel The Fever Code and returning to characters lost along the way?

“I am busy writing the first draft. I have it all outlined and everything. It’s really fun to be writing some of these scenes that I’ve been alluding to and have known in my head for years and years. I’m having a good time writing it.

“I’ve resurrected some characters. Since we’ve gone back in time a little bit, they’re all alive and well. I don’t know about well – but they’re alive.”

And the prologue will be written from Newt’s perspective?

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“A prologue can feel separate from the main storyline, so I thought I could get away with it being from a different point of view. People love Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) so much. But then we go back to Thomas’s (Dylan O’Brien) point of view to stay consistent with the rest of the series. Readers will definitely see all the characters they love in detail throughout the book.”

Will their personalities be similar to those we’ve seen in the maze?

“That’s going to be one the most intriguing and powerful aspects of this prequel. They will have some differences, because that’s one of the things that fascinated me; the change of these characters from the time they’re taken by WCKD to the very end. Some of their roles are reversed. I’m also trying to really show that even though their memories are taken away, in the long run their true selves do come out at some point during the trilogy. It’s actually a real challenge for me to know exactly how to portray all of the characters in this prequel, but it’s a fun challenge.”

Is there a lot more pressure now?

“Absolutely. It’s such a different experience writing this prequel, now this series is so huge around the world, and I’ve seen so much feedback about how much they love some of these characters. I feel a lot of pressure, I think more pressure than any other book I’ve written. But I think I’m up to the task, I’m having a good time with it.”

Is there going to be more of a love story in this film between Thomas and Teresa?

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“My goal, and Wes Ball’s goal, has always been that even in the first film you see that there’s a connection between Thomas and Teresa, and that’s really the only thing we care about. We don’t want it to turn into a sappy romance or anything like that. So I think the second film dives into that a little bit further, that Thomas and Teresa have a special connection. It may be just a hint of additional, a feel of romance, but not really.

“I think it will have the same tone as they first one – that they have a connection, but they’re not in the right type of situation to date. It seems ridiculous to have this beautiful romance in the midst of all this horror. It’s more about friendship and loyalty and that includes everyone. Thomas and Teresa can tell they had a connection before the maze and that’s really the only difference between them – they’re just a little bit closer. I think you’ll see that a little bit more in the second film, but not too much”

Can you give us a hint of how the Cranks will look on screen?

“The biggest goal was to make them terrifying and then our second biggest goal was to make sure they didn’t come across as zombies. People are just going to be blown away; they are terrifying and hideous and don’t necessarily look like zombies.

“They definitely keep their human aspect – that’s what they are: humans that caught this crazy, insane virus. So they keep that humanity, which I think is what makes them so terrifying. The Grievers are just big monsters, so they’re scary, but not horrifying. But the fact that you can still see the humanity in the Cranks makes them all the scarier. So they’re going to give people nightmares…”

A Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials trailer will be released on Tuesday 18th May, and the film will be in UK cinemas in September. 

Plus, for more follow @MazeRunnerBooks (the trilogy is on sale now)

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