[Warning: Spoilers ahead if you have not read The Host.]
When adapting Stephenie Meyer’s 600-page alien novel The Host to film, screenwriter and director Andrew Niccol had to make some tough cuts.
Among them, the character of Walter, which Niccol describes as the most difficult aspect of the story to lose.
“I repurposed some of his dialogue to make sure that Walter’s contribution to the novel wasn’t lost from the movie, but I would give his dialogue to other characters,” Niccol reveals in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “Tricks like that helped keep the movie faithful to the book.”
Max Irons, meanwhile, had an idea of his own when rehearsing for the role of Jared, the human love interest to Saoirse Ronan’s Melanie, whose body is overtaken by an alien Soul. In one jarring scene, which is also included in the novel, Jared physically strikes Melanie (post-alien invasion). And for what it’s worth, he’s not the only one who inflicts physical harm on Ronan’s character.
“I was not looking forward to that scene,” Irons tells THR. “I didn’t know if I wanted it in the film and I didn’t know if I liked it in the book – I didn’t know if it was necessary.”
Irons admits that at one point, he considered sabotaging the scene. “If you don’t like a scene, you can keep f---ing it up,” he confesses. “I could have done that if I wanted to, but I didn’t because it worked.”
The scene, oddly enough, became one of Irons’ favorites.
“Obviously I didn’t hit her, obviously I don’t endorse that kind of thing,” he says, “but we shot it quite early on and it was sort of a microcosmic example of Melanie and Jared’s struggle. There are feelings of loss, rage, pure sadness, happiness to see her but confusion – a whole bunch of shit… it became an illuminating scene.”
Plus, he notes, “I knew that if I really hated the way it was being shot, I could say to Andrew, ‘Listen, we’ve got a problem here.’”
Niccol laughs when informed of Irons’ plans, but says he felt the scene was essential to his story.
“It’s a real character moment for Jared,” he admits. “To strike the woman that you’re in love with because you now think she’s dead to you… that’s quite a thing to do, but it’s important.”
Ronan, however, takes a different perspective.
“I didn’t really feel like it was essential,” she says. “I think it worked, and I was kind of the same as Max. I was worried that if there was too much violence, I just didn’t think it would come across well. But it was fine and when I thought about it afterward, it made sense.”
Melanie and Jared experience a wide range of emotions (and physicality) throughout the two-hour film, including kissing scenes that result in bites and punches (“we had a laugh or two,” Ronan says of those moments), and one brief scene between the sheets.
“Her dad was present on set giving me the evil eye,” Irons says with a laugh. “He was f---ing feet away from me – awkward! He’s so great and Saoirse’s so great, but I knew I had to keep my hands on top of the sheets.”
Irons, 27, is also diligent to note that Ronan (who was 17 at the start of production) had turned 18 by the time they filmed any kissing scenes.
The Host opens nationwide on March 29 via Open Road Films.
Email: Sophie.Schillaci@THR.com; Twitter: @SophieSchillaci