You star in director Andrew Niccol’s hotly anticipated new film, The Host. Tell me about your character.
Ian is one of the last human survivors. He and his brother had escaped being captured and found their way out to this safe haven. Every day is kind of a struggle to survive, and then when Saoirse Ronan’s alien invader, Wanda, is brought into the cave, it really throws the dynamic off. All the politics change, and I really fall quickly for her because I see how much compassion she really has, which is something we never thought these aliens were capable of having.
It certainly reads as one of the most confusing plots on paper. When you first read the script, how were you able to wrap your head around it?
I always found [Twilight and The Host author] Stephenie Meyer’s source material in the novel—and then subsequently the adaptation of that— pretty clear and very well-written. I think the most engaging part is the dialogue between Melanie and her alien counterpart, Wanda. It’s in her head, and the way we’ve gotten around that in the film is that you hear Melanie in the voiceover, and then Wanda actually speaks out loud to her, and through that device it really clears everything up. It is complex, but I think Andrew does a great job guiding that.
Your character, Ian, falls for Wanda, while Max Irons’ character, Jared, is in love with Melanie [both are played by Ronan]. What’s the major difference between Melanie and Wanda, who has inhabited her body?
Melanie is by nature more aggressive. We’ve all reverted to this primal sort of living because it’s all about survival. Wanda is much more thoughtful, a little more subdued in that way. The thing about these aliens is that they’re actually non- violent. It’s a nonviolent takeover; they’re basically just here to experience our lives. We’re their vessels.
So let’s say that aliens did, in fact, arrive to take over our bodies to try to end human violence. Do you think that would be the best way to solve the world’s problems?
We had two weeks of rehearsal with the cast and Andrew sitting around basically asking that same question. We all went on either side of it. If that happened, this world would be great. It would be perfect. Everyone would be happy. But none of us would be sitting here. Our bodies would be here, but we would be stripped of our souls, which is our essence. And without your essence, you’re dead. I personally don’t think that it would be the best way.
What sort of role did Stephenie play on set, as far as weighing in on how the film was depicted?
She is really an ideal writer-producer. As far as our performance goes, I think she really revels in seeing what we do, what we bring to it. She’s there to answer any questions if you need guidance, but unless you seek it out, she’s not coming up to you and saying, “Oh, he wouldn’t do this” or “He wouldn’t do that.”
I read that you were able to inject your character with some of your own insights. What did you have in mind for Ian?
I wanted him to be a little more confident than he was in the book, a little more steady-footed. That really came through in Andrew’s adaptation, as well. My job is easy, you know? Ian was great in the book, and then the best parts of Ian were taken and placed in the script. It was all there for me, and I just wanted to make sure that everything Ian was—the shape he was in, the clothes he wore—was all functional for survival.
Were there any dangerous elements to this role? Any action scenes that spooked you a bit?
Surprisingly, this is one of the first times I haven’t had a lot of stunts or fight scenes; I got to really relax. The story I tell the most is about Max driving this really old truck we were in, but there were no seatbelts in it, and Max never had a driver’s license. He had to careen through this dirt out by the mountains, with these big boulders everywhere, and then Andrew was saying, “Oh, that’s good, but do it faster!” Saoirse was clinging to my arm every time, and I was hanging onto the door through the window and having to keep a placid face—but inside we were screaming. That was a really terrifying day.
What do you think is the most dangerous role you’ve played in your career?
Probably Percy Jackson, because it involved a serious amount of wire work. Your life is in someone else’s hands when you’re in a harness. There were a couple of times when miscommunication happened and they sent me flying and I almost crashed into a cameraman.
You auditioned for the role of Edward in Twilight, but you’ve said you basically flubbed it. What happened?
Listen, everyone auditioned for that. If you were in town, you went out for it. I viewed it very literally. I thought to myself, This guy is a hundred and something years old. What’s he doing? I decided to play it like that. Maybe I knew it wouldn’t work, but I found it interesting. I think that’s all we as actors are trying to do: find ways of doing things that you find interesting. Ultimately it paid off because I did the same thing for The Host, and that’s what it was meant to be. I was meant to work with Stephenie, and we were meant to be a part of each other’s lives. It just wasn’t supposed to happen till later.
Read his full interview Here