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The underlying kind of message in your stories really have to do with love. Can you talk a little bit about what message you want the audience to receive with The Host?
I never purposely put messages in my stories. I'm just always trying to entertain myself and then afterwards I'm like, "Ok, maybe that's what I was thinking." But with this one, if feels like it's very much about love, but not romantic love. Definitely, romantic love is a part of it, but the full spectrum of love. You kind of get to explore the love you have with your people and the place where you belong and how that changes when you find a new place.
There's a betrayal aspect to this. The main character is a truly good person who has to betray other really good people and that's a big deal. And there's also the mother love that she has for this other person's brother that she feels really tied to. And being able to work some of those themes of motherhood in. Because that's so much a part of my life, it felt important. And then you also have sister love, which isn't something I've gotten to do much with.And I have two sisters that I'm very close to. Her relationship with Melanie starts out very antagonistic, becomes the most defining relationship of her life. She's willing to sacrifice everything to give life back to a girl who becomes her sister. It feels like a spectrum of love and you get to explore so many more angles than you do if you're just doing a romance.
Aside from the Cheetos eating scene hitting the cutting room floor, what couldn't make it in that you found the most gut-wrenching as the writer?
Some of the characters - Walter doesn't exist in this story. And that's what my mom gives me the most grief over, because she loves Walter. He was hard to lose. A lot of the minor characters - some of them appear in the movies but don't even get to be named. It's really hard because so many of these little side stories, playing soccer, to me, they mean a lot because it's these pieces of real life. And we couldn't have the playing soccer scene in the movie, which is a little minor tragedy like it always is when you adapt. You lose this thing that you really would have loved to see. But in the end, there's a level of realism that you have to get to when you have a 600 page book to adapt. You know you're going to loose 5/6 of what you've done. And then it's just, what are the most important things. And I think that Andrew did a really Stellar job of nailing that. He got the really important things. The core and heart of the story are there, and all of the elements that are in the movie from the book are very true to the book, so it feels familiar and right.
You could have set this alien invasion tale anywhere, what made you want to set it in Louisiana and the desert in Arizona?
It was never set in Louisiana in the novel. That was something we did in the movie that ended up being a really good choice. Louisiana is the place to shoot these days. They've got the facilities and it just makes the most sense on your budget, generally. We could have. That part of the story takes place, some of it in San Diego and some of it in the southwest. We decided to embrace the location, rather than trying to hide it and pretend that we were somewhere else. And it ended up being fantastic, because we were able to really celebrate the unique, beautiful things about that area. And then we shot the desert part in New Mexico. We got some really stunning locales. We were really fortunate, it's so beautiful.
The things I chose in the novel, when I wrote my other series, a lot of it was about fantasy for me. So I wrote that I'd actually never been to. I'd always wanted to grow up in Washington. I thought that'd be great. The rain and green, they have stream beds that have water in them instead of them being full of rocks. I was always fascinated with that world because I grew up in the desert and that was my home and that's what I was used to. When I wrote The Host, it is about my home in a lot of ways. It's a place that I know and that I'm comfortable in. The story is closer to home for me because it is my genre. I like science fiction. That's my favorite world. So I also set it in my physical world that I live in. It felt like the right thing to do and in some ways it's more personal for me.
There's a very unique love triangle in the story. Almost like a love square. Can you talk a little bit about where you came up with the idea to add in that fourth element?
The love triangle was actually the beginning thought that lead to the novel. It was the idea of two people in one body in love with the same person. A jealous triangle where you could not escape the other person. You couldn't separate yourself from them. Turning it into what Jake Abel calls the "love box" instead of the love triangle really came about because of his character. When I originally outlining the story, and first working on it, I had pictured a bittersweet end to it where Wanda's still in love with Jared but she's doing the right thing for her family and how things should be done and she's sort of living in this sacrifice, which would have been great. I probably should have written it that way but I have this happy ending problem.
The character of Ian was not supposed to be a main character or have anything to do with romance in the story. But, I just couldn't… he was supposed to be the bad guy but the character kept thinking about, "But why is it fair to treat her this way? She hasn't done anything to us personally?" He just matured a lot and kept asking questions, which doesn't make a lot of sense, except to other writers. They know how these characters kind of come alive and don't always do the thing you want them to do. So the character became interested in Wanda as a person. And because she's such a good person, it was kind of inevitable that he would fall in love with her. So that just sort of happened in the course of the writing. I really do love the characters that develop themselves almost separately from you. I don't have to do any work with them, they're very easy. That's how it ended up being a love box. Because Ian was a thinker.
The Host arrives in theaters March 29, 2013. More information, photos and videos from the film can be found in our Blend Film Database.
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