It's rare enough to write a book and see it become a hit, and rarer still to see that book become a series of enormously successful movies. But for those movies to be so big that your name itself is enough to sell a film? That's about as exclusive a club as it gets for authors, and Stephenie Meyer is the latest inductee thanks to this weekend's release of The Host, the adaptation of her first novel written after the conclusion of the massive Twilight franchise.
Though The Host centers around a love triangle of sorts, and the main character is a remarkably self-possessed young woman fighting to be with the man who she loves, it's a pretty big transition from the vampire vs. werewolf dramatics of Twilight. Set in the distant future, when aliens called Souls have inhabited the bodies of nearly every human on earth, The Host stars Saoirse Ronan as Melanie, a human who's possessed by the Soul named Wanderer, but who hangs on to life long enough that Wanderer and Melanie eventually get to know each other. When Melanie leads them to the last hideout of the human resistance, Wanderer has trouble getting the humans to be comfortable around her-- but she also managed to strike a romance with Ian (Jake Abel), even while Melanie longs to be together again with Jared (Max Irons).
It's a tricky story, sure, but Meyer's proven already she has what it takes to spin out complex romances. I talked to her in Manhattan last week about her work as producer on The Host and how much more power she had compared to when she first started with the Twilight films, her own sci-fi influences, and how her Mormon faith has influenced story lines in both Twilight and The Host. Check out that and much more below.
You have been on the road with the cast for a long time, and I hear that a prank war has escalated. How long has it been?
Four weeks, five weeks. I don’t know. It was a really long time and so, to spice up the day, they would send these notes that actually were wads of chewed gum and then we would have people bring them bugs because Max has a bug fear, and so there were little things back and forth. The last thing Jake did is he had tweeted everyone to bring ping pong balls and give them to me at the signing, and so I ended up with hundreds and hundreds of ping pong balls everywhere. It was such a pain, but I kept them all in the box and that night at the screening, I gave them to the first three rows of the audience and then they pelted him with them. And he realized that you don’t want to arm me.
I think it’s died down.
You should just threaten to kill him off in the sequel.
I do that all of the time. I keep coming up with things like, “What if we take your arm off and you spend the whole time with a stump. I could make his life really miserable.
You have a lot of power in this situation.
You’re relishing it, clearly.
I mean, he always the power to say, “You know, I’m not going to do your movie,” and then we’re so screwed. So, there’s a balance.
You’ve been involved in the process with The Host since the very, very beginning, and you fought for Andrew Niccol to direct it. I’m curious how that compares to the way the first Twilight started.
Completely different. With the first Twilight, they were actually really nice. A lot of times authors sign their rights away and that’s the last they hear until they go and see the movie, probably on their own dime, most of the time. [Summit] let me look at the script when it was done. I gave a few notes. I don’t know that a lot of them were implemented, because it was kind of at a late stage. Most of the actors were picked before, and then they would tell me about it. I think a lot of the fans felt like, of course I would get to pick things and that my involvement was a lot more, because I got a lot of letters, like, “Why did you pick this,” and “How come we don’t have this in the movie?”
Oh, and I can name one thing they did change. They didn’t have Edward playing the piano in the final script and I said, “You know, everybody is waiting for that...for Bella’s lullaby. That’s the one I get the most commentary about that people are waiting to see,” and they did go back and put that in, which I thought was really, really lovely of them and it made the fans very happy.
But with The Host, it was the experience that I think people think you’re having, where I was involved with everything. Nick Wechsler was the producer, and it’s a very organic, common sense process, like, “Stephenie knows what everything should be like, so let’s see what she thinks about things.”
So, did he come to you and ask for the book rights?
It wasn’t even like, “I want to buy the book rights.” It was like, “I think we can make this movie together,” from the very beginning and I was like, “I don’t think this movie can be made, because honestly, the book is a conversation inside one person’s head. It’s just not visual.” And he said, “If we find the right person, they’ll have a way." To me it was like, “This is ridiculous. It’s never going to happen,” but he’s so positive, like, “We can make this happen.”
By the end of Twilight was your experience more similar to that, by the time Breaking Dawn came along?
It was more similar. I was more involved, definitely with the script phase, I got to put notes in much earlier. With the casting, I as much more involved, but we had our main cast, which is 90% of the movie. So, it was fun to get to pick these other, you know, be involved in getting Lee Pace, which was really cool, though the cut one of his big moments. I really hope it comes into the extras at some point. Working with all of those actors are some really fun people, but it’s not the same as saying our main character will be Saoirse Ronan, because that dictates everything. You know, and they did a really great job with the first Twilight, so it wasn’t a huge hardship not to have been involved in that, and we had the right actors, but it was really cool to be a part of that with The Host.