Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush Interview, Stars of “The Giver”

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L to R, Alexi Rabin, intern for Sarah’s BackstagePass, Odeya Rush, Brenton Thwaites and Sarah Knight Adamson Photo taken at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago

The Giver Film Interviews: Brenton Thwaites talks about Jeff Bridges and his guidance on the set of The Giver. Odeya Rush chats about Meryl Streep’s filmmaking advice and Taylor Swift’s off-camera piano playing.
The Giver is an award-winning and beloved 1993 young adult novel by Lois Lowry that will open soon as a major Hollywood film. Jeff Bridges was instrumental in bringing the book to the silver screen and stars as “The Giver.” Jonas, played by Brenton Thwaites, and Fiona, played by Odeya Rush, were in Chicago for interviews to promote the film. We met at the Four Seasons Hotel. They were delightful and eager to talk about working with stars Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, and Taylor Swift.

Sarah Knight Adamson:  Brenton, how would you describe your character’s personality?

Brenton Thwaites:  He’s intelligent, has integrity, courage, and, as per mentioned in the book by Lois Lowry, has the capacity to see beyond.

SKA:  As The Receiver, you work very closely with The Giver, played by Jeff Bridges. Did he give you any acting advice?

BT:   He did. He gave me a lot in the form of acting with me. It was more just working with him in general and the relationship we developed on screen was something that I had never really done before.

SKA:   Sure. I could see that in the film. There was definitely chemistry between you two.

BT:   Yeah. It was a great space to work in.

SKA:  Sure. If you could tell me just a couple words to describe his personality?

BT:  Intelligent, relaxed, funny, playful.

SKA:  Your role, Fiona, requires that you nurture newborn babies. How did you prepare for that?

Odeya Rush:  I have four younger brothers. They were all babies at one point. I helped my mom take care of them. I love children and I love babies. Also, when I was in South Africa, I volunteered at a hospital and I spent time with young mothers, with the nurses, and with the babies just to get into the character. To get the natural touch. The first scene where Fiona just naturally can get the baby to stop crying. I think Phil (director Phillip Noyce) just wanted me to learn little tricks that nurses do. That makes the audience believe that I am destined to do this job.

SKA:   Yes. It was very authentic, very realistic.

OR:  Thanks.

SKA:  I have to talk about Meryl Streep, of course. What was she like to work with? Did she give you any advice?

OR:    She’s amazing. I think just from watching her, you’re just so inspired because she’s so free, vulnerable, and open. She did say, “Oh yeah, I still get nervous right before this sometimes.” I think knowing that makes you feel a little bit less nervous, knowing that even someone like Meryl can get nervous. She’s just an amazing, very grounded person that you can talk to about anything. It’s not like she’s staying in character completely. She can break and laugh. I think also how involved she was in this project.

SKA:  Fantastic.

OR:   There was a line that Meryl suggested that should be cut out because of what it suggested because some people won’t relate to it, or won’t understand it. Meryl and Jeff weren’t just concerned about their roles, but also about the entire story. They’re so involved and collaborative.

SKA:   Can you give me a couple, two or three words to describe Meryl?

OR:   I think fearless, genuine, and mesmerizing.

SKA:  Thank you, that’s great. Your character is wonderful. I read that you feel that she’s confused, with all this new information. But I was rooting for her to trust. Can you speak about your role a little bit with that?

OR:  My character is the only one who’s not completely like The Giver and Jonas where she gets these memories and feelings and completely understands everything. But I’m not like the other people in the society because, at one point, I do stop taking my injections. I’m not fully there, but I still feel a little bit of something and I’m trying to understand what is happening. I think once I do, it’s too late, and it just turns into anger towards the chief elder and towards Katie Holmes’ character, Mother.

SKA:  Yes, Katie Holmes.

OR:   Yeah. She’s really great. Just so sweet. Whenever she was there, we stayed at the same hotel. We would always get dinner together and I saw her in New York afterwards.

SKA:  Brenton, how did you prepare for your role?

BT:  There wasn’t any time to prepare. I was on a plane to South Africa before I could blink. Before I could say “Giver.”

SKA:  Like, I’m there. Okay, I can do this.

BT:   The biggest preparation for me was the auditions. That was my original preparation because there were so many of them.

SKA:  Sure.

BT:    Me and Phillip developed a working relationship. We talked about the character a lot and changed a lot of stuff for the following auditions. Then, when we got to South Africa, we obviously rehearsed for a couple of weeks.

SKA:  The memory scenes during the filming were incredible. Did you ever stop and just re-evaluate memories as such? I did; the film was so powerful.

BT:  Yeah, I personally did. The biggest one for me was war because I’ve never seen war or experienced war. I’ve got friends in the war.

SKA:  Right.

BT:    In a way, it was an honor to play someone that was in wartime. But I just had no idea what it would really be like to fear for your life constantly.

SKA:   What message do you hope that kids or teens take away from this film? I know there are several messages in it, but do you have one that you are hoping?

OR:  I think what you just said. I feel like the fact that that’s the message you took away, I think that means we did a lot of things right. Or Phil and everybody else did a lot of things right. Say “we,” because I don’t know what I did.

SKA:  You were a part of this, a big part of it.

OR:  But I think a lot of times in life, as we’re growing up, our parents are telling us, appreciate this moment, don’t take this for granted and you say okay. It’s easier said than done and you don’t really understand it. But, as a kid, reading this book or watching this movie, you feel that through Jonas’ journey because you feel he goes through the cycle of not having something and then having it, then seeing people who don’t have it and then fighting for it. We need to really appreciate and celebrate all these little things we have in life that we take for granted.

SKA:  Sure. What was it like being on the set?

OR:  South Africa was so beautiful. I think the energy that was on the set was mainly Phillip Noyce. The passion that he has, and just this drive to never stop. He’d always be thinking about the film, no matter what he’s doing. I think he’s like dreaming about it, showering, eating; everything is just The Giver.

SKA:  Taylor Swift, I almost didn’t recognize her in the film with her dark hair. I’m like, okay wait, I know who that is.

OR:  Until she plays the piano.

SKA:  Yes, she does. Did she play off set? I know Lenny Kravitz in The Hunger Games was known for his iPod in the trailer. They’d all go to him to hear songs. Did she do any of that?

OR:  Yeah, she did. We had one night at the hotel where she was playing piano and singing. Our writer, Michael Mitnick, would make up songs on the spot and Jeff and Brenton would play guitar and I would sing. Just had a big musical cast.

SKA:  How fun! I want to thank you both for speaking with us today and I want to wish you the best of luck with the film.

OR:  Thank you.

BT:  Thanks.

Sarah Knight Adamson© August 4, 2014