The Maze Runner – Kaya Scodelario interview

Currently riding high at the box office, The Maze Runner follows the story of a group of teenagers who find themselves trapped in a vast glade, each with no recollection on how they got there. Their only hope of escape is to find a way though an immense, ever-changing maze that surrounds them, and the monsters that lurk within.

The first part of a trilogy of books by James Dashner, the film stars some of the brightest young actors this side of The Hunger Games. As the only female member in a cast that includes Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) and Dylan O’Brian (Teen Wolf), Skin’s Kaya Scodelario is doing it for the girls. We met the young actress recently in London to find out the pressures of being the only girl in a boys club, and living up to the expectations of a fiercely loyal fanbase…

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Did you have knowledge of the books before you signed up for this film?   My cousins had read the books, so I knew of them. Then when we started shooting I read the first one, but I knew that something happened to my character in the second book, so I deliberately avoided looking at it. None of the characters in this film know anything about themselves to begin with, so I didn’t want to spoil it by reading ahead. That is great as an actor, because it doesn’t mean we have to spend weeks researching stuff. ‘Oh I have no memory…’ Great! I’ve now read the second one though, and I think Fox could do something really exciting with it.

It’s quite nice because thanks to the popularity of the books the film has its own fanbase already. In a way, you can guarantee people are going to watch the film.   They’re a great fanbase, they’re actually really nice. As far as fanbases go there is no kind of bitchness, no kind of rivalry.  They are all really, really lovely, so we’re lucky that we have such a great fanbase.

You’re the only girl in this film. Was that hard for you or are you a bit of a tom boy?   I am a bit of a tom boy! All my friends are boys, so I like male company. Imagine if it was ten girls… (laughs)… I doubt it would have been as much fun. I love hanging out with them and I love their company, they’re really funny. It was one of the most fun film sets I’ve worked on.

Speaking of the film set, you filmed in Louisiana during the summer – I’ve heard the weather was intensely hot…   Yes, it was a lot more intense than I was expecting, actually.  But it’s great because it works for the movie; the sweat you see is real. We are all about to collapse, and that’s how it should be. So it was really tough. I think the bugs were the toughest part.  Louisiana was also the only place where four of the most venomous snakes in America lived, so we had to have a guy who would go out into the fields in the morning and he’d catch five or six a day. If they bit you, they could kill you, so that added an extra element of danger to the situation. But it was good, you can never beat being on location, it’s so important.

So you weren’t ever tempted to camp out then?   Funny you should say that, but we did actually! We camped out one kaya2night; I was determined to do it. Some of the boys were a bit funny about it, but I convinced them to do it. So we were all out in this tent, having a great time and chatting away, roasting marshmallows and dancing around the campfire. Then suddenly it went really quiet and we heard a gunshot in the distance from one of the landowners, so we started to get a bit freaked out.  Then it started to rain, and it didn’t stop for about six hours, and we ended up being evacuated because it was a flash flood. So none of us slept, there were about ten of us in this tent, just shaking in fear.

Nice. Sounds like an experience! So what did you guys do for fun? Did you get the chance to go to New Orleans?   Yes we did – it was amazing. We had a party bus, which was a bright pink old American school bus which was made furry on the inside. It had a stripper pole in it, so all the boys would show off and spin around while we were in it.  New Orleans is a great city, especially for the English guys, it felt a bit more like home, it felt more European.

It’s on my bucket list of places to visit.   You should go – you would love it!

Have you ever thought that if this film does well, you could be… the new Jennifer Lawrence?   I’ve met Jennifer before and she’s a lovely person. At the end of the day it is all about how much effort you put into things. If this movie takes off then that is a scary and exciting thought, but I just have to look at it as any other job, it’s about what’s on screen and that’s all that matters. Whatever happens after you deal with then. We just wanted to make a really good film. However popular it may be, none of us know.

What actresses inspire you when it comes to work?   A lot of actresses inspire me, but I think when it comes to people, I take my inspiration from my friends. I’ve got friends with daughters who are struggling to find work yet still going strong, that’s what inspires me more. As women, that who inspires me. I’m sure there are a lot of actresses who are incredible women, but I don’t know them personally. Workwise, I think Jennifer’s go an incredible career, she’s done it well and she’s very classy. Her work speaks volumes, which is really great.

So was it always a dream of yours to be an actress?   Yes always. It was the only thing I enjoyed doing, that I felt happy doing. I used to be very shy, and acting was the only thing I felt I could do in front of people. It was the only thing I would ever put my hand up in class for.

Do you enjoy all the red carpet glitz and glamour that comes with being in a Hollywood film?   Yes, but it’s more difficult for an actress and you are expected to be stylish and beautiful at all times. I’m learning to appreciate that side a lot more, I’m getting into fashion a lot more now, but at first when I was fourteen years old I had no idea. I remember I had one pair of shoes that I would wear to every event, just because they were my pair of shoes, and then someone put all these pictures of me up on the internet wearing just the same pair of shoes. I had a hard time because of that, and I remember being really upset and crying. I liked those shoes, why shouldn’t I wear them more than once.

kaya1You are a very independent person. Does this translate into the parts that you choose to play?   Yeah I always go for interesting roles; I could never just be the girl in the school that people fancy, or the bitchy girl. I enjoy how the human mind works, and the reasons why we do things, so I like exploring that a lot. That is the reason why I am so excited about the second book, and my character has to make this decision and some people may not necessarily agree with it, and I think that’s interesting to work out why she is brave enough or stupid enough to do it. So I always look for parts that can get you thinking, and I feel that I’ve been lucky so far – I’ve got to play some interesting girls.

You’ve kept yourself grounded as well; the fame doesn’t seem to have gone to your head.   Thanks. I think we were lucky with Skins, so we didn’t have to be squeaky clean. We didn’t have to do that whole Disney image of being perfect, we were allowed to be normal kids. Being in England is not as intense as America. I can go to my local shops and people understand that is where you are from, and they respect that and leave you alone. I think people that seek fame go to a certain place where they know there is going to be cameras there. If that’s what you want to do then that’s great, but I’d much rather be in the park with my friends or be at my mum’s house talking about their lives. That’s how I feel grounded.

What do you do in your spare time?   I spend it in London. North London, Camden Town and Hampstead Heath. I just like relaxing and seeing friends. I haven’t had a lot of free time recently, so I’ve kinda forgotten what it feels like, but I just enjoy being at home relaxing. And my boyfriend lives in New York so I am going to be spending a lot of time there, which I am really excited about.

That’s a hell of a commute…   I know, yeah. Well its new – we’ve been together for a month, so we’re going to see what happens. But it’s fun, right?

There you go – an exclusive. New boyfriend in New York!   Exactly. We’ll see how it goes, but I think it’s nice to have to fight for it. We have to work to make it work.

And on that note, thank you for your time and I wish you all the best for the future.

Mark Pilkington

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