For Stephenie Meyer, writing The Host was her vacation
Stephenie Meyer attends the premiere of The Host in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
It's only been four months since the last movie based on her immensely popular vampire-love-werewolf-imprinting book series hit a theatre near you and yet Stephenie Meyer is back at it. Embarking on a press tour to promote The Host, the best-selling author and producer is well aware that this tale, of body-inhabiting aliens (called Souls) inhabiting a futuristic Earth that's barely recognizable, could be the next Twilight but she shows no signs of fatigue.
We spoke to the author and mother of three on the phone from Vancouver about why she didn't take a break, what a "love box" is and why having director Andrew Niccol on board helped convince her the movie could be made.
Read our Q&A with Stephenie Meyer before The Host hits Cineplex theatres March 29.
CINEPLEX: How did the idea for The Host come to you? I believe it came out in 2008…
STEPHENIE MEYER: "Yes. But I actually wrote it, I think mostly, in 2006."
CINEPLEX: So 2008 is also when the first Twilight was also hitting theatres. By that time, didn't you need a vacation?
SM: "I was editing Eclipse and the first books had come out and I'd started touring for them, which I found really scary and a lot of pressure. [Laughs] When I was working on the next 'Twilight' novel, I knew it was going to be published, I knew people were going to see it and that was a lot of pressure. I went through a very strange phase of like total stage fright with every word that someone was going to see it. So 'The Host,' right then…I just wanted to be able to write just for myself without having to worry about what other people were going to think. So it was my vacation. [Laughs]"
CINEPLEX: You touched on the pressure you felt writing and it's true that now, having your name attached does bring with it certain expectations. Do you feel the weight of those expectations?
SM: "Well, it's a real double-edged sword; on the one hand, if Twilight hadn't been so successful, probably no one would have made The Host so you know you've got to be grateful for that opportunity. But there's a lot of baggage that comes with Twilight, a lot of expectation but The Host is a completely different project. It's completely different and also really, really beautiful, the performances are just, Saoirse Ronan in particular is amazing and I'd hate [this one] to be saddled with people who don't like Twilight so they feel like this one must be bad, you know?"
CINEPLEX: There is naturally going to be comparisons between this book and Twilight but you've replaced the love triangle between Bella, Edward and Jacob with something you've been referring to as the love box. Can you explain?
SM: I mean, you see the poster and immediately think, Oh this looks like Twilight. Which I think is kind of unfortunate because you have to remember that on that poster, there are four people. You see three but there are actually four so what we have going on, the real love triangle, is actually two girls and one boy. Because you have Wanda and you have Melanie [Saoirse Ronan] and they're both in love with Jared [Max Irons]. And there's that conflict there, but once Ian [Jake Abel] gets involved, then you have two different relationships developing. And it's a really nuanced thing that Saoirse has to do, to remind you that who she is when she is with different people and she does such a good job.
| (Saoirse Ronan and Max Irons share a scene in The Host (Courtest of eOne)
CINEPLEX: This is certainly a departure from the fantasy-romance world. How did this sci-fi story come to you?
SM: "When I was kid, we always drove, so we'd driving in the car for like 12 hours at a time in a big van full of kids and there weren't DVD [players] in vans back then and I have really bad motion sickness so I couldn't read: it was very boring. So to preserve my sanity, I would tell myself stories and that's the genesis of how I eventually became a writer, it's just that I always liked to tell myself stories. And The Host came about when I was on another trip, I was driving, the kids in the back and they had TVs and they were all being quiet, and I forget why my husband wasn't with me but he flew up to meet me later, so it's just me for hours, with nothing to look at, and I was so bored. So I started telling myself stories and it sort of happened to evolve into the story of The Host. I sort of realized, 'Oh wait, I have actually a really good potential idea for a story' and I had the idea of two people, one body, in love with the same person and all of the conflict so I started fleshing out the world where that would happen and I think it's kind of natural that it was a science-fiction story because that was always my favourite. I was never really into horror."
CINEPLEX: How soon did discussions start to bubble up about movie adaptations and was there any hesitation knowing it would be another full-on, Twilight experience?
SM: "You know I really didn't think it was filmable. I mean, obviously I've been proven wrong and I'm happy that it turned out so well. But it mostly takes place in one person's mind and that's kind of tricky but Nick Wechsler, who's kind of the head producer, came to me and said, 'I can make this into a movie' and I was hesitant. I thought, I don't see how it would be. And he said, 'Well, that's the director's problem.' And he said, 'What is your favourite science-fiction movie and I said, 'Gattaca, hands down.' And he said 'Oh well, Andrew Niccol, fantastic! Let's see if he'll do it' and I really didn't think he would and when he came on board, he understood how to do it. And it wasn't as big a challenge as a lot of people felt like it was. He saw it and how it worked and he was pretty much dead on. He knew the main thing we needed was a really, really great actress."
CINEPLEX: So how involved were you in casting?
SM: Really involved. They came to me and said, what about Saoirse Ronan and I said I think that she's too young. And they didn't say, 'Oh well, sorry, we're gonna go with her.' They said, 'Go watch Hanna and we'll talk about this.' And I watched Hanna and I was like, Oh, I totally get it. We have to have her. It was my decision to go ahead with her and it was really great, the collaboration between the three of us where we all agreed on everything that we went forward with."
CINEPLEX: Will Twilight movies fans be surprised by The Host?
SM: I think so. I mean, we've done fan screenings a few places around the U.S. and we're going to do some more in Europe, and the response has been really great. I mean, people were quite a bit surprised because it feels a bit different and they all really fell in love with the characters."
CINEPLEX: Has any of the main cast of The Host asked you for advice about how to deal with potential Twilight-level fandom?
SM: None of them really think that way. They're all so into their jobs, they're all actors so what they care about is what they leave on the screen; it's not their job for this to do well. I mean, I think that they have had a little forewarning, in case it takes off, there are some challenges to your life in that, but I don't think anybody's really thinking about that."
CINEPLEX: What can people expect from The Host?
SM: I think that if you're familiar with Andrew Niccol, Gattaca and his other movies, you'll have the sense of the look of it; if you're familiar with Saoirse Ronan, then you'll have the sense of the caliber of the acting you're going to see and I think as far as the story goes, it's a lot more about being human than it is about being an alien. I think people will be able to relate to that."