Rising star, Brenton Thwaites, plays the coveted role as the young receiver in “The Giver,” based on the beloved novel by Lois Lowry.
The story follows the young man Jonas in a colorless dystopian with total order and contentment. As he was chosen to spend time with The Giver, the keeper of the community’s memories, he started to discover the secret past of the human race.
Latino-Review had an exclusive one-one-one interview with the young actor about playing the character, including the changes made from book to screen. We discussed about keeping the original vision, aging the characters, working with babies, etc.
“The Giver” is currently in theaters.
Read the full transcript interview below.
Latino-Review: What attracted you to this project?
Brenton Thwaites: Well, it’s the fact that it is a beloved book by millions of people in the world. That’s number one. Number two is the opportunity to work with Jeff [Bridges] and Phil [Noyce], who were the only ones attached at the time. I’ve known Phil from the prior year from an audition on another project that I was unsuccessful for. It’s the chance to tell a hot, passionate story. It’s very unique and I’ve never seen anything like this.
Latino-Review: Did you read the book or the script first?
Brenton Thwaites: [I read] the script first and then read the book.
Latino-Review: There are a lot of differences from the book and the script itself. Did you appreciate the changes?
Brenton Thwaites: Yeah, the changes really enhanced the love story. There are some really nice things in the book that had to be left out for translation. There are things in the book that wouldn’t really translate to the screen well.
Latino-Review: Like what?
Brenton Thwaites: For instance, there’s a scene where Jonas washes an older woman. If you read that scene—it’s very sweet and soft. It’s a lovely moment when a young person connects with an old person. In this community, one of the lovely things about it—is the relationship between the young and the old. We don’t really have that now. I feel like that Lois [Lowry] is really trying to educate us on that subject.
Latino-Review: In this movie, it’s a lot different. You’re the old person nurturing the young and the babies. How did you felt about that?
Brenton Thwaites: It was great! It was a great feeling to be able to nurture a baby. At the start, I was very anxious and quite scared. As the movie went on, I got more comfortable. It was a great feeling to make a baby stop crying and a horrible thing to make a baby start crying. [Laughter]
It was wild shooting with those kids. They were such good actors and they didn’t even know it.
Latino-Review: Yeah, you seemed to be very good around kids.
Brenton Thwaites: I love kids. I try to keep that playful childish energy as much as I can or maybe a little too much. I get so much from kids because they’re so innocent. They’re so willing to learn and they have these opened eyes. Around kids, there are no excuses and you’ll have to work with them. If you’re not funny, then they won’t laugh. There are no disclaimers.
Latino-Review: In the book, the main character is supposed to be a twelve-year-old. But, in the movie, they made the character into a seventeen or eighteen-year-old on screen. For yourself, you’re not a teenager yourself—so how did that all worked out?
Brenton Thwaites: When I first read the screenplay, I thought, “This is wild.” I can’t do this. This kid is too young. They aged up the character since obviously I wasn’t going to play a character that was half my age. Even at fourteen or fifteen, I was thinking it was too young.
Then they played around with the idea that he was finishing high school. That attracted me a little more to the project. It’s the crossroads for teenagers when they finish high school—there’s an abundance of choices that could be made. And these kids are assigned to their jobs.
It also made it more interesting [at this age] to make Jonas to fight for love. With a young crush, he’s a little bit more believable to be in love if he’s older.
There are a bunch of other reasons—filming reasons—that I don’t really know of. But, it all made sense in my mind.
Latino-Review: It must be a compliment to know they think you’re still youthful looking.
Brenton Thwaites: Yes! [Laughter] I don’t know on how long I could get away with playing teenage kids. I think this maybe will be the last one.
Latino-Review: With Odeya [Rush], could you talk about that awkward kiss? Obviously, they wanted to gear this movie with more romantic elements to it. I’m referring to the scene that you lean over to kiss her. To me, it looked pretty awkward.
Brenton Thwaites: It’s supposed to be awkward. I’ve never done that before. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. We had to find that balance to be very reluctant to act on my emotions. So it fully trusts my gut in that moment. Love is the strongest feeling that comes through.
I feel that it’s supposed to feel like it’s a little strange. It’s the feeling for the very first time.
Latino-Review: What was it like to work with such great veteran actors like Meryl Streep and Jeff [Bridges]? I mean when I rode with Jeff on the elevator this afternoon—I was just in awe. [Laughter]
Brenton Thwaites: Oh, yeah. He has a great energy around him, doesn’t he? I love Jeff. He’s probably one of the greatest actors I’ll ever have to work with. He has such a great sense of fun on how he works. He really enjoys on what he does. To look at someone who has worked in this industry for many years, it was a discovery that he would have so much joy towards his work. It’s really calming and relaxing. I really love what I do, but it’s easy to get caught up in it all. It’s quite stressful. You’re worried about your performance and what you’re doing. You’re a bit self-conscious here and there. With Jeff, he inspires you to release all of that.
Latino-Review: What was the most difficult thing you had to do on production for yourself?
Brenton Thwaites: I say it was with a lot of the journey scenes. It’s with the journey from a desert environment going into a mountainous environment and then to a snowy environment. It was physically quite hard.
Mentally, I would say getting all of those memory scenes. It was difficult to differentiate the memories in each scene. I would get a memory and we would shoot the memory later down the line. And then we had to come back to me having the memory—so I had to work with Phil to iron out the specifics on what I’ve seen or on what I’m about to do. It’s almost like I had to pre-examine on what I was going to do in the memories. We shot them and had little room within the boundaries I’ve created for myself.
Latino-Review: What would you say to book fans since they’re really loyal to the book? Now they know there’s a moving coming out, what reactions have you noticed so far?
Brenton Thwaites: We all started to film and we are all book fans too. We’re with those guys. I think this movie sticks quite closely to the story. It doesn’t venture too far off. The main story plots are still in the film. I think they’re all going to like that.
However, by saying that, it’s a new art and a new form. In this book, you’ll feel like it’s being told through Jonas’ head. There’s only so much voiceover you can do before you explain it to the audience beat by beat. So there’s little character developments and I think they stick quite closely Lois’ original idea.
Latino-Review: Hey, terrific. Thanks very much for this conversation.
Brenton Thwaites: Thanks!
“The Giver” is currently in theaters.