It took years, but “The Giver” is finally on screen.
Based on the best-selling young adult novel written 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 interview with the young actress Odeya Rush earlier this month. We discussed about her character in the film, which was greatly expanded from the novel. And on how she approached her this complex role with Phillip Noyce’s direction.
“The Giver” is currently in theaters.
Read the full transcript below.
Latino-Review: Tell me on what attracted you to this project.
Odeya Rush: After reading the script, I was blown away. I was excited by this character. There are not a lot of parts like this for people my age. It’s not a typical script you would get, especially with Jeff Bridges and Phillip Noyce attached to it. Meryl [Streep] joins in afterwards. It’s over the story and the people involved.
Latino-Review: Did you have the chance to read the book before the script? Or did you read the script first?
Odeya Rush: No, I read the script. I loved both just as much. There’s something that Lois [Lowry] did in the book that kind of hits you. As a kid, your parents will tell you to appreciate moments and enjoy things. You kind of take things for granted and you don’t appreciate certain things. To be reading this book and going through this journey with Jonas by experiencing both in terms of not having anything and having everything—you do realize how important and how beautiful life is. We’ve done it through the movie too.
Latino-Review: What do you like about your character?
Odeya Rush: It’s the arc that she has. She starts out being naïve and happy—not really aware that this is being a bad community. She is in a great peaceful place. Once she stops taking her injections and Jonas convinces her, she’s really confused and doesn’t understand on what feelings are. She doesn’t get on what love is. She doesn’t get on what warmth is.
Once Jonas leaves, it all turns into anger. She sees all the sides like the chief elder, the mother or Asher. The whole movement of being neutral and happy changed suddenly. It was going from feeling joy to feeling pain to feeling anger. It’s all through one film.
Latino-Review: Is it difficult to play a character that was oblivious in the beginning and then frustrated towards the end?
Odeya Rush: I didn’t know how it was going to be until I saw the movie, because Phil would do a take and say, “Keep it all inside. Be very calm in this.” And then in another scene, he would say to look at Jonas with so much love. We do a take when he would say, “Now you’re joking with him.” So have a sense of humor in this one.
He would try out so many different things. Once he puts it together, he would put the takes on where I’m a little bit calmer in the beginning of the movie. The scene at the end where I’m talking to mother—I think they took the most powerful moments from that day. So we tried everything.
Latino-Review: Your character is a lot different from the book. Please explain that a little bit more.
Odeya Rush: I’m still caring and nurturing. I’m still the symbol of love for Jonas. She’s assigned to the house of the old in the book. In the movie, she’s assigned to take care of babies. There’s still that nurturing, caring touch there. I think she’s more developed and expanded. She’s been written about her a few times in the book. In the movie, she’s really expanded and becomes more complex. You see a lot of different shades of Fiona in which you don’t really see in the book.
Latino-Review: How did you feel that it changed from the book from caring for the old to caring for young little babies?
Odeya Rush: It’s a little bit better. You just look at a baby and you’ll have to smile. It just makes you happy. It’s just nicer to watch in a movie with all these cute and adorable babies. It’s more cinematic and more appropriate in a way. I love the babies.
Latino-Review: Like your character, are you very nurturing?
Odeya Rush: Yeah. I have four younger brothers and I took care of them. I’m a little bossy as some might say. That doesn’t have to do with anything with babies, but it’s a quality that I have. I love kids and I take care of people. Maybe it’s my Israeli side. It’s with me making sure that everyone is fed and everyone is good. It’s something that I have in me.
Latino-Review: Compared to the book, there’s a little more of a romantic tinge in the movie. Could you talk about the chemistry between you and Brenton [Thwaites]? And a little bit about the romantic expansion for the film?
Odeya Rush: Well, it wasn’t really hard. Brenton is really funny, cool and really laid back. I’m like that too. We got along off the first chemistry read we had. We had fun together. Since we’re a little older [in the movie], instead of a little crush, he’s really in love. So he’s so in love and he will see that everyone in the community is deprived of this love. It just makes the community seems to be more cruel.
In the book, by being a twelve-year-old and with a little crush, you don’t really fully experience love. What are you going to do with a twelve-year-old? It makes the whole community seems more harsh. It just makes it seem like taking love away seems more cruel.
Latino-Review: Talk about that awkward kiss in the movie that you had in the movie.
Odeya Rush: The beginning of the movie? Which one?
Latino-Review: Oh? Were there several awkward kisses?
Odeya Rush: [Laughter] We didn’t really have an awkward kiss.
Latino-Review: I was referring to when he leaned over to you and you didn’t know what to expect.
Odeya Rush: Well…..
Latino-Review: That was an awkward kiss.
Odeya Rush: It’s her experiencing a kiss for the first time. For me, my first time wasn’t that weird. [Laughter] I knew it was coming.
It wasn’t the kiss that was hard. It was channeling all those emotions into one. Phil gave me fifteen directions into one. He said, “You’re confused. You like it. You’re scared. You’re mad at him. But, you want to stay.” Somehow they made it worked in the movie where I’m scared by it, intrigued, and want to know more about it. It was just a confusing state of mind.
Latino-Review: How did the fans reacted to you when they found out you’re in the movie? Fans are quite die-hard about the book. They are going to have a strong reaction to this.
Odeya Rush: Fans I’ve met have been awesome and told me that they loved the movie. I think that if Lois says it’s okay—then you can’t really get mad about it. When Lois came to set, I was like “Are you okay with the way I look? Are you okay with this dress?” She’s happy about this.
I haven’t got that many negative reactions about this especially after I was first cast. After I dyed my hair and people see the movie, they’ll accept it for what it is. Don’t get mad before you watch the movie. You’ll have to see it first.
Latino-Review: Your hair is exceptionally red.
Odeya Rush: Yeah, I dyed it like nine times. They couldn’t decide on the color and we ended up back to the original one in the first place. And I’ve cut it. My hair went through a lot for this movie.
Latino-Review: One of the things about this movie is about memories. What would be your favorite memory to relive and remember in your lifetime?
Odeya Rush: When I lived in America for a year with my dad, I remembered picking up my younger brothers and mom from the airport. It was simply the anticipation of them coming. We were waiting and I was looking at this escalators coming down. At the beginning of the escalators, you could only see the feet. I was like—is that them? Is that them? Then I saw these eight little feet and someone fighting with the bag with my mom. I remembered seeing all of them. One of [my brothers] took the stairs where he ran down the stairs and I ran up to him. They all jumped on me and we all hugged.
I just remembered that day so well. It was such a happy moment for all of us. It was a good day.
Latino-Review: Anyways, thank you very much for this interview.
Odeya Rush: Thank you.
“The Giver” is currently in theaters.