Synopsis: What if everything you love was taken from you in the blink of an eye? "The Host" is the next epic love story from the creator of the "Twilight Saga," worldwide bestselling author, Stephenie Meyer. When an unseen enemy threatens mankind by taking over their bodies and erasing their memories, Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) will risk everything to protect the people she cares most about — Jared (Max Irons), Ian (Jake Abel), her brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and her Uncle Jeb (William Hurt), proving that love can conquer all in a dangerous new world.
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Frances Fisher
Director: Andrew Niccol
Running Length: TBD
With a streamlined adaptation complete, the filmmakers could turn their attention to finding a young actress with enough depth and skill to create Melanie-Wanda, a character with one body and two voices. “When we discussed the idea of the dual consciousness with Andrew, we were pleased that he completely agreed with us,” says Wechsler. “He thought it was strictly a matter of performance.”
Around that time, Wechsler attended a screening of Hanna, with the young Irish actress Saoirse Ronan in the title role. “About 20 minutes into the movie, the hair on the back of my neck stood up, because Saoirse Ronan was clearly the one,” he says. “There weren’t many people I thought could pull off playing two characters in one body, but she could.”
He contacted Meyer and the other filmmakers, urging them to see the movie as soon as possible. “I’d always pictured the character being between 25 and 30. But watching Saoirse in Hanna immediately changed my mind. She can do anything and we needed an actress who could play two really different characters. Melanie is all action and so tough, while Wanda embodies the peaceful Soul radiating calm and kindness.”
Niccol says they never seriously considered another actress for the role. “We didn’t have a Plan B. Once I’d seen Saoirse in Hanna, I knew I wanted her to play this part. There’s something inherently truthful about her. I don’t know anyone else who could play Wanda and Melanie with as much empathy as Saoirse.”
“It’s a bravura performance as anyone who sees it will discover,” says Steve Schwartz. “Not only does she pull it off, she makes it look easy.”
Ronan, who was 17 when shooting for The Host commenced, began her film career at the age of 9. In 2007, when she was just 13, she earned Oscar, Golden Globe® and BAFTA nominations for her role as Briony Tallis in Atonement, opposite Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. Already familiar with Meyer’s work from the Twilight series, she quickly read the script that Wechsler sent and talked it over with her dad, actor Paul Ronan.
“We were both really excited by the idea of playing two characters in one film,” she recalls. “It’s an actor’s dream. I was also very intrigued by the story, as well as the idea of working with Andrew Niccol. Every project he’s involved in seems to have a mind-blowing concept behind it. And of course I was excited about working with Stephenie. She was on set almost all of the time and involved with everything.”
“It’s a different kind of story for Stephenie,” the actress observes. “It’s not a love triangle exactly—it’s more a love square because there are four people involved, two in the same body. They’re both in love with different people, which makes it complicated.”
Finding a way to differentiate between two characters inhabiting the same body began with creating a distinctive voice for each. “Saoirse is Irish and she had to play two American accents, one slightly southern from Louisiana and a more generic American one,” says Niccol. “In addition, Wanda is new to the language and the planet. In the beginning, she speaks quite formally, but then learns irony and sarcasm and even the ability to lie from her human host.”
Ronan developed two individual ways of moving. “The walk for each character became important to me. Wanda’s very delicate. She almost floats, whereas Melanie is tough and feisty. I tried to bring that out in the way they hold themselves and even small things like hand gestures.”
Meyer predicts audiences will be astonished by Ronan’s sensitive balancing act. “I hope as many people as possible see her in this role,” the author says. “It’s exciting to imagine where her career will go over the next few years. I can’t wait to see what her next movie is.”
With the film’s most critical role filled, the filmmakers turned their focus to finding the actors who would play the men in her life. The search for Melanie’s and Wanda’s love interests was extensive and Ronan was involved in the casting process for her two leading men from the get-go. “It was essential that we all work well together,” she says. “It’s the first time I’ve been a part of an on-screen romance and I was lucky enough to do it with two people I love being with. Andrew and I were in London when Max Irons, who plays Jared, came in. I was delighted because I already knew him.
“The same thing happened when we met with Jake Abel for the role of Ian,” Ronan continues. “We worked together on a film called The Lovely Bones. It was the first time I had played romantic scenes in a movie and already knowing Jake and Max made it so much more comfortable. Each time, as soon as they left the room, Andrew and I looked at each other and said, ‘It has to be him.’”
Wechsler adds: “We tested as many guys as we needed to until we found the right chemistry. It was obvious right away that Max Irons and Jake Abel were the ones. Max is on the rise professionally. Like so many actors in this piece, we got him just as he is turning the corner from boy to man.”
Irons, who recently appeared opposite Amanda Seyfried in Little Red Riding Hood, has a lengthy show-business pedigree that includes parents Jeremy Irons and Sinéad Cusack, as well as grandfather Cyril Cusack. At his initial meeting, the actor was ready to give up almost before he started. “Auditioning for Andrew and Saoirse was terrifying,” says Irons. “While I was waiting, there were three guys sitting there, all looking like Greek gods. I thought, well, what’s the point, and forgot my lines about eight times. But the chemistry certainly was there with Saoirse, which felt great.
“She is always spot on and perfectly informed,” he continues. “It still amazes me that she was 17 when we shot the film. I worked most closely with her and with William Hurt, two masters of their craft, and both were so humble, patient and generous.”
Irons’ character is facing several almost insurmountable obstacles. “First, humanity as we know it has been wiped out,” he explains. “He has that enormous truth to deal with, as well as knowing that the love of his life, Melanie, has become a Soul. To him, she is dead. When Wanda suddenly appears, it is like a ghost returns. Despite the fact that she’s a Soul, it still looks like the girl he loves. Logic goes out of the window and he is operating on gut and instinct and confusion.”
Like many of the people involved with The Host, Irons is a dyed-in-wool science-fiction fan, but the philosophical questions the film raises were more interesting than the fantasy elements to him. “Would Earth be better without the Souls? The more we learn about them, the more it becomes apparent that, despite the fact that they are essentially parasites, their intentions are much more than that. Are we actually our own worst enemies? If there’s anyone who can write this convincingly, it’s Stephenie. She’s in touch with something that a lot of other people can’t quite get right.”
Throughout the casting process, Meyer was concerned that Ronan’s unforced charisma threatened to eclipse her co-stars. “But the chemistry between Max and Saoirse was just unbelievable,” she says. “He’s able to do so much without saying a word, so you will actually pay attention to him while Saoirse is in the same shot.”
Jake Abel, who has a central role in the Percy Jackson franchise, shares that quality, says the author. “I’ve always loved Jake as an actor. He steals his scenes. You watch him instead of the people you’re supposed to be watching. That kind of presence makes him a really strong leading man.”
The actor says that his character, Ian, distrusts Wanda immediately and would be happy to dispatch the Soul quickly and quietly. Instead he finds himself falling in love with his mortal enemy. “Ian has no fealty to Wanda,” says Abel. “She has to go. She’s a risk to our security and our livelihood. But the more he gets to know her, the more he sees that she’s more human than humans are. Her generosity, her love and her kindness make Ian fall for her. The idea of an interspecies love affair was fun to explore.”
“Jake Abel is one of the few young actors who could convince me that he had fallen in love with an extraterrestrial being,” says Niccol. “You can talk about falling in love with someone’s spirit, but this is a literal example of that.”
Abel makes the transition from dangerous antagonist to selfless romantic with grace, says Meyer. “In the book, he was a sensitive, intellectual guy, as opposed to a real sturdy man like Jake, but Andrew’s idea was to flip the character on its head and have the guy’s guy be the one who falls for an alien creature inside a human. Nobody would expect that.”
Another central character of The Host is the Seeker, a Soul who tracks humans and inserts other Souls into their bodies. Played by Diane Kruger, who has appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and the National Treasure series, this particular Seeker is a bit of an anomaly, lacking the serenity and detachment of her peers. Tormented and driven, she becomes obsessed with unlocking Melanie’s memories and discovering the whereabouts of her surviving loved ones.
“The Seeker had to stand up to Saoirse,” says Meyer. “If you’ve seen Hanna, you understand how challenging that is. Diane and Saoirse are great together. Diane can be so icy and at the same time maintain a warm veneer. She can project a menacing presence when she wants. I thought it was nice to see these two women as the Yin and the Yang, the scary and the strong.”
The German-born Kruger is white-blonde perfection as Melanie-Wanda’s dangerous opponent. “I don’t think Diane has ever played a villain before,” says Niccol. “She has a complexity, which the role needed. There had to be more going on than just playing a bad guy. The Seeker is truly scary because she’s killing with kindness. When she catches a human being, she views it almost as an intervention.”
Kruger says her taste for science fiction made the offer to participate in The Host irresistible. “I was a huge fan of Gattaca, so working with Andrew was a big draw. I love his aesthetic. The movie looks really cool, sleek and modern. And his love for detail is impressive. He’s the kind of director who will move a glass an inch further to the left because he just knows it will look better there.”
Her character’s conflicted motives made the Seeker especially intriguing to play, adds the actress. “Her journey in the movie is really interesting. These aliens are not necessarily the bad guys. Yes, they have invaded the planet and taken over human bodies, but in a way they are perfecting our world. And yet the human mind and the human spirit are so strong that even they have difficulty overcoming that.”
The filmmakers were thrilled to land Oscar® winner and four-time nominee William Hurt for the role of eccentric rebel leader Uncle Jeb. “William Hurt is on the Mount Rushmore of American actors,” says Niccol. “He’s a national treasure and he grounds the movie. Like Saoirse, he is unable to do anything that is not honest.”
Wechsler says watching Hurt play a role of substance was an exhilarating experience. “William is one of the greatest male actors of all times. And he’s been too little seen in the last 10 years. He has a lot in him that will surprise the audience, but what surprised us was how he responded to the material.
“He talked to us about man’s relationship to other species, even species we don’t have on this planet, and about our relationship to the planet and the universe,” the producer continues. “William thinks about those things, so he flipped for the script and was very passionate about being involved.”
Hurt’s initial reaction can be summed up in two words: “wonderful script.”
“There are many, many interesting elements to the screenplay,” he says. “I leapt at the chance to participate because I loved Andrew’s writing. It’s also a privilege to be working with a group of great young actors who are really enthusiastic, open, intelligent, skilled and disciplined.”
For their part, the younger actors were inspired by Hurt’s enthusiasm and talent. “I loved working with William,” says Ronan. “He is such a gifted actor. He was always asking questions, because he truly wants to understand. That helped all of us. William would ask a question about something I thought I had all figured out and the scene suddenly became better.”
Also part of the human resistance is Jeb’s sister and Melanie’s aunt, Maggie, played by Frances Fisher, whose impressive resume includes playing Ruth Dewitt Bukater, Rose’s mother, in James Cameron’s epic, Titanic. “Frances brings something new to every take,” says Niccol. “She has an unexpected quality to her. In each scene, she came in with an idea that took me by surprise. I try to always be open to happy accidents and Frances is the kind of actor who provides them.”
“Having Frances and William tells audiences that this not a young-adult popcorn movie,” adds Wechsler. “It is a movie with depth and breadth that will appeal to everybody.”
Maggie is very suspicious of this creature that looks like her niece, but has the consciousness of a Soul. “Frances is a very sweet woman,” says Ronan. “She’s so maternal. But Maggie is not the nicest person in the world. It was hard to believe that someone so lovely could pull it off, but she did.”
One of Melanie’s major motivations for getting back to her people is her younger brother, Jamie, whom she has protected since their father took his own life rather than be taken by the Souls. The producers watched dozens of video auditions before discovering Chandler Canterbury, who appeared in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as Benjamin at the age of eight. Meyer admits it was rough saying no to so many talented young kids, but Canterbury was the hands-down choice. “His audition was amazing,” she says. “The emotion felt so real that your heart just broke for him.”
Niccol agrees: “He is such an authentic young actor. He could cry on cue. Frankly, he was a revelation.”
Surveying a cast divided between movie veterans and rising stars, Wechsler is 100 percent pleased with the casting choices. “What I know for sure about this movie is that the acting is superb,” he says. “The cast cared so much about their performances and that enabled them to fully inhabit all of the dramatic moments of the film.” BRAVE NEW WORLDS
Well known in the film industry for his extraordinary personal vision, Andrew Niccol has created another new and original world—actually two—as the setting for The Host. Shooting in Louisiana and New Mexico, Niccol and his talented creative team embraced their locations’ unique attributes, from the dank and exquisite swamps near Shreveport to the towering rock formations of the southwestern desert, and created an unusually evocative physical world for the story.
“Andrew Niccol is an acknowledged maestro of visual style,” says producer Paula Mae Schwartz. “The enormous amount of upfront thinking that went into the design of this production was impressive.”
“We have incredible geography and landscapes,” adds Wechsler. “The vast vistas really make it feel like an adventure.”
Niccol credits the original material with providing his inspiration for the film’s look. “Although story is set in the future, I didn’t want the movie to become about hardware,” he says. “The design philosophy for the Souls’ world comes directly out of their philosophy. They don’t change the world; they experience and perfect it.”
Production designer Andy Nicholson, who has worked with a diverse group of directors that includes Tim Burton, Guy Ritchie, Tony Scott, Wolfgang Petersen and Paul Greengrass, welcomed the director’s practiced eye and attention to detail. “You get what he’s after very quickly,” says Nicholson. “The clarity he has is refreshing.”
From the outset, Niccol and Nicholson discussed the effect the Souls would have had on the appearance of a civilization. “One of the ideas we played with was that once the Souls are in control, the culture stops evolving,” recalls Nicholson. “Time effectively stops. The Souls have very advanced medicine and technology, but nothing else advances.”
“They preserve the best of what they find,” explains Niccol. “But their design philosophy is quite modest. The clothing, housing and cars are not at all flashy.”
The exceptions to that rule are the Seekers. “They wear white and use chrome high performance vehicles, which makes them stand out from the others,” says Niccol. “The affinity for chrome comes from their natural form, which is a similar substance.”
The Seekers’ cars, helicopters and motorcycles are all clad in spotless metal. “The chrome car is one of the most exciting images Andrew showed me at the start of the movie,” says Nicholson. “They’re stunning looking vehicles and in the desert, you get a fantastic reflection of the blue sky and the ground. Getting them chromed was another matter. There are only a couple of companies that have the chrome wrapping technology.”
Niccol selected the sleek and sexy Lotus Evora as the Seekers’ vehicle of choice. “The lines echo the pods in which the souls travel between worlds,” says the designer. “We have five in the film and when they are all in the same scene, it is just stunning.”
The Seekers’ distinctive cream-colored clothing is an outgrowth of Niccol’s vision of perfectionism in the world of Souls. “All of our looks for the Souls are an image of something perfected,” says costume designer Erin Benach. “The fit had to be impeccable and the color palette very controlled. For the Seekers, we decided that a creamy white was in keeping with the idea of purity.”
Kruger is the essence of elegance in tailored tops and soft, flowing trousers. “When she goes into the desert after Wanda, she’s riding the motorcycle, so we gave her more of a moto look,” says the designer. “She wears a jacket and a pair of jodhpur-y stretch pants that we built.”
In stark contrast to the idealized urban world of the Souls is the gritty, underground existence of the humans. “The visual feel for both worlds was Andrew’s idea,” Meyer says. “Where the cities are ultra-civilized, the desert is fairly primitive. Andrew has taken the divide between the Souls and the humans to a more visual level than I ever dreamed of.”
The surviving humans have taken refuge in a series of underground caves connected by tunnels. The filmmakers placed their sanctuary in the northwestern New Mexico desert, near a spectacular geological formation known as Shiprock, which serves as an important landmark in the film. “We found the most fantastic exterior locations,” says Niccol. “I always begin work with a lot of visual references and this is the first time I’ve found a location that’s better than my best reference. Shiprock is awe-inspiring. It is so beautiful that people assume it’s CGI.”
But one of the difficulties in shooting a film that is set in a cave, says the director, is that it is nearly impossible to use a real cave. To recreate the elaborate community imagined in Meyer’s book, enormous sets had to be constructed on a 250 by 125 foot soundstage at Celtic Studios in Baton Rouge. The walls of the structure resemble the sandstone and limestone found in the New Mexican exteriors. The floors and interior dunes were made from a mixture of three different types of sand, blended to match the landscape in New Mexico. Cave walls are 20 feet tall, with visual effects extending them even further in some scenes.
Even at this scale, the river set with its running water, waterfall and bathing pool had to be built at a separate location. Special effects coordinator Jack Lynch and special effects foreman Rick Perry created a marvel of engineering that circulates about 40,000 gallons of water in a closed loop with a flow rate at peak operation of about 10,000 gallons a minute creating the rapids seen in the film.
The most important design conversation Niccol and his production designer had about the cave settings was how to make them visually interesting and varied. “Andrew’s idea was to make a low confined space that suddenly opened up into a very dramatic cathedral cave,” says Nicholson. “The key was making sure that each section of the caves had a very distinct identity. I thought of it as designing a series of rooms for a set: the infirmary, the cell, the tunnels, the wheat field, which had to be a huge space.”
The wheat field was a particularly enormous undertaking, says Niccol. “It took about a month to make the wheat field alone. You can’t grow wheat on a sound stage. Those strands of wheat—all 100,000-plus—had to be attached by hand. I also wanted to open up the setting with a night sky to prevent it from being claustrophobic. I imported the idea of glowworms from New Zealand to simulate the effect inside.”
The Herculean efforts involved in the film’s production design were not lost on the cast and crew. “The sets are phenomenal,” says Abel. “Every person had the same reaction the first time they walked onto the soundstage. It was jaw dropping—true movie magic.”
Meyer watched in awe and excitement as the world that she had imagined in her book took shape. “Andrew took this story to a completely different level with his visuals,” she says. “The world is not so different from ours, but you immediately sense that you are somewhere slightly unfamiliar.”
The overall design concept influenced director of photographer Roberto Schaefer’s approach to the visual language. “Everything in the alien world was very geometric and clean and crisp,” says Schaefer. “It was composed to within an inch of its life, whereas everything in the renegades’ world was free-form and less frame-perfect.”
Schaefer had early discussions with director Niccol about the visual interpretation of the dual characters. “We used a shot throughout the film that we called the ‘brain shot,’” recalls Schaefer. “It was designed to help communicate the idea that one character has two voices. The camera is very close and wide. It moves in step with Melanie-Wanda, almost as if the camera is almost attached to her as she walks. It worked extremely well.”
Producer Wechsler is keen to see audience reaction to The Host. “This is not a film you can easily put in a box,” he says. “It’s not just another date movie for people under 25. It is layered and complex and slightly challenging. We are hoping that this film will appeal not only to younger people, but also to men and women over 25, over 35 and over 45.
“We want audiences to be surprised and not know exactly where the movie is leading them,” he adds. “I feel very confident that it will be a unique experience. It’s a classic science fiction adventure, a drama, a romance and a thriller—all of those things rolled into one.”
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Stephenie Meyer was driving through the seemingly endless desert that stretches from Phoenix to Salt Lake City when she came up with the idea for her best-selling novel, The Host. Meyer, whose record-breaking Twilight series was just becoming a worldwide phenomenon, passed the long hours by telling herself stories. “I came on the idea of two personalities in one body,” she says. “They are both in love with different people, which creates a great deal of conflict. I like messy relationships. They’re fun to work through.”
The popular author also enjoys exploring the idea of love, but in this case, not just romantic love. “There’s maternal love, which is such a big part of my life,” says Meyer. “There’s love of community and the people you belong with. I asked myself, what happens when you love someone and that makes you a traitor to your people? Love makes you do things you wouldn’t do otherwise. It creates conflict and disorder.”
As the story began to take shape, it rooted itself in the desert she was travelling though. “I kept thinking about the things we take for granted: that we can see, how we can walk around, how we taste and hear.”
As Meyer expanded on her original concept, she began constructing a more serious, deeper story than she had in any of her previous novels. “The Twilight books are about romantic love and the way it makes you feel at 17 or 18,” she notes. “There’s nothing else in the world. You would do anything and be anything for love. That’s a fun place to visit as a fantasy.
“The Host is about finding balance in life,” she continues. “Certainly there’s romance, but it is a much more grown-up and realistic story, aside from the science-fiction elements.”
But the sci-fi elements do set the stage for the story in The Host. “The world has been invaded Body Snatcher-style,” explains Meyer. “These new entities, who call themselves the Souls, are a very peaceful, harmonious, homogenous group. They fix many of the problems of our world. There’s no more hunger, no more disease or fear or violence. No one lies or cheats or steals. The idea that a stranger might harm you doesn’t even exist anymore.”
The handful of humans who have not been taken over by the Souls are understandably unable to see the beauty in a utopia in which most of their loved ones are gone. “They’ve lost everything, including the people most important to them,” Meyer says. “But this story is told from the perspective of Wanda, one of the aliens, which is rarely the way it has been approached before.”
The Host was published in 2008 and spent 26 weeks at No. 1 on The New York Timesbestseller list and 36 weeks on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list.
Producer Nick Wechsler recalls getting a call from Meyer’s agent asking if he was interested in putting together a film based the material. “I’m an avid sci-fi fan, so I jumped at the chance to read it. The theme, the characters and the conceit of the book leaped out at me. What I didn’t understand was why a best-selling book by Stephenie Meyer hadn’t already been bought.”
What he discovered was that conventional wisdom in the film industry dictated that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to make a realistic film in which two characters shared one body. “It never seemed like a huge challenge to me or to Nick,” says Meyer. “We figured all we needed was a really fantastic actress.”
Based on Wechsler’s history of making acclaimed adaptations of other novels, including Requiem for a Dream, The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Road, Meyer believed he could be counted on to make the best possible movie version of the book. “Just look at his track record,” she says. “He finds books that he loves and translates them as meticulously as he can to the screen. He was a dream to work with because he wanted the same things I wanted.”
Wechsler approached Steve and Paula Mae Schwartz of Chockstone Pictures to partner with Meyer and him as the film’s producers. “When Steve, Paula Mae and I do a project together, we develop it with our own money,” he says. “That gives us more creative control, which was extremely appealing to Stephenie. We agreed that we would treat this property with care and make an epic adventure, not just a popcorn movie.”
The Schwartzes were excited by The Host’s delicate balance of romance and speculative fiction. “There’s a human element to this story that we felt we don’t often see in sci-fi,” says Paula Mae Schwartz. “The relationship between Melanie and Wanda explores love and jealousy and the difficulty of change. Forced to share a body, each one gains something from the other and ultimately becomes a better version of herself.”
When the producers began the process of selecting a screenwriter and a director, Wechsler asked Meyer about her favorite science fiction movies. “I told him that my number one isGattaca,” she says. “I love that it’s not about gadgets and lasers and fighting robots. It’s about humanity, not how cool a space ship can be designed in CGI. We are transported into a world other than our own, but one that we can imagine ourselves in because of the performances and the story.”
As it happened, Wechsler has a longstanding relationship with Andrew Niccol, Gattaca’swriter and director. “Stephenie liked the rhythm of the way the characters spoke and the style in which Gattaca is directed,” he says. “I love Andrew’s taste and his vision.”
The Host, with its seething inner conflict, seized the director’s imagination right away. “You can talk about characters in roles having inner conflict, but in this case it is literally true,” says Niccol. “Our main character has been inhabited by an alien being. The two personalities go to a war with one another. It’s a great concept.”
Niccol observes that science fiction offers a subtle way to deliver a message to an audience. “It’s almost easier to say something about today by going into a future period,” he notes. “It’s a Trojan Horse of sorts. The audience is thinking that if it’s about the future it has nothing to do with them and then you slip an idea to them.”
Niccol agreed to direct the film, as well as to write the screenplay based on Meyer’s novel. “Obviously I was aware of the popularity of Twilight,” he says. “But I simply wanted to do justice to the book and its fans. Any pressure I felt was more creative than commercial. The idea of catching lightning in a bottle twice is a little much to expect. On the other hand, I wouldn’t bet against Stephenie.”
Having been through the adaptation process several times before, Meyer came to the table with strong opinions about what the final script should look like. “Any adaptation is 95 percent compromise and 5 percent frustration,” she says. “I believe that everyone on the creative side of filmmaking wants the best result they can get. We want the best because we care about how the story’s told, not who our market is and how we position this at the box office.”
The first major challenge was turning a 600-plus-page book into a 120-page script. “That’s a challenge for any filmmaker, especially when you have an author whose books are so beloved,” says Wechsler. “But the whole process went fairly quickly and we got a script that we really believe in.”
It was, by all accounts a satisfying and productive collaboration. “Stephenie definitely has her opinions, but she doesn’t impose them,” Niccol says. “She’s very savvy. She cares, but she’s not precious about her ideas. She’ll accept changes that seem quite sweeping without any kind of handwringing. Some elements and characters had to be sacrificed. I love soccer, but there’s a soccer game in the book that I knew was never going to make it into the movie. You have time for that kind of digression in a novel, but not in a film.”
“Working with Andrew was a lot of fun,” Meyer says. “He is so much more visual than I am. I really like to delve into the words and how people interact. Andrew concentrated on the physical world. He brought in elements that take it to a level I hadn’t envisioned. There were things he came up with that made me kick myself a little bit because I liked them so much better than what I’d done.”
For example, in the novel, the Souls use human weapons, turning the earthlings’ guns and explosives against them. “Alien beings are usually depicted as the enemy,” says Niccol. “We thought, what if the aliens are more humane than humans? With Stephenie’s blessing, I used that idea and replaced the guns with a futuristic spray called Peace that gently immobilizes its target.”
The final script for The Host still contains a compelling romance, according to Niccol, but it also encompasses a good deal more for audiences to think over. “I like that at its core it still is a love story, but it does have these broader themes,” he says. “We’re dealing with the survival of humanity. We’re also asking if a species that actually heals the planet has a place on Earth. These are themes that are far more profound than any in Stephenie’s previous work. It’s hard to say what each person will take from it, but I do hope it entertains and gives them something to chew over.”