Brenton Thwaites has been on the cusp for a while now, with recent roles in the horror hit “Oculus,” the sci-fi film “The Signal,” and a small but crucial role in the megahit “Maleficent.” But it’s the upcoming “The Giver” that will most likely break him through to the next level.
The YA adaptation of Lois Lowry’s beloved novel stars Thwaites as Jonas, a boy who lives in a post-apocalyptic society engrained with Sameness. Only when he starts to work with an old man with secrets of his own (Jeff Bridges) does Jonas start to realize the world is less black and white — quite literally — than he first thought it was.
“I was drawn to Jonas mainly because he has such a complex journey throughout the film,” Thwaites told MTV News when we talked over e-mail. “He is literally chosen to ’learn the history of the world.’ I thought, ’I would like to learn me some history of the world from Jeff Bridges. Let’s do this!’ ”
Thwaites’ enthusiasm for the project wasn’t muted by the challenges that lay ahead of him on set. The first of those was the very precise language in the story, as the characters spend a good amount of time figuring out the exact right words to use in order to deliver their desired effect.
According to Thwaites, this is something they spent an enormous amount of time working on, on set as well, as, “Jeff, [Director] Phil [Noyce] and I would keep jammin’ with the dialogue until we all felt it made the most sense.”
And language isn’t the only challenge Thwaites faced. Skirting spoilers here, but at a certain point Jonas’ black and white world starts to develop color. In the book, you don’t even know an apple is an apple until it’s described fully for the first time — because the characters themselves don’t know what the fruit is to begin with, let alone the color red.
“I started with basic questions such as, ’what would it be like to discover color for the first time?’ ” Thwaites said on the challenge. “Funny? Beautiful? Scary? Confusing? Then I try and find parallels to real things in my life that bring up these feelings.”
But even an experienced actor like Thwaites can’t maintain that for long.
“After the ninth take the juice tends to run out and I just roll with thoughts,” Thwaites said. “Like, ’Imagine you’re looking down a hall of mirrors watching yourself do starjumps, then Hilter enters the room with only a leopard print G-string on and puts a bucket of mud-crabs on your head’…aaaaaaand ACTION!”
Hey, whatever works.
Though the language and color stay consistent from page to screen, one aspect that did change was the amount of action. Which is to say, the book doesn’t have much, while the movie amps up the on-screen explosions.
“The action raises the stakes of the story,” Thwaites noted on the change. “It helps us feel that Jonas is really outnumbered in his community, and that one [small] failure could lead to death. Also, all the running, riding and climbing kept me fit… For a while.”
Beyond Bridges, Thwaites has had the chance to work opposite some pretty powerful women: Angelina Jolie in “Maleficent,” and now Meryl Streep in “The Giver.”
Though Thwaites noted that he’d love to work opposite Cate Blanchett or Helen Mirren to complete his “powerful actresses quadfactor,” one actress he has gotten to work with? Taylor Swift, who has a small — but crucial — role in the movie.
“We are in the same scene, the same place at different times in the story,” Thwaites said, something that might come as a surprise to fans of the book for very spoilery reasons. “I enjoyed her company on set, she came in with a great attitude. It’s hard to come into a movie halfway through and be open to listening to ideas and sharing thoughts fearlessly. I thought she did exactly that. She definitely adds a piece to the puzzle.”
So Thwaites got to star opposite one of the biggest musical stars in the world, two of the most critically acclaimed actors of our time and anchor an adaptation of a beloved novel. Sounds like a dream, right? Except for one small factor: through a large chunk of the movie, Thwaites is doing nothing but carrying a baby.
A real baby.
And what’s that rule about show-business? Never work with kids or animals, but Thwaites, on “The Giver,” did both.
“I could write a book on this answer,” Thwaites said. “The short version goes… Yes, I was on set for months with a baby in my arms. The two beautiful twins that play Gabriel are amazing and were great scene partners. They were such responsive babies, so calm and relaxed (mostly).
“I had one scene with Gabriel in my arms and a cheetah walks past us eating a steak the size of a New York pizza. Planned and controlled, though still scary! Two huge don’ts in film making, but we worked it!”
With all this experience behind him, Thwaites is sure to be a star in no time.
“The Giver” hits theaters on August 15.