Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush talk “The Giver”


Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush talk “The Giver”

By Managing Editor

Despite taking 20-years to make, “The Giver,” a film based off Lois Lowry’s critically acclaimed novel of the same name, will open in theatres Friday, Aug. 15.

“The Giver” follows a community where there is no suffering, war or love. Citizens are immune to feeling and have no free will due to daily injections they are given which suppresses their desires. Elders control the society and assign jobs to the children when they turn 12. The film stars Odeya Rush (Fiona) and Brenton Thwaites (Jonas), who play the roles of two teenagers who fall in love after learning about the faults of their seemingly utopian society.

Thwaites and Rush spoke with The Chronicle about their roles, dystopian societies and acting alongside Academy Award Winners, Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges.

THE CHRONICLE: What was it like to act in a movie that was based on a well known book?

ODEYA RUSH: It’s really exciting because when you make a movie you really don’t know how people will receive it. With this film, it has such a huge fan base already. Going to Comic –Con it kind of makes you feel a little more relaxed about sending it out there–because people already love the story behind it so much and it’s really there in spirit. We have managed to keep the same spirit that this beloved book has and it’s an honor to do something from Lois Lowry because I’m a big fan of her [work].

Did any of your co-stars become mentors? What did they teach you? 

BRENTON THWAITES: The lesson for me was to never forget to have fun and don’t take it too seriously. All of this is way easier said than done.

RUSH: Jeff Bridges said that many times. He also said don’t be afraid to be the fool and just jump in. I think that’s what he does. That’s what Brenton does. That’s what Meryl Streep does. [Streep and Bridges] are both so vulnerable and open. 

What sets “The Giver” apart from “Divergent” and other dystopian films that have recently been released?

THWAITES: [“The Giver”] relates to the way we think today. People will really connect with that. It is a dystopian world but it can easily be our world. There are so many little hidden metaphors for the real world [in the movie]. The pills we take, the food that is provided for us [and] the idea that happiness represents. [The community is] one they feel that they can belong [to].

Can you imagine living in a desensitized world like in the film?

RUSH: [The] people in the community–until a certain level for Jonas–think [they] are happy and content and [they] don’t know any better. It kind of reflects communism in a way where this grand idea of everything is good and these people are brainwashed into thinking that this is the perfect life after so much war, hate and discrimination. The way we live today … we would never want that because we know better.

What attracted you to this project and your roles?

RUSH: Reading the script. There aren’t a lot of characters like this for people my age.  This is the best role I’ve read for my age. After the first audition that I had with Phillip Noyce, I felt different. I knew this director was incredible and it’s different than anything I’ve ever done. I am so grateful that I had this experience.

Was there anything in the final edit of the film that surprised you?

THWAITES: There were a lot of things. Meryl Streep’s involvement in the film surprised me. She was great and that character is so enhanced and it really works. She just creates that tension and that sense of danger, which is great.

RUSH: Streep was there for a week. There are so many loving and warm parts to it, like when you see Brenton with the baby and playing around with him–it’s a nice break. This movie isn’t all dark and cold. There are a lot of nice warm breaks and I like those parts. I wasn’t there to see Brenton film it, so it’s a nice relief during the film.

What was it like filming with the babies?

RUSH: My character works at the nurturing center so I got to spend time with a lot of different babies. I volunteered at a hospital in Cape Town in South Africa so it was really fun. You just look at a baby and it makes you smile. They just make you happy. I think it’s a natural thing when you see one.

THWAITES: But if it cries, you’ve never felt like such a bad human being.

What excites you most about audiences seeing this movie?

THWAITES: I guess I’m most excited to see how people react to the differences [between the book and the film]. Adapting a book into a screenplay or a film is done so well. This is so widely loved and received by millions of people all around the world. I’m excited to see if they like, dislike, agree with [it] or the feedback on the choices made to adapt it into a film.

After you guys filmed the movie, did you feel more inclined to express yourself freely? 

RUSH: Sometimes it’s just little things that we take for granted. We don’t understand the importance of [things] and also, by watching this movie, it really hits you that you need to appreciate this moment, this family time, dinner, the laughter, the joy and music, because some people don’t have that in their lives. A lot of art has been taken away from this community and when Jonas first discovers it, it’s a beautiful moment and we need to be thankful that we have it.

THWAITES: I think we can gain something from the openness or the lack of guard that Jonas has. He doesn’t really hold back emotionally and I think we all do, I especially do. There is something in the movie that as you watch it, you feel more free and open to feeling. That’s the whole point of the story. We have become more accessible to love and the fear of putting ourselves out there emotionally is the main thing for all of us.

Did either of you read the book? 

RUSH: I didn’t read it at school, but I read it after I read the script. I had seen projects in English classes about “The Giver” and my brothers were reading it while we were filming.

THWAITES: Likewise. We weren’t one of those avid Giver lovers before the film. I wish it were taught in Australia.

If you guys were living in the “The Giver’s” society, what roles would you give yourself?

RUSH: I might be a nurturer because I took care of my younger brothers and I like babies. So that’s the cool colored dress.

THWAITES: I would be a birth father. Make sense? It sounds like the most fun you could have in the community.

What projects do you plan on doing next?

RUSH: I have Goosebumps coming out and I just wrapped that last week.

It was just so much fun. Me and [my co-actors] got to sit in during the writing process and the director would let us write a lot. Whatever ideas we had he would always let us do that. It was so cool to be apart of the rehearsals, writing the script and developing it.

THWAITES: I have a film coming out called “Son of a Gun,” which was shot in Australia. It’s about a kid who goes to jail and meets his mentor. They get out of jail and go on a crime spree together. I also have a film with Helen Hunt coming out later in the year called “Ride.” It’s a sweet family drama about a mother and son relationship. The kid gets fed up with New York so he moves to Los Angeles to surf, and the mother stalks him and wants to know what’s going on.