Just the other day I had a chat with Brenton Thwaites at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. He made jokes, talked about the parallels he has with his character, Jonas, and described what it was like working with big Hollywood stars.
Brenton: I’m gonna tell a joke, just to relax it up a little bit. What does a nosy pepper say?
Thwaites: Jalapeño business!
Thwaites: It’s like the lamest joke. I heard it the other day. I thought, “that’s fantastic.” In Australia we don’t have peppers as peppers, they’re called jalapeños, so we would have to reconstruct it in Australia, but in America it kinda works.
What was it about The Giver, this project that drew you and made you want to sign on and be a part of it?
Thwaites: You know what, it was originally the fact that this kid knows nothing about the world, and knows nothing about feelings, or growing up, or being an adult. I thought it would be cool to learn those things as he goes along. They age the character up and develop the love story a little bit and made so as he was fighting for love and freedom and truth. It’s a great premise for a story, if we can create tension in that way without using violence or weapons or anything, you know, Hollywood-ish then that’s great. You know, it’s a great opportunity to be a part of that.
What are some ways that you were able to relate to Jonas, ways that are similar or different that you kind of discovered along the way?
Thwaites: In a way I’m similar to Jonas in that I’ve never done all this before, all interviews and this big press junket is crazy for me you know. And so it’s a learning experience. This is a new memory you know, like the Giver is giving me this gnarly memory of being an actor; I’m just living that right now. But in a way us artists are Jonas, we all kind of rebel against conformity. Being that this meticulously ordered kind of community is not our cup of tea, as we say in Australia, naturally artists tend to say, “screw the system,” and just go for what they believe in, or what they are told to believe in.
I take it you didn’t read the book.
Thwaites: I didn’t read it as a child. I read it before working on the movie. I wish I had read it as a child, I would have gotten so much from it. I wish it was more of a hit in Australia, I don’t know why it wasn’t. It got more of a success over here.
I read it in junior high and I loved it. I thought “What?! This is amazing!”
Thwaites: Yeah! It’s got everything in it. And you know what I love about the book, I know I’m suppose to be promoting the movie, but I’ll actually tell you what I love about the book, because the book is so cool, is that you really get a sense of happiness throughout the whole community. You get a sense of like, these children playing with the elderly, and it’s not, when you read it, it’s not weird you know. It raised a couple questions and it was a little controversial at the time. But when you read it, it just feels nice to read, and it feels comfortable and you feel such a love between the young and the elderly and I think now we don’t really respect our elderly as young people. That’s one of the things we could have really, we really do get from the story. A sense of respect throughout the ages. And I think that’s really beautiful.
What was [something] from the book that you thought should have been in the movie?
Thwaites: I read the first script and I was like, “Oh damn,” this could be cool but it’s going to be a hard thing to do. (Referring to the differences of receiving the memories from the way it’s written in the book and done in the movie). I kind of in a way wish they had developed the elderly storyline more. I loved how the story kind of delves into the relationship of the young and old as opposed to forgetting about the old and sticking them in homes.
What was it like interacting with the babies?
Thwaites: I was the worst person to put a baby in my arms.
The baby was crying a lot.
Thwaites: This baby hated me, to start. I wish someone videoed the moment when they said, “Brenton, this is who you’ll be working with.” They placed him in my arms and “Wahhhhhh,” I was kind of like, “Take it back, someone take it back, this isn’t mine, take it back.” But you know, as months go you learn to love this kid, I worked with him so much, both of them. Twins. And they are both such wonderful kids, and they’re great actors too. They don’t really know it yet, but they would sense what we were trying to do and with the help of the baby wrangler, who is amazing, and (sarcastically), me, who is amazing, we’d try and inspire the kids to do some things… the kids were great and I miss them dearly.
What was it like working with Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges?
Thwaites: I worked with Meryl for a little bit, not so much because our characters interact on a more technical level. We had to shoot at different times and different locations. I worked with her a little bit there and she was fantastic. From an actor’s perspective, just to work with her, you see how confident she is, she never makes a mistake in our eyes. I’m sure she’d say she would like to do this or liked to do that. We were shooting so quick and she had to get every take, in order to have a choice in a second or third. I thought she nailed it; she doesn’t think the same. But Jeff, I worked with a lot. I’ll take away lessons that I learned with Jeff for the rest of my life. He’s so relaxed and he’s so chilled out but at the same time he really fulfills the obligations as the Giver. He’s a great guy to learn from which was cool for me because as a young actor you learn from the [older] actors you work with, like Jonas learns from the Giver… so it was a sweet parallel that we had throughout the story. I just thought it was perfect. If I wasn’t feeling it any day, or if I was tired, sad, or I don’t know, I’d just think back at the parallel like, “What am I doing? I’m from a little town in North Australia acting with Jeff Bridges,” and then Jonas would come through me in that. So it was very cool, it was great.
Do you eat Vegemite?
Thwaites: Oh hell yeah! Keep them sodium levels up! It’s like black salt basically.
What do you think you would have chosen [versus having them choose your assignment]?
Thwaites: That’s an interesting question because these guys don’t get a choice in their assignment, so it’s interesting how you say what people would choose for you. I’m very great with people and I love interacting with people, and I think the community, those bastards, would have chosen for me… they would have chosen nurturer or something to take advantage of my soft, mother-raised heart. I definitely wouldn’t be a tree organizer or a math situationer – is that even a word? It is now. I guess I would have chosen pilot, it seems like the most happiest or most adrenaline you can get in this community. Oh, never mind, [I’d choose] security: you’d get the key to everywhere.
The Giver premieres Friday, August 15, 2014 — do not miss it!