“The Host” Star
by Lynn Barker
Hunky/cute Max Irons played the “local boy” in love with Amanda Seyfried’s character in the fairy tale movie Red Riding Hood and has done a ton of stage work although he is far from being a cliché “snooty” stage actor. He has just returned from Belgium where he was shooting the TV series “The White Queen” playing a young English King Edward IV. This month you can see Max as Jared, one of two guys in love with young human rebel Melanie in the movie adaptation of Stephenie (Twilight) Meyer’s sci-fi romantic adventure novel “The Host”.
Talk about complicated relationships… in the movie, human Melanie’s body has been taken over by alien invader Wanderer, called “Wanda” by her human captors. Jared is still crazy in love with his girlfriend Melanie but also hates her alien captor/invader Wanda… and both girls are in the same body… the ultimate love/hate relationship!
We’re in Beverly Hills asking Max about the weird love match in the move and much more. Check it out! Max enters our interview suite…..
Max: Hi! I have a bug but I’m taking chemicals so if I pass out on the table, that’s why.
AGW: Awww, so sorry. We’ll take it easy on you. So, we were told that you didn’t think you were going to get the part of Jared at first?
Max: I did the audition and forgot my lines twelve times! You sort of over-prepare and you’re sitting outside (the casting office). I knew I’d go in there with the producer and director and Saoirse Ronan and I suddenly got nervous and forgot the lines twelve times and then, fortunately it started to go really well. So, I came out of the room going “I’m not sure. I don’t know how that went. I hope I made a good impression”.
Then there was a thing online that my friend sent me which had six actors’ names for both Jared and Ian and some of them were big hitters; all muscly and sort of American handsome-looking, tans; that kind of thing and I thought “Why are they gonna cast me? I’m English and skinny?”
AGW: But Jared is living underground so it’s okay if you’re not tan.
Max: (laughs) That was the only inconsistency in the book I thought. They all lived underground and ate nothing but wheat and yet they were all built like tanks. And the canned goods. That’s the key to a healthy diet; canned goods (rolls his eyes).
AGW: What about “The Host” story made you want to be in the film?
Max: Well, the idea of a kind of benevolent alien invasion is something we don’t often see. It’s always the White House and the Empire State Building being blown up in a spectacular fashion but the idea that they’ve already won and we are no longer at the top of the food chain (seems rare). I think it throws up some interesting questions about how we, as humans, conduct ourselves.
We get a lot of “Team Ian” and “Team Jared” questions but I think the more interesting question is “Team Human”, ‘Team Alien”. I think that Stephenie has written it in such a way that, at the end of the film, it’s sort of 50/50. Their intentions are good. The only thing they do is a global act of genocide but, once you’ve forgiven them for that, their intentions are good.
AGW: When you first signed up for this film, did you have any concerns that it would be compared to the whole “Twilight” thing? Did you worry that you might be stalked more by paparazzi etc.?
Max: When I did a film called Red Riding Hood I was told by a lot of people that that was the next Twilight. It wasn’t. I saw an article in the “New York Times” which said “Which of these twelve films is going to be the next Twilight?” and the list had Hunger Games, Beautiful Creatures, The Host, there was a load of them and the only common denominator between them was they all had a kind of young cast and it was fictitious.
I think Twilight was unique unto itself. There was already a hype before the cameras started rolling. The Host has support but not to the same level. When I saw Stephenie Meyer’s name on the script, I was hesitant instantly because Red Riding Hood, amongst many others, had tried to replicate the formula that Stephenie has bottled. I thought maybe she’s tried to do it again here. But I was relieved personally to discover that “The Host” (novel), I think, is a step up in terms of writing without meaning to sound patronizing, but there’s a lot more ideas and more at stake for a lot more people. It’s not just one big demographic but I think a lot of people could enjoy this film.
People are more fascinated by the phenomenon that Twilight caused. When they say “Is this the next Twilight?”, I think that’s what they mean.
AGW: Were you a sci-fi book or movie fan growing up?
Max: Books and short stories. Arthur C. Clarke used to be my big favorite. He used to write these short stories in science journals which started to be rehashed by a magazine in London. There was this one called “Childhood’s End” (actually a full novel).
AGW: That has been through the mill in Hollywood. They can’t seem to get it made.
Max: I was talking with Jake (Abel who plays the other part of the love quadrangle, Ian) about this yesterday. If you have a good director and a good budget you’d have such a stunning movie. It’s similar to “The Host” in concept. Aliens come and everyone thinks it’s doomsday but they stick around for thirty years and their ultimate intention which they gradually reveal, is to kick us into the next stage of evolution which is an interesting idea.
AGW: Did you guys have any funny moments while filming? It’s a pretty serious story.
Max: We were always messing around. That’s the great thing about having a young cast, and we had William Hurt to control us if we got out of line because he WAS Jeb, by the way. I hate insects and I had a moth in my trashcan in my trailer but it might have been a bat. It sounded much bigger than a moth. I called Jake in to get rid of it because (American accent) he’s American. He can do that kind of thing. He came in and got rid of it and since then plastic insects show up now and then.
He’s got thousands of photos on Twitter and he tweeted “Come to the book signings and throw plastic insects at Max” so that happened a lot. Frankly, at those book signings, you never know who you’re going to meet. We met a girl who filed her teeth down to have fangs.
AGW: Did you ever get Jake back for the insect prank?
Max: No, I haven’t. Stephenie’s done a couple of things to him but I haven’t yet.
AGW: How did you handle the love quadrangle in the film? There is a lot of kissing! How would your character Jared feel when Ian likes the other “person” inside Melanie’s body?
Max: Maybe it’s a boring answer but fortunately, me and Jake are really good friends and we’re both good friends with Saoirse (who plays Melanie) and there’s a lot of laughter and humor on set so there wasn’t jealousy or one-upsmanship. It was as awkward as love scenes always are. It’s tough when you’ve got a camera lens here (indicates inches away from his face) and you hear someone go “Kiss her better! Devour her!” (laughter) Jesus! Something like that is a bit awkward but you get past it.
Q: You got to work in two extremely different environments: Louisiana and New Mexico. Which did you prefer and why?
Max: Shiprock (in New Mexico) I’ve never seen anything like that place. It’s Navajo Indian land and they were keeping an eye on us. You can understand why they worship the place. It feels like a religious experience when you are staring up at this rock that shoots up out of the ground. It’s extraordinary, very peaceful and calming. I’m from England. I’m used to cows and green fields.
AGW: What is your favorite scene that you were in?
Max: The dancing scene. That was a lot of fun, dancing being silly. We had to throw that dance together between fake rain and a bit of kissing. It was fun. But another scene I like is when Wanda returns to the cave and Jared hits her. I didn’t know how I was going to do it at first but suddenly, it made Jared and Melanie’s struggle make sense to me. Jared wasn’t entirely liked by the people who read the book because he was kind of violent and oppressive but you think about the problem he faced.
It’s horrible to lose the girl he loved, but to have her come back the specter of her former self, she looks identical, is awful. So, in that moment, just the rush of emotions; sadness, pity, fear, the unknown, this was entirely new to us and made the whole thing make sense very quickly. Saoirse did it so well. Everyone was there. We had Jaime’s response, William’s response, it just (blew me away).
AGW: Had you worked with Saoirse before?
Max: Me and Saoirse got a part together in a film when we were about 14 but the film fell through.
AGW: What about Saoirse surprised you?
Max: Her overall intelligence but mainly her emotional intelligence. At the audition in London, even after me forgetting all the lines, it’s just all there (with her) and it’s so subtle and so confident. For someone who trained in theater, I know what I’m doing but in film, I’m still coming to grips with it. I have to learn from people like Saoirse. Just being in a room with her and having truth and honesty thrown at you is disarming and relaxing and it makes it easier. She’s so real.
AGW: Do you have any ideas for Jared in any future movies in this franchise?
Max: I have ideas for where I think Jared would and maybe should go but it’s up to Stephenie. She’s writing at the moment and she’s like a steel trap in terms of getting information but I have my suspicions.
AGW: Is she on set a lot?
Max: She’s pretty much always there or available one way or another but very hands off. I remember I went up to her pretty much on day one and said “Listen Stephenie, I know you wrote the guy so you know him better than anyone else. Can you tell me if I’m getting it right or wrong? Give us a tip.” She said “Listen, we cast you for a reason. We trust your instincts. We trust you to bring yourself to Jared and bring Jared to yourself so go and have fun.” That was really nice. It took all the pressure off; the pressure from the readers, the pressure from the book and the pressure from her. It washed it away.
AGW: Coming from England what do you think is the biggest misconception about young actors in Hollywood?
Max: I got asked by the Hollywood Foreign Press, first question off the bat, “You’ve been doing well and working a lot recently but it’s been a gradual ascent. Do you know why that is?” What you’re referencing is Twilight again. You’re thinking success these days for young actors is The Hunger Games or Twilight. It’s this overnight superstardom; huge pay, huge fame.
Now that’s all well and good if you can maintain it and we all know obvious examples of people who’ve maintained it and gone on to work with great people but there’s obviously the possibility of slipping back down. It is a version of success but then if I look at the actors who I really respect and who’ve been working for 40 or 50 years, that never happened to them. They had a gradual ascent. They worked with good scripts, good directors and good actors, not necessarily in leading roles at the beginning of their career but they laid a foundation which they built sustained success on. That, to me, is a success.
AGW: Very wise attitude!
Uncredited photos copyright and courtesy Open Road Films, 2013
This film is rated PG-13
Web Site - THE HOST