‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials’: Wes Ball on New Locations, Book Changes and More

     August 12, 2015


The first Maze Runner movie is essentially confined to the Glade, the small grassy area that the Gladers are forced to call home until they can figure out how to get past the Grievers and make their way out alive. Eventually they do and that means the sequel, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, gets to introduce us to life beyond the Glade and the Maze, giving director Wes Ball many, many more locations to work with.

Back in December I got the opportunity to visit the film’s Albuquerque, New Mexico set with a group of journalists. Not only did we get a peek at a stunning mansion set being used for a party scene (not a rave), but we also got the chance to sit down with Ball to talk about some of the other locations and the new resources he got to work with. Check out what he told us about putting some of the third book in the second film, what it was like adding folks like Rosa Salazar and Giancarlo Esposito to the cast, the new color palate and much more in this on-set interview.

In case you missed it, you can also check out the latest Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials trailer below. The film is due in theaters on September 18th and also stars Dylan O’Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Kaya Scodelario.

Question: So we were watching you shoot this rave …

WES BALL: Don’t call it a rave. [Laughs] 

Tell us about the look of it. It was really beautiful with the lights coming in from the back, the ethereal slow motion. Tell us about that.

BALL: It’s just trying to not make it a rave. [Laughs] We’re just trying to make something interesting and kind of creepy, but sexual in some strange way and, you know, kind of fitting with the vibe of the movie in general, just a little bit more mature and sophisticated and growing up a little bit with these kids. So, you know, just taking that approach with it, basically. Doing something that hopefully we haven’t quite seen before. So that’s the challenge really, just to make something kind of new and different.

How have things changed coming back and working with the same cast?

BALL: They haven’t really changed, honestly. I feel like we just wrapped the last one. It was fun. We just kind of jumped back into it, you know? I mean, we were just doing publicity on the other one just like a few months ago. So nothing’s really changed in that sense, it’s just the vibe of the movie’s so different, really. You know, like different locations, obviously a different place we’re shooting now. Yeah, it’s really been a lot of fun actually, just to kind of like stretch our legs and do new stuff with the same cast and the same story, you know what I mean? It’s been actually really, really fun. 


Image via Fox

How does bringing in actors like Giancarlo enhance what you’re doing?

BALL: Well, it’s cool because we get to have more adults in this movie, and they’re not all just the evil adults either. They’re adults that can actually help, so that’s kind of fun. And again, it goes with that thing of just making the movie feel [like] more than just a kids movie now, you know? It’s becoming more and more mature, more sophisticated and all that stuff. It’s been a lot of fun actually bringing these guys who are just great actors and just watch them do their thing.  It’s been another one of those blessings, you know, where we just find great, great actors and you just kind of wind them up and let them go.

Can you tell us about the new monsters? We heard a little bit about the Cranks, but what about the metal ball and bulb monsters?

BALL: Yeah, we’ll see. If there’s room for anything. But yeah, the Cranks were our big kind of hero monsters in this one.  And we got some cool stuff that’s basically inspired by – kind of the Grievers, basically. It’s taking what James [Dashner] did and trying to push it even further. We’ll see how that shapes up. WETA’s gonna be doing a good portion of them. Some of them are all prosthetics and stuff, but there’s gonna be some really cool ones that you can’t possibly build in real life.

Are they making them off your drawings?

BALL: Yeah, actually. We have lots of cool drawings. We have lots of the artwork that kind of gets them on the right track and then they’ll bring their own special sauce to everything too, so that’s gonna be really fun. I can’t wait to get into that part too.


Image via 20th Century Fox

Did you feel any pressure coming back for a sequel now that expectations are sort of on the rise?

BALL: Not really. I mean, I feel like it’s kind of the same thing on the last one. It’s the same sort of issues of just trying to make a movie. It’s kind of always the same. But I guess some of the pressure is just how fast we have to move. That’s kind of it. Like I said, we just finished the last one and we have to jump right into this one. That’s kind of the only thing really, but it’s a great team around us, an awesome cast. We keep our heads down, focus and try to make the best movie we can.

How was it for you going from a movie with basically just two locations to however many you have here?

BALL: Yeah, no, it’s interesting. It’s been fun. I mean, it’s interesting because on the last one, even though we had one location, it was one big location and there are all these different little locations in the location, like the Glade itself. But, you know, basecamp was always in the same place every day and stuff like that. But I love locations, location work especially, so it’s been really fun to go and visit these just crazy, crazy places like this abandoned mall and this abandoned rail yard down the road and now this mansion here for two days, and there’s drainage tunnels down for a day. It’s crazy, actually, how many different locations – it fits really well with this concept of kind of the road movie, this traveling kind of epic that these characters go through. So it’s been awesome actually. It’s very tough on the crew because we gotta move constantly, and it’s also just tough on – you know, you have to find your shots on the day basically. You don’t have that experience like in the Glade where you know the shots are gonna work basically.  So that kind of keeps you on your toes, but it’s gonna look awesome. It’s gonna be a very interesting kind of visual kind of style for this one that I think just kind of takes where the last one left off and just keeps on going with it. It makes it very real, very believable, you know, and gritty. So, you know, we’ll see. I’m really excited with what we might be able to kind of achieve here.


Image via 20th Century Fox

The cast seems really tightly knit. It looks like they have a lot of fun together.

BALL: Yeah. And that’s just from the last one. Even the new people come in, it’s the same kind of dynamic, you know?

Right, but do you have to tell them on set like, ‘Hey, guys, cut it out?’

BALL: [Laughs] Sometimes. That’s the only thing that’s different this time. Like, ‘Guys, you know, focus here a little bit.’ It’s so easy for them just to get wound up and just have fun together because they’re such good friends. But, you know, they’re the most professional people that I’ve ever met so it all works out. You just have to remind them occasionally. 

Wyck [Godfrey] mentioned that you’re bringing in a couple of characters from the third book a little early.

BALL: Yeah.

Can you talk about, obviously not specifics, but what kind of Easter eggs or little hints there might be of the third book in this movie?

BALL: Yeah, I mean, that’s kind of our approach on it. So I don’t wanna get into too much of the details about what we’re doing there, but the way we’re approaching this now that we’ve got our first one and fortunately it kind of worked out so we can make the next ones. It’s not as easy to take that second book and just do a straight adaptation. It won’t work basically. So what our approach is basically to take the rest of his story, the rest of his saga and find the two movies in that. And that required basically some things to come from the third book come into the second and the second into the third, and make that nice, linear trajectory of a nice, cohesive story that’s all building to one finale, you know, in the next one hopefully. So that’s kind of our approach and that means some characters have to come in, we have to set up certain things that are only in the last bit of the third book. We’re bringing them in now, kind of starting to sprinkle them in so like I said, it all feels like one cohesive thing, you know what I mean? So that’s been a little bit of the challenge I think just to kind of find that balance because the fans are very, very important to us obviously and we don’t wanna disappoint them, but at the same time, you know, look at the last one, you had to make some tweaks and changes to make a good movie. So that’s kind of our goal. 


Image via 20th Century Fox

Will there be a big rush again if you do another one? Like you said, you jumped into this one pretty soon after the first.

BALL: I have no idea. I really don’t know. I mean, who knows if I’m even gonna do it? It just depends, I guess. Right now I’m just focused on the second one, making it the best one it can possibly be. Obviously now we have a very clear idea of what the end’s gonna be, the end result, which is nice actually having a very clear kind of trajectory of the future movie. But I have no idea what’s in store for us for that third one. You know, that’s almost studio, that’s out of my hands almost, you know what I mean?

Yeah, for this one it was such a crazy timeline. Do you think that helped you?

BALL: No. It doesn’t help. No, you always want more time. And even when you have the most time of all, you always want more. You know what I mean? It’s just movies are made in prep. Movies are made in the script writing process and prepping and preparations for the shooting process. You know, when you’re shooting here, it should be about execution and getting the shots and telling that story, so when you’re out there trying to still figure things out, it can just slow things down. So you have to kind of think on your feet and it makes it kind of fun and exciting and challenging at the same time, but more time is always better for any movie. I think any director would probably tell you that, any filmmaker really. So, you know, we roll with it. We do our thing. Do the best we can. 

The last cast member we talked to was Rosa.  She seems pretty special and we love Brenda, too.

maze-runner-2-rosa-salazarBALL: She’s great. She’s gonna be very interesting. Now it’s out I guess that she has short hair rather than long hair. [Laughs] That was a big drama thing. But it was really important to me that we just didn’t cast another Kaya. She’s someone that has to be distinct and different and that just meant going with, one, an actress that could really bring something, a new kind of flavor to this thing, but also there’s just something kind of cool and cute about her hair, and she’s this character that lives with a bunch of scavengers and lives like the survivalist out in this kind of abandoned building. It just kind of fits. It’s like this little pirate’s cove of just the scum of the Earth essentially. People are gonna like her. I think the fans will eventually get over the whole long hair thing and they’re gonna fall in love with this girl the way, you know, the character of Thomas will, and I think she’s tough, very capable and at the same time a really kind of hard exterior with that kind of vulnerable inside that people are gonna love, actually. It’s gonna be really great so I’m excited for people to meet that side of this world. So that’ll be fun, that’ll be cool. 

What about the dynamic between her, Teresa and Thomas? In the movie, Teresa is with the group. She doesn’t get separated as much …

BALL: She does at some point.

Does that change what we get from the book in terms of the relationship?

BALL: A little bit, but it’s the same kind of dynamic where it’s like, you know, obviously there’s a special connection between Thomas and Teresa, and then this third person starts coming into things. So it’s not a kind of traditional love triangle thing, but the parallels are obviously there, you know what I mean? There is a little bit of that, I don’t know what you would call it, that competition I guess you’d say. But never heavy handed and we’re never kind of like focusing on it. This is still a movie about adventure and this family that comes together and has to go off and do these things and make hard choices and become the people they’re going to be, good or bad. So yeah, you know, Teresa still is probably more in this movie than she is in the book necessarily, but she still goes through the same things and, you know, some of her big twists in the movie are significant. We’re gonna really milk that for everything it’s worth.


Image via 20th Century Fox

What was it about The Scorch Trials that you were most excited to do? Was there a particular scene, character arc, something about this movie?

BALL: You know, it’s a couple things actually. One is the palette. It’s like a completely different world and movie and that’s kind of fun, a sequel that doesn’t have to be a repeat of the last one. We’re in a completely different world. We set it up in the last movie in the last shot, you really see the world we’re gonna be spending it in. So the colors are different, the textures are different, the sort of reality of the world is even different. And then I’d say, on top of that, it was fun to go back to the great cast basically and just continue telling those characters that we were kind of starting to shape in the first one and just continue that trajectory. That was really appealing to kind of go in and do that. While it still feels like a completely different movie, it’s fun to kind of be in there with the same family you started with and just continue pushing all that forward and exploring those characters and putting them in the bad places and just milking them for all they’re worth, you know what I mean? Those are probably the main things that really kind of excited me up front.

Click here for the on-set interview with Dylan O’Brien and here for the one with Alan Tudyk.

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