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SDCC 2014: ‘The Giver’ Panel
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SDCC 2014: The Giver panel

Anthony Breznican of Entertainment Weekly introduced the panel for The Giver, on Wednesday’s San Diego Comic Con panel in Hall H. The book that the film is based on, Lois Lowry‘s groundbreaking 1993 novel was arguably the prototype for the recent trend of Young Adult dystopian sci-fi that includes book series like The Hunger Games and Divergent.

Director Philip Noyce introduced, via a pre-recorded video message, footage from the film which gave a great overview of the false utopia of the world of The Giver and the discovery of its dark history.

Breznican then introduced author Lois Lowry, Brenton Thwaites, who plays Jonas, Jeff Bridges, who plays The Giver, Odeya Rush, who plays Fiona, and producer Nikki Silver.

Lowry said that she initially wrote the book as just a thrilling novel, and hadn’t intended it to be such a thought-provoking tale, but the best books sometimes ask the hardest questions. She doesn’t feel it’s her role as an author to provide answers, but definitely to provoke the questions.

Bridges had originally pursued adapting the book to a film as a vehicle for himself to direct and for his father, Lloyd Bridges to play the title character. He was entranced with the themes and poetry of the movie and thought it would be an easy film to get made. He was surprised how difficult it was to get a studio to produce it, as the book was on many banned lists and the controversy scared investors away.

Producer Nikki Silver agreed that it may be due to the recent success of YA dystopian sci-fi film adaptations that paved the way to give The Weinstein Company the courage to produce it.

Lowry mentioned that the face on the original cover of the book belonged to Carl Gustaf Nelson, whom she photographed as a photojournalist, and thought looked like Moses, and was the perfect model for The Giver.

Rush said reading Lowry’s book gave her a greater appreciation of how we can take things for granted and how we should appreciate life. Bridges said the lesson of the book was the dangers of what we are willing to give up for the price of comfort. Silver agreed that what makes the movie exciting is exploring that issue.

Lowry was asked if there would be a sequel to the film, and she said she’d love that, but it’s too early to tell. She has two book sequels to The Giver ready if so. She was asked how difficult it was to get the book published originally, due to its dystopian nature, to which she answered it wasn’t as hard as she had thought it would be, since she already had a track record of previously published novels.

Bridges mentioned how exciting it was to have Taylor Swift on set in a role as a piano-playing performer (who in the book is already gone before the action begins). He was asked if when portraying The Giver, how much of his character was improvised. He said his touchstone was always to go back to Lowry’s source material.

Thwaites was asked what is was like to be a young actor starting out on a major feature. He and Rush agreed the key is to be as fearless as possible in your performance. Bridges mentioned that young people have access to all this great technology to get their performances out there in the public. He then told a story about when he was a kid with his brother Beau Bridges, they would rent a flatbed truck and perform skits outside of supermarkets until the cops would come and rush them off.

Lowry was asked what role she had in assisting the films producers. She said that at one point she gave Meryl Streep line readings during an ADR session for her character of The Chief Elder. Bridges related how amazing the babies on the set were in their “non-acting” acting performance. He then related how his first acting role was at six months old in a film with Jane Greer (The Company She Keeps), in which he needed to cry. “Just pinch him,” Bridges’ mother told Greer.

The Giver opens August 15, 2014.

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