Everyone ought to be familiar with The Giver, the dystopian young adult novel penned by Lois Lowry that paved the way for series such as The Hunger Games and Divergent. Everyone also knows the marquee names on the poster: Jeff Bridges, Taylor Swift, Katie Holmes, and Meryl Streep. Yet, while they may get top billing, they aren't the leads. Jonas and Fiona — the couple at the center of the story — are played by rapidly rising newcomer Brenton Thwaites and Israel's Odeya Rush. And, while Thwaites may be the story's protagonist, The Giver's emotional core rests on the shoulders of Rush's Fiona.
Rush almost looks like a college-aged Mila Kunis. Like the girl next door, if you lived in some sort of incredible land where everyone had striking blue eyes and glossy hair. In fact, The Giver counts on us being as taken with Fiona as Jonas is — and fortunately, we are. Meet the girl who will soon be up there with the JLawr and KStew as one of Hollywood's brightest young things.
What's it like being part of such an internationally amazing cast?
"I was thinking earlier about how lucky I am that this happened so early in my career. This was probably the best project that was presented to me, the best script that I had sent to me. It’s just an all-around dream come true. From the story to the cast to my character, it’s an awesome thing that I’m so fortunate to be a part of."
Did you read the book before you read the script?
"No, I read it after. I know Lois’ work, and my brothers read it. It’s a lot of my friends’ favorite book, but for some reason I don’t know why I missed it and I didn’t read it."
Do you think that people should read the book before seeing the movie, or after seeing the movie?
"You don’t have to read the book to see the movie, but if you’re going to do both I feel like you should read the book first, cuz it’s weird to watch a movie first and then read the book, since it’s not the right order. And if you don’t have time since it comes out on Friday, you can get audiobooks and just listen. That’s the quickest way!"
So, would you prefer to be living in the communities as pre-emotions or post-emotions? Do you think that there’s something to be said about ignorance is bliss?
"I know, because of the childhood that I’ve had, it's not easy for many people to put food on the table and they worry about a husband or they worry about a house and they worry about war. But, for me, I want to live the life that I live today. I like that my life is messy and there’s ups and downs. I like that I can grow and develop as a human being. But I don’t want to say that that’s the right answer, because there are some people who are going through hard times and maybe they would prefer to live in a community where nothing happens, as opposed to going through crazy times their entire life."
The Giver was the prototype for so many of these movies that are out now, like The Hunger Games and Divergent, and it really was one of the first dystopian teenage tales. Do you feel sad that there’s not a franchise associated with it? Or are you glad that it’s a whole story in and of itself?
"I’m glad that it’s a whole story. And I think that it gives it weight to be a classic film."
Do you like the other kind of dystopian fantasies like The Hunger Games?
"Yeah, I read The Hunger Games and I love the movies. I really love Divergent. You know, we get compared to those and I’m sure they get compared to each other. But, you know, we're all telling different stories. This one is not as violent. It’s not all about the action. It’s a really deep story, and it applies to everyone. And I think Jeff and Meryl really bring in that older generation."
"Um, they’re not super heavy love scenes. I think it’s just interesting, for my character to love and to try and figure out what love is. Because, once she stops taking her injections, she does feel something. But, she knows that it’s wrong. I think the entire love scene in the triangle was really tough to capture. Imagine having your first kiss when you've never even touched a person before."
Those nuanced ways that the world works were so interesting. You know, constantly saying "I apologize." Was there anything more about the day-to-day life that was cut?
"The biggest one, is 'I apologize', or 'I accept your apology.' When we got sweatshirts at the end, you know, the wrap gift or whatever, I have a sweatshirt that says 'I do not accept your apology.' That was our joke."
You have a few scenes with Meryl. Was it really intense to be next to someone who is just so iconic?
"When I shot the scene where Meryl and Jeff were arguing, my character doesn’t react because she’s been drugged. She can’t react and I had to hold it in. I couldn’t even really look up at them and they were having such an intense moment and I think I was just learning so much from watching them. It was incredible to see and be there for all of it."
So, what’s next for you?
"I start school next week. I can’t just, like, forget about this year, I still have another year left. And, I just wrapped Goosebumps, and there’s something in the pipeline. But I don’t know. We’ll see!"
Are you planning on going to college?
"Yeah, that’s the plan. SAT courses. That’s what I’m doing now."
Do you know what you want to study?
"I'm debating between psychology or film. Yeah, like filmmaking, directing, or psychology."
Is there anybody in Hollywood that you really look up to, in the way that their career has kind of worked out or gone forward?
"Definitely Meryl. Because, with this industry, there are parts of it that don’t really complement being an actor. I think the reason why Meryl is where she is today, and has such a successful career, is purely because of her talent. Sometimes, that’s what you need to focus on. When you’re a child, when you grow up dreaming of being an actor, you don’t think of all these little things that go around it that people are telling you to do. I think, the reason why Meryl is where she is, and is so admired is because of her pure talent. And she’s intelligent and funny and all of that. But when it comes down to it, it’s about what you can do."
The Giver is in theaters Friday.
On Rush: Lela Rose.