When you signed on to the film, were you the kind of actor who, if you hadn’t read the book, you devoured it, or did you want to stay away from it so you built your own character?
This is my fourth or fifth film that’s been an adaptation of a book, and I hate to admit it, but this is the first one I’d read before filming the movie. Usually I kind of keep the script [as] the bible and base everything off of that. But I think Stephenie probably had a big hand in Andrew’s adaptation of her book. I knew that they were going to try to keep as close as possible and I knew the book would give me much more backstory — just because of the capacity a book can hold — than the script could give me. So I did just crash through the book in a few days. I learned some stuff, and then some stuff changed in the movie, and it all came together, and I was really happy with what we came up with for Ian.
I know Stephenie Meyer was on the set a fair amount. What was that like, knowing that you were interpreting something that had lived in her head for so long?
The thing about Stephenie is that she’s highly collaborative. If you have ideas — and we had ideas about the sequels [to the book] — she was like, “Tell me! Tell me!” There were a couple of times I was like, “How ’bout this?” And she was like, “Well, I’ll think about it.” And that’s always so relieving as an actor, because we all want to bring something to the table, and we all understand that the film we’re making is the writer’s baby. There’s parts of you that want to honor their vision. There’s parts of you that have your own vision. And she welcomes that process with open arms. I got her blessing early on with what I was wanting to do with him, and because of that I was able to not think about it so much. She’s kind of the ghost on set anyway. Unless you go find her and have a conversation, she’s not coming up to you to give you notes or change your performance. She’s really, really great about that.
What was it like working with Andrew Niccol?
Working with Andrew was a dream come true. He and I had been wanting to work together for a little bit. I wanted to do one of his previous films, and it just didn’t work out, so we just got lucky that this one came up, and we knew we really wanted to do it together. I’ve been a fan of his since Truman Show [which Niccol wrote] and Gattaca. Again, he’s highly collaborative. I had two weeks’ rehearsal with him. He separates himself as Andrew the writer and Andrew the director better than anyone I’ve ever seen. He talks about Andrew the writer as if he were another separate entity besides him, which left us free to pitch ideas, and nothing’s ever taken personal. He backed up our ideas and made them into the script.