Jeff Bridges has been trying to turn Lois Lowry's novel The Giver into a feature film for twenty years. So what took so long? We asked him, and we also asked "The Receiver" how they developed the actual art of giving and taking in The Giver.
What is it about this work that kept you so passionate for so long?
Jeff Bridges: Originally I was looking for a project that I could direct my father, Lloyd Bridges, in and wanted it to be a movie that my kids could see. They were all very young at the time and now they're all in their 30s. I saw this cover of a book, it's this grizzled old guy (I was looking through a catalogue of kids books) and it had the Newbery stamp Award. I got the book and read it. And it worked so well as a children's book, but also as an adult knocked out by the story. The complexity of it. It had a dangerous quality to it. I thought, "Oh this is going to be a cinch to get made." But I was proven wrong. I think maybe it was just too, too dangerous. I'm just so glad that Harvey Weinstein stepped up to get it made.
Is it nice and freeing to let it go and just let everyone enjoy it?
Jeff Bridges: Oh yeah, it's just terrific. I think this is going to be wonderful for them, I think we'll be seeing a lot of those guys?
Since you originally planned The Giver, when you put on that costume did you think? Did you think about anything he would do that you would like to recreate?
Jeff Bridges: Nah, not too much. Nothing really obvious like that. But I feel my dad around all that time. Even when we mention him here I fell like he's soaring down, "say something nice." But I use him all the time in many, many roles.
What do you think of these up and comers [the younger actors]?
Jeff Bridges: These guys, man these young guys, Brent and Odeya, they just knock me out. They're so wonderful. Have you read the book in school? In school? Was it required reading? I was very concerned, because I love the book so much, I was very concerned about them being too. Harvey and a lot of my partners wanted to up the ages a little bit, I was kind of reticent but then once I met Brent and Odeya I was fine with it. In our movie we don't really mention age. In the book they say "the twelves" you don't know. But the essence is, these kids are getting of age to take on their careers.
What did you learn from [Jeff Bridges] as an actor?
Brenton Thwaites: He's had this baby for 20 years, trying to get it made. And I just stepped into it, super excited about the story and the ideas. And for someone who has been trying to get a movie made for 20 years it must be so hard to cast, to visualize these characters. But he was super cool in the auditions, and super open to ideas and improvisation. The lightness, you want to keep that lightness. As soon as it gets heavy, it gets stressful and tense. Jeff always made it fun on set.
Speaking of improvising, how did you guys come up with how to visualize "the receiving" and "the giving" that you do back and forth?
Brenton Thwaites: We played around with it. There was a certain moment where we were like touching fingers or just doing it through telepathy. Like a leg kick. We just rolled with it a little bit. But we found that the most powerful was a very specific hand gesture that you guys will see when it comes out. But yeah that process, the rehearsal process was probably the most fun. It was the most we improvised. We had this great set in South Africa called the Giver's quarters, beautiful library, 3,600 real books. So at anytime you could pick up a book and [it would be] "Australian Botany." It was a cool environment, a very freeing space.
Why did it take this long for The Giver to finally become a film?
Lois Lorwy: I doubt if there are any other movies that have taken this long. I sometimes have likened it to a Rubik's cube where you have to get all the blue things in the right line. We would get three of them lined up, and the fourth one wouldn't go into place. Or we'd get them all lined up briefly and one would fall out. And I'm talking star, director, screenplay, money (which is very important). Suddenly a year they were all in a line, like the stars had aligned. That's when it finally got made.