Thomas Brodie-Sangster has been in the limelight since he made his feature debut, aged 12, in Richard Curtis’s romantic comedy hit Love, Actually. Since then he’s scarcely stopped, racking up a string of roles in films like Nanny McPhee, Tristan + Isolde, The Last Legion and Bright Star. In 2009, he played Paul McCartney in Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Nowhere Boy, about the early days of John Lennon and the Beatles.
In The Maze Runner, Brodie-Sangster played Newt, one of Thomas’s (Dylan O’Brien) first allies in the Glade, and a loyal, true friend. After surviving “The Scorch Trials,” Thomas, Newt and the other Gladers are determined to reach the Last City in Maze Runner: The Death Cure, but it will be a long and bumpy road to the finish.
Brodie-Sangster looks back on his four-year journey with The Maze Runner series, and what to expect from the new film.
You’ve reached the end of a journey that started more than four years ago, and you’ve done it with the same cast and director on each of these movies. What has it meant to you to have that continuity?
Thomas Brodie-Sangster: I think we knew, from the very first — before we even knew whether we would get a chance to make the second — that we all wanted Wes Ball to come back and do it again, just because he has this genuine excitement and genuine passion. He’s got a vision in his head and it could have so easily gone to someone that didn’t really care that much. They could have just pumped out movies based on some books, it’s going to get a crowd in, it’s going to make a certain amount of money, and it’s just going to be done and easy. Whereas here he attacked it with a real sense of passion, and that also then carries all the way through the crew and cast, and gets everyone just as motivated as him. And that’s what made the movies, and that’s why we wanted him on the next and the next one. It was great to have that consistency and to have that general arc all the way through. They’re his movies, and they are also the first thing he’s ever done. It’s kind of crazy.
The end is in sight for all these characters. How is that affecting Newt? The only people that matter to Newt are these friends. They’re his family. He probably had a family and friends before all this stuff happened, but his memories are gone. The only thing he clings onto are the people that he truly trusts and cares about. In Death Cure, I think he knows that things are going to come back round full circle. Thomas is more concentrated on sorting out the world, and trying to figure out what’s going on with WCKD. I think Newt just wants his friends to be okay, and that’s it really. He’s on a mission to make it okay with them, and in some ways to bring them back full circle to the first movie, when they were in the Glade together. To find a place where they can feel comfortable to just go to sleep at night, and wake up in the morning.
I think that we all feel that it’s wrapped up nicely. We’ve all done the best job we can. We’ve all matured quite a lot since the first movie. We’ve done quite a lot of growing up together, so it’s a bittersweet moment to say goodbye to that.
The one thing that’s changed here is that the Gladers now know what they have to do. Yeah, it’s the first time we’ve actually understood this world. In both other movies we were thinking, “We don’t know who’s here, and what this world is, and who the good guys are, who the bad guys are.” In this one we’re pretty sure who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. How the world in which we inhabit kind of operates and works, and how we can operate and work within that, so we feel a lot more matured in this movie, which is actually really nice.
It’s been great to spend the last four years, and be able to come back to these characters, and also with the cast; we all really do love each other. Everyone by this point knows their character very well, and they know how each of their characters interacts with every other character, so it’s just kind of easy as well. You’re working with your friends. Wes will just paint this ridiculous picture for you beyond these great sets. And you’ll be making a fun adventure action movie that’s also got some heart and some good character to it.
Every film has felt different as well. This film shot in South Africa for the first time in the series. Yeah, and that’s also been really cool. Wes said that right from beginning that he wanted each film to feel very different, and they do. And I think in each case the location’s actually been a really key character. Louisiana [on The Maze Runner] was so hot in a kind of heavy humid way, so you see it in those scenes of us in the Glade. Everyone looks a bit sweaty and hot, but everyone’s kind of really chilled. In The Scorch Trials we were in Albuquerque, and it’s high and dry, arid and harsh, and everyone’s covered up and a bit on edge.
South Africa was kind of a mixture between the two, I suppose. The locations are incredible. We shot a bit in the desert as well, and we used a lot of downtown Cape Town, so nothing was actually that far away. It brings its character into the movie quite a lot, but importantly as well, they are all location movies. I just don’t enjoy being on a soundstage. There’s nothing real about it. On location, even if it is hard, even if it’s raining, or it’s cold, or if it has to actually be night time because you have to be outside, and you’re doing a really cold, and miserable night shoot. You’re all together, and it does bond you.
And also you’re all on location, so you’re staying in the same place. You’re all going through that together. If you do it in a city where people go home at the end of the day, and then you just all come to work, and work on a studio lot, you’re too aware as an actor that it’s pretend. Whereas when you’re on location, half of it is real anyway. You’ve got all this amazing location that’s real, and you feel it. And the weather is real. You feel it, and that puts you in the right space. That’s why it becomes a character in the movie. And it helps you get into character so much easier.
How do you reflect on this experience now you’ve reached the end? I think that we all feel that it’s wrapped up nicely. We’ve all done the best job we can. We’ve all matured quite a lot since the first movie. We’ve done quite a lot of growing up together, so it’s a bittersweet moment to say goodbye to that.
You always invest into a character. And at the end of any project — but this one has gone on quite long — you say goodbye to that character, and you kind of say goodbye to the little bit of yourself in them as well. When it’s mixed with people who you genuinely really get along with, and who you spent a lot of time in front of camera in character as well, and your characters get along, there’s lots of chemistry to say goodbye to.
We’ll still continue to be friends, but there’s chemistry that won’t exist anymore. And that’s sad to say goodbye to, but at the same time everything has to come to an end, and I think it’s just a nice way to wrap it up. And it’s nice to tick the final box.
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The Maze Runner: The Death Cure is now in cinemas.