Author James Dashner on Seeing the The Maze Runner Movie at Comic-Con

James Dashner

(Credit: Maria Wood)

James Dashner is the author of the blockbuster YA series The Maze Runner. The film adaptation of the first book will be in theaters on September 19th. James was kind enough to share his experiences viewing the film for the first time during this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego.

I’ve attended the San Diego Comic-Con a few times over the years, and it’s always a crazy experience: the costumes, the lines, the jam-packed floor. But this year was a really special one for me. Barnes & Noble asked me to write a guest blog post about my experience because this year I was there to help launch the movie based on my book, The Maze Runner. It’s hard to express just how surreal and thrilling it was in words, but I’ll try! I’m not sure I’ve ever had such a relatively short period of time filled with such extreme emotion. Things got better and better over the course of the Con, and just when I thought I might be done reaching new heights of emotion, something else would happen. There’s so much to cover! It was nuts, and I even cried—more than once!—ruining my reputation as a macho mountain-man.

But I can’t possibly describe it all, so I’ve decided to focus on three aspects:

1. Seeing The Maze Runner film for the first time.

2. Watching it again with fans during Comic-Con.

3. Sharing this and being with my writing career family.

So here goes:

1. I was lucky enough to be very involved in the making of the film. Very lucky. I’ll thank the folks at 20th Century Fox for that experience until the day I die. I was honored to be asked to consult on the script. I stayed in constant contact with Wes Ball, the director, and Wyck Godfrey, the producer. I visited the set twice. I was there when they recorded the musical score. I even have a cameo! (Let me know if you spot me.)

Because of that involvement, I knew that the movie was to my liking. But I hadn’t yet seen the final complete and edited product, special effects added, with all the music, sounds, etc.

On the Wednesday before Comic-Con, Fox brought me to their studios and I watched the movie.

Can you imagine what that was like? I love movies. I really, really love movies. And this one was based on a book I wrote! From the moment the oh-so-famous 20th Century Fox opening logo appeared, with all the glory of its drums and horns, my chest swelled with emotion and my eyes teared up.

And then came the movie itself. By that time my expectations had risen to unrealistic, crazy highs. And yet I can honestly report that somehow those expectations were exceeded!

I know I’m biased. The most biased. I wrote the darn book. But shouldn’t I also be the harshest critic? I don’t know. All I can say is that, to me, the movie was perfect. The cast, the direction, the cinematography, the writing, the flow and pace, the visuals, the sounds. And the music. Oh, the music! (I have always written while listening to my favorite movie soundtracks. Surreal.) The best word I can use to describe the experience of watching the film is transcendent. I cried, I laughed, I trembled from head to toe. Good thing the room was dark, because I’m pretty sure I looked like a crazy person.

2. The very next night, Fox did a prerelease screening at the Gaslamp Theater in San Diego especially for fans of the book. People started lining up at six in the morning to get a seat. I still feel terrible about the many fans who showed up but weren’t able to make it inside. I wish the theater could’ve seated everyone. But those who did get in provided me with yet another unforgettable moment.

I was excited to attend this screening with the fans as well as with Wes Ball (director), Dylan O’Brien (Thomas), Kaya Scodelario (Teresa), and Will Poulter (Gally). We introduced the film and did a Q&A afterward. I sat right between four of the book’s biggest fans as the movie started up. It was even better the second time! I’m not sure which I enjoyed most—watching the film itself (a little less like a crazy person, catching the details) or seeing and hearing the reactions of those around me.

There were tears. Gasps. Screams. Lots of hands going to mouths and OMGs. Cheers and applause throughout the whole movie. Again, a biased audience, already in love with the books (or maybe Dylan O’Brien). But the response couldn’t have been more positive. Fox told me later just how much Tumblr and Twitter exploded with commentary. And I was there!—the first time fans witnessed the magic that Wes Ball and Fox created. I’ll never forget it.

3. Those two experiences weren’t the only things making me cry during this unforgettable weekend. (Seriously, I really don’t cry that much. I’m not sure what came over me at Comic-Con.) I was also very touched by having so many people from my career path attending the event with me. The only way it could’ve been more perfect was if my wife, and kids, had been present.

My agent, Michael Bourret, was there. My editor at Random House, Krista Marino. Those two are more responsible for my career than anyone else. Lots of other people from the publisher also came. And then there was the Fox side of things. The film’s publicist, Catherine Culbert. Wes and Wyck and Dylan and Kaya and Will and so many others. My friends from Gotham Group, such a huge part of making the film happen, and happen in the right way. I could go on. I’m so blessed that all of these folks aren’t just supremely talented. They’re also genuine and down to earth and funny and cool. Yes, cool. Really a great word. A lifetime of writing and I can’t come up with a better word to describe these fantastic people because I like cool.

James Dashner, Wes Ball (director), and lead actors Will Poulter (Gally), Kaya Scodelario (Teresa) and Dylan O'Brien (Thomas)

Lead actors Will Poulter (Gally), Kaya Scodelario (Teresa), and Dylan O’Brien (Thomas), along with James Dashner (author) and Wes Ball (director)

There you have it. A tiny glimpse into the whirlwind that was my Comic-Con experience this year. Unforgettable, to say the least. I’m not sure why I’ve been so lucky to have such things happen. But please don’t pinch me. If I’m dreaming, I don’t wanna wake up.

See ya at the movies.

Are you excited to see The Maze Runner in theaters this fall?

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