When the film version of Stephenie Meyer’s — author of the Twilight series — bestseller The Host was being developed, producer Nick Wechsler knew that many in the film industry thought it would be difficult, if not impossible, to make a realistic film in which two characters shared one body.
Luckily for him, neither he nor neither Meyer (who was directly involved in the making of the film) shared that opinion. “It never seemed like a huge challenge to me or to Nick,” says Meyer. “We figured all we needed was a really fantastic actress.”
Wechsler found the person they were looking for in Saoirse Ronan, “discovering” her during a screening of the film Hanna. “About 20 minutes into the movie, the hair on the back of my neck stood up, because Saoirse Ronan was clearly the one,” he says. “There weren’t many people I thought could pull off playing two characters in one body, but she could.”
Once having read the script, Ronan was eager to accept the role. “… The idea of playing two characters in one film … it’s an actor’s dream,” she says. “I was also very intrigued by the story, as well as the idea of working with [screenwriter/director] Andrew Niccol. Every project he’s involved in seems to have a mind-blowing concept behind it. And of course I was excited about working with Stephenie. She was on set almost all of the time and involved with everything.”
Once production was underway, finding a way to differentiate between two characters sharing the same body began with creating a distinctive voice for each. “Saoirse is Irish and she had to play two American accents, one slightly southern from Louisiana and a more generic American one,” says Niccol. “In addition, [Ronan’s character] Wanda is new to the language and the planet. In the beginning, she speaks quite formally, but then learns irony and sarcasm and even the ability to lie from her human host.”
Ronan also developed two individual ways of moving. “The walk for each character became important to me. Wanda’s very delicate. She almost floats, whereas [alter ego] Melanie is tough and feisty. I tried to bring that out in the way they hold themselves and even small things like hand gestures.”
Seeing her character come to life through Ronan pleased Meyer, who predicts audiences will be astonished by Ronan’s sensitive balancing act. “I hope as many people as possible see her in this role,” the author says. “It’s exciting to imagine where her career will go over the next few years. I can’t wait to see what her next movie is.” “It’s a bravura performance as anyone who sees it will discover,” adds producer Steve Schwartz. “Not only does she pull it off, she makes it look easy.”
The Host is available starting July 9 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© Open Road Films 2013
Credit: Alan Markfield