The 5th Wave Releases Friday, January 22nd 2016 - Buy your tickets NOW!
CASTING THE FILM
To bring to life the role of Cassie Sullivan, the filmmakers turned to Chloë Grace Moretz. For the filmmakers, Moretz combined the right combination of talents and traits: she is a seasoned performer (especially needed if the character would be appearing in multiple films), but, like her character, is herself just coming of age. The result was a perfect fit of actress and character – and a match that only became more deeply ingrained for the filmmakers as filming proceeded. “As an artist and writer I do believe in serendipity,” comments Yancey. “I have the writer’s tendency to become overly emotionally involved with my characters. So it was very important to me when I heard that they will be making a film that they got the right actors, and everyone’s going to agree that they got the right actors. I can’t imagine anyone else but Chloë now in the role. From the very first scenes that were shot I knew that we had found our Cassie.”
“Chloë became pretty much synonymous with the character because she inhabits Cassie so well,” adds Blakeson. “Playing somebody who’s normal in extraordinary circumstances, rather than somebody extraordinary in normal circumstances, gave Chloë the ability to plug into stuff from her own life, and you can really see that coming through in her performance. That allows the viewer to really go there with her and makes it easier to accept the big leaps of the story. Watching your own world slowly evolve into an Orwellian world is more terrifying than if we were just dropped there in the first place.”
“We were very lucky to get Chloë because she’s so proficient at everything,” Blakeson continues. “She’s fantastic at emotional scenes, family scenes, fun scenes, but she’s really good at the tougher action sequences – she’s wildly experienced for somebody so young.”
In fact, despite her age, Moretz has done so many action films that she has a very good sense of the sequences she can handle herself. “I've done action since I was 11 years old,” says Moretz. “Action is my second hand… it’s super fun and easy for me. It's fun when it's the real thing. The car fight ended up being my favorite sequence to shoot. It was really awesome and it's exciting to see fighting done in close quarters.”
The most important thing in Cassie’s life is her brother, Sam – and she’ll do anything to protect him. “Cassie and Sam are the yin and yang of this story – they’re both going through the same issues, in different locations and under different circumstances, that come up over and over again in the movie,” says Blakeson. “By the time they get back together, they’ve both been through a similar experience and are very different people from when they started.”
To cast this key role, the filmmakers conducted an extensive search before Zackary Arthur landed the role. “J was very specific about wanting a young actor who was not jaded, and neither too young or too old,” says producer Lynn Harris. “If the actor was too young, there’s no way he could have survived his ordeal, and if he was too old, he wouldn’t have the vulnerability. We needed a kid who could access emotions that even a mature actor has a hard time accessing, but be small enough that you could buy that he’s Chloë’s little brother.”
“Zack was a real find,” says Blakeson. “It was immediately evident that he could act very well, but he was also right there emotionally. With short shooting days, it was very valuable to know that he would be completely on the money every time. Between takes, he’s a very sweet kid who’s a lot of fun.”
After Cassie and Sam are separated as the waves begin to mount, she makes a promise to get back to him. “That’s really the thrust of the film,” says producer Lynn Harris. “Along the way, we’re introduced to Ben Parish, who is a guy she has a crush on, and then she meets and develops a relationship with Evan Walker, and they form a team. But ultimately, Cassie made a very simple promise to her brother, and she’s going to fulfill it. It’s very human and extremely powerful.”
For the roles of Ben Parish and Evan Walker, the filmmakers cast rising star Nick Robinson (Jurassic World) as Ben and newcomer Alex Roe as Evan.
“Casting the right Ben Parish and the right Evan Walker was extremely important to balance either side of Chloë’s character in this story,” says Blakeson. “Ben is the popular guy in high school, the heartthrob she admires from afar but really doesn’t know, whereas Evan is a real grown-up man. If there’s a cusp of adulthood, Ben is just before it, and Evan is just after it,” comments Blakeson.
To find them, the filmmakers cast a wide net. Actors sent in tapes from all over the world, with auditions around the U.S. including in Los Angeles and New York, plus in London and Australia. “Nick was really impressive, and just like Chloë, seemed to be beyond his years in his ability and emotional range. He was a very early favorite for Ben, but we had to find the right Evan that would balance with Nick, before we cast either part,” Blakeson explains. “It was quite late in the process when I saw Alex’s tape and we flew him to New York to audition. When he read with Chloë, instantly it was obvious that there was a really good rapport. Alex also has real presence, and he’s got these fantastic eyes that feel like they could either be threatening or extremely empathic. We ended up offering both of them their parts over the same weekend.”
“I found out 10 minutes before the news got released online that I’d been cast as Evan,” laughs Roe.
“Ben Parish is the man, a solid dude. He’s the guy that everybody wants to be, the quarterback with a lot of friends, and an all-around nice guy,” says Robinson. That all changes with the four waves of attacks. “He survives, but he earns his nickname ‘Zombie’ after all the loss he’s been through.”
Many of Robinson’s scenes put the actor opposite Liev Schreiber, an intense, highly charged actor. But the veteran says that the young actor was up to the task. “As actors, we work so hard on our own, and we come into a scene with our own ideas. What’s really exciting is when another actor completely redefines the scene for you, and that happened for me with Nick,” says Schreiber. “I assumed that I knew better, because I was older. But I was really impressed that he had his own take, and that it had nothing to do with what I was doing. In fact, his take was actually a little more interesting to me, and that’s exciting and encouraging to see.”
As he began to approach playing Evan, Roe says it was love at first sight. “When I read the script, I fell in love with Evan straight away. I understood him,” states Roe. “He’s a complicated character, dealing with love and loss. He was a smart kid studying mechanical engineering that grew up on a farm, but he has always felt like an outsider and he doesn’t know why. He’s split in two really. He is surviving, but his emotional side is completely shut off until he meets Cassie. She opens up his humanity.”
She does this, Roe says, by giving him a new perspective. “Evan finds Cassie on the highway, and she’s been shot. He rescues her, brings her back to his farmhouse and nurses her back to health,” he explains. “They don’t trust each other – they’re in this situation where no one trusts anyone. Although she’s fighting it constantly, Cassie is forced to trust Evan because he might be her only chance of survival and her only chance of finding her brother. My character learns through her that it’s not just about finding something to live for – Cassie has found something she’s willing to die for, and now, so has Evan.”
Maika Monroe, who last year appeared in the highly regarded horror film It Follows, takes the role of Ringer, an ace sniper. “Ringer is a very complicated character. She has a low tolerance for weakness, as well as a strength and fierceness that comes to someone who’s lost everything,” she says. “She presents herself as a survivor, even though she’s broken inside.”
Ringer is teamed with Zombie – formerly known as Ben Parish – and sees him as a project, molding him into the leader she knows he can be. “Nick and I, we’re like besties now. We had so much fun on set creating the dynamic between Zombie and Ringer, especially in fight training. There’s a camaraderie between them that I understand.”
Describing her character as a “badass,” Monroe – something of a badass herself, as a professional kite surfer – was willing to go to great lengths to get the role, including strike an unforgettable appearance at her audition. “I food-colored my hair, purple,” she says. “I didn’t think much of it at the time, but then I got a callback. By the time I went in for the camera test, I had fallen in love with this role. It’s been so much fun transforming because Ringer is very different from who I am. People literally don’t recognize me as Ringer.”
To play the adults in the story, the filmmakers turned to four venerable and seasoned actors – Ron Livingston and Maggie Siff as Oliver and Lisa Sullivan, Cassie and Sam’s parents; Liev Schreiber as Colonel Vosch; and Maria Bello as Sergeant Reznik.
Livingston says he was attracted to the film by the deeper nature of the themes. “Before the first act is over, we go from our normal, everyday, mundane world to one where 99 percent of people are dead. That’s sci-fi by nature, but it also makes the movie a suspenseful thriller,” says Livingston. “What happens when all of a sudden we’re scared of each other and ourselves?”
“Ron stands in for every father across America trying to grapple with this invasion and the loss of humanity and trust,” says Plouffe. “He had to find the nuance in the middle of being a father and being honest. His arc in the movie is remarkable to watch.”
Siff, Livingston, Moretz and Arthur had only moments in which to bond and become a family. “The first day we arrived on location, we took a bunch of family photographs,” Siff recalls. “It was giddy and silly and you start joking with each other – you’re holding kids in your lap and you’re putting your arm around your fake husband. But some of the silliness begins to build a shorthand for intimacy very quickly. The very beginning of the film is about creating the feeling of a happy, healthy family.”
Part of that is playing a pair of great parents. “The parents have authority, but they’re not authoritarian,” Siff says. “The kids can rely on them, but there’s also a lot of freedom for them to become who they are, which is one of the reasons Cassie becomes the heroine that she is. She’s strong-minded, and when the world ends, she can stand alone and fight.”
After recently teaming with 5th Wave producers Tobey Maguire and Matthew Plouffe to star as Boris Spassky opposite Maguire as Bobby Fischer in the film Pawn Sacrifice, acclaimed actor Liev Schreiber takes the role of Col. Vosch.
“Liev is one of the best actors working today,” says Plouffe. “When Tobey and I first read the book, we were actually joking to each other – ‘I wonder if we could get Liev to play Vosch?’ We were thrilled when he said yes, because he’s the ideal.”
“Liev is one of my favorite actors,” adds Harris. “He approached Vosch with real subtlety and charm, and turned a character who could be a very mustache-twirling bad guy into a sympathetic, interesting and nuanced character.”
“When he first arrives, he’s very much what everyone has been looking for. People have been struggling to survive,” notes Schreiber. “In times of crisis, we always look toward the men and women of our armed services to assist, and when Vosch shows up, people feel like the cavalry has arrived. But Vosch is an interesting guy and it gets a little more complicated.”
“Part of the battle between the Others and the humans is that they understand that hope is our weakness,” Schreiber continues. “They understand emotion. They understand passion. They understand reckless behavior as a weakness. Part of what’s great about this story is that it celebrates those things as undeniably human. They make us what we are. Our faults, our cracks, our weaknesses are, in fact, what make us great.”
Maria Bello takes the role of Sergeant Reznik, the tough-as-nails second-in-command to Vosch. “Maria’s very specific take on Reznik is the opposite of the understated way Liev played Vosch,” notes Harris. “She is an over-the-top character, and Maria’s take was right in line with what J wanted Reznik to be. She is a big pop of fun in the middle of the movie – J wanted them all to be afraid of her, and Maria created a very intimidating character. She probably scared the bejeebies out of poor little Zack!”
“I really, really enjoyed the book,” says Bello. “What I like most about The 5th Wave is it’s not dystopian. It’ a regular girl at a regular time with a regular family who gets thrown into an extraordinary circumstance. I love seeing this trend of strong, young female characters.”
Rounding out the cast are the actors playing some of the book’s fan favorite characters: the young actors portraying Squad 53. In addition to Robinson as Zombie, Monroe as Ringer, and Arthur, who becomes known as Nugget, the squad is rounded out by Cade Canon Ball, who plays Oompa, the compassionate and wise voice of reason; Alex MacNicoll (McFarland, USA) as the oversized Flintstone; Nadji Jeter (Grown Ups) as the soft, sweet Poundcake; Talitha Bateman as the quick-witted Teacup; Grand Budapest Hotel’s Tony Revolori as the big-eared Dumbo; and Flynn McHugh as Tank.