SDCC 2014: Lois Lowry Wishes She Had a Cameo in The Giver

“When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong.” So says The Giver’s Chief Elder, who is played to chilling effect by Meryl Streep in the film adaptation of the classic work.

Lois Lowry came to Comic-Con to talk about the book and the film, and was regarded with “reverence and respect,” as she damn well should be. Given that her YA dystopia predates (and probably inspired) successes like Divergent and The Hunger Games, why did it take so long to get a film adaptation?

For those who don’t remember (or never read) the story:

A post-apocalyptic society has suppressed individuality, emotion, and privacy. Humans only see black and white, art is no-no, and anything unique is ruthlessly stripped away. Like, for instance, if twins are born…obviously the freak occurrence must be dealt with, by ditching the smaller twin. People no longer remember society before all these regulations—only the Receiver (Jeff Bridges) is allowed to have full access to memory. As he ages, he becomes the Giver, and must share these memories with the next Receiver, a young boy named Jonas (Brenton Thwaites).

The panel featured 10 minutes of footage from the film, which, yes, keeps the black-and-white intact. After that it swung into a Q&A with Lowry, Jeff Bridges, Brenton Thwaites, and Odeya Rush, who plays Fiona.

The Giver SDCC panel Lois Lowry Jeff Bridges Brenton Thwaites Odeya Rush

Jeff Bridges, who has spent nearly 20 years working to bring the book to the screen, has some ideas about why it’s taken so long:

“I think one of the reasons that…we had such a tough time getting it made, is because it’s pretty dangerous stuff for kids to be seeing, you know… and I didn’t know this, but it was on many banned lists. And funny, surprising that I didn’t realize that all these years. I said, ‘maybe that’s why it was tough to get made!’”

Bridges’ original idea was to ask his father, Lloyd Bridges, to star in a film that Bridges’ own young kids could attend. Sadly, the elder Bridges passed away in 1998, and obviously it’s taken another 16 years to come to the screen. Now Jeff Bridges himself has the role of the Giver, Australian actor Brenton Thwaites will play Jonas, and Rabbit-Proof Fence director Phillip Noyce is behind the camera. Plus, Taylor Swift is acting now, and Bridges singled her out for praise, saying, “she’s so sweet, and such a good actress.” He was also happy to have a piano player to jam with between takes!

Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal-winning novel has attracted both praise from teachers and book reviewers, and plenty of controversy. One scene where Jonas bathes an elderly woman was controversial enough that they decided to cut it, which disappointed Lowry because she wanted to cameo as the woman in the tub. Lowry also spoke to the larger issues of the novel, saying she “has never figured out why her book has elicited so much controversy” but that those looking to ban The Giverare not evil people.” Hmmm…you’re nicer than I am, Ms. Lowry.

Get your escape sleds ready—The Giver will come to movie screens on August 12th!

[check out more info at The New York Times, CinemaBlend, and HitFix]

All of our ongoing San Diego Comic Con 2014 coverage can be found here.


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