Host, The: Interview with Director Andrew Niccol

The Host, with its seething inner conflict, seized the imagination of director Andrew Niccol right away. “You can talk about characters in roles having inner conflict, but in this case it is literally true,” says Niccol. “Our main character has been inhabited by an alien being. The two personalities go to a war with one another. It’s a great concept.”

Niccol observes that science fiction offers a subtle way to deliver a message to an audience. “It’s almost easier to say something about today by going into a future period,” he notes. “It’s a Trojan Horse of sorts. The audience is thinking that if it’s about the future it has nothing to do with them and then you slip an idea to them.”

Niccol agreed to direct the film, as well as to write the screenplay based on Meyer’s novel. “Obviously I was aware of the popularity of Twilight,” he says. “But I simply wanted to do justice to the book and its fans. Any pressure I felt was more creative than commercial. The idea of catching lightning in a bottle twice is a little much to expect. On the other hand, I wouldn’t bet against Stephenie.”

Having been through the adaptation process several times before, Meyer came to the table with strong opinions about what the final script.

generic viagrafinal script should look like. “Any adaptation is 95 percent compromise and 5 percent frustration,” she says. “I believe that everyone on the creative side of filmmaking wants the best result they can get. We want the best because we care about how the story’s told, not who our market is and how we position this at the box office.”

The first major challenge was turning a 600-plus-page book into a 120-page script. “That’s a challenge for any filmmaker, especially when you have an author whose books are so beloved,” says Wechsler. “But the whole process went fairly quickly and we got a script that we really believe in.”

It was, by all accounts a satisfying and productive collaboration. “Stephenie definitely has her opinions, but she doesn’t impose them,” Niccol says. “She’s very savvy. She cares, but she’s not precious about her ideas. She’ll accept changes that seem quite sweeping without any kind of handwringing. Some elements and characters had to be sacrificed. I love soccer, but there’s a soccer game in the book that I knew was never going to make it into the movie. You have time for that kind of digression in a novel, but not in a film.”

“Working with Andrew was a lot of fun,” Meyer says. “He is so much more visual than I am. I really like to delve into the words and how people interact. Andrew concentrated on the physical world. He brought in elements that take it to a level I hadn’t envisioned. There were things he came up with that made me kick myself a little bit because I liked them so much better than what I’d done.”
For example, in the novel, the Souls use human weapons, turning the earthlings’ guns and explosives against them. “Alien beings are usually depicted as the enemy,” says Niccol. “We thought, what if the aliens are more humane than humans? With Stephenie’s blessing, I used that idea and replaced the guns with a futuristic spray called Peace that gently immobilizes its target.”

The final script for The Host still contains a compelling romance, according to Niccol, but it also encompasses a good deal more for audiences to think over. “I like that at its core it still is a love story, but it does have these broader themes,” he says. “We’re dealing with the survival of humanity. We’re also asking if a species that actually heals the planet has a place on Earth. These are themes that are far more profound than any in Stephenie’s previous work. It’s hard to say what each person will take from it, but I do hope it entertains and gives them something to chew over.”