Director Niccol shares six key facts about ‘The Host’

Max Irons and Saoirse Ronan in “The Host.”
Alan Markfield
Max Irons and Saoirse Ronan in “The Host.”

Someone wants you to see “The Host.”

Maybe that someone is a fan of author Stephenie Meyer, who wrote the book on which the film is based, as well as all of those pesky “Twilight” novels that everybody loved so much.

Or maybe that person didn’t even like the “Twilight” books but fell for Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in the vampire movies and is desperately seeking a replacement for the franchise, which ended last fall with “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2.” That person probably feels the void left by the absence of Pattinson’s perfectly coifed Edward Cullen and hopes that Jared Howe (the heartthrob in “The Host”), played by Max Irons, will be a capable replacement fantasy man.


Or maybe (less likely) the person who wants you to see “The Host” is an Andrew Niccol fan who loves the director’s most famous sci-fi film, “Gattica” — or the less famous Justin Timberlake vehicle “In Time” — and really wants to know how Niccol will portray a world inhabited by aliens who have taken over our bodies.

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Far, far, far less likely is the possibility that your would-be movie companion is simply a huge fan of the star of “The Host,” actress Saoirse Ronan, who’s best known for memorable roles in two Joe Wright films, “Atonement” and “Hanna.”

Regardless of who your “Host” enabler is, you are tentative about seeing this film — and for good reason. After all, the Globe’s Ty Burr says the film is like “Starman” “serialized for Seventeen magazine.” (Yikes.) But you’ll see “The Host” anyway — because you care about your date.

And they saw “Django Unchained” for you, didn’t they?

For all the reluctant moviegoers who will be dragged to see “The Host” against their will, much like the humans being used as puppets by the aliens in the movie, here are some things to know from director Niccol (whom we interviewed by phone) that might convince you to keep an open mind.


1. Niccol didn’t sign up for this project because he wanted in on a Stephenie Meyer franchise. In fact, he tells us he didn’t really understand the frenzy surrounding Meyer when he fell for “The Host,” which is about an alien and human soul who are fighting for use of the same body. “Naively, I didn’t think about that when I was attracted to the story,” Niccol told us, laughing about the immediate hype that surrounded the film simply because it was a Meyer project. Really, he just loved the concept of aliens taking over and running our world better than we do.

2. This is not a love-triangle movie. There’s no Edward vs. Jacob. Because there are two souls in one body and they both love a different (and very attractive) young man, Niccol jokes that this is a “love rectangle.” He also maintains that the movie is really about female friendship — two women learning to coexist in the same space. He says it’s also about aliens and humans learning about each other. “This is kind of a greater love. A coexistence of people. Even a species from another planet.”

3. This film is a great vehicle for women, says Niccol. First, there’s Ronan, whom Niccol adored in “Atonement” and “Hanna.” Niccol jokes that not only does Ronan have a great female role, “She has two of them.” “I thought, she can make you cry, or she can kill you,” he said, of why Ronan was cast as Melanie and Wanda, the alien. “She’s very empathetic. She was the first find for us.” Then there’s the villain, the alien “seeker,” who is on the hunt for Ronan’s character. Niccol says that no matter what you think of Meyer, she writes for actresses. “Even her antagonist — Diane Kruger — is a woman.”

4. Niccol says the guys have depth. Besides the two lead characters played by Ronan, Niccol says the most important casting choice was for Ian, the human who falls in love with the alien soul inhabiting Ronan’s human body. “He’s the most evolved,” he said of Ian, who falls in love with the alien creature inside of Melanie’s human shell without having any idea what that alien really looks like. (Turns out, the aliens look a bit like jellyfish, but Ian doesn’t care.) “We’re a very physical species.” Niccol’s Ian is played by Jake Abel, who actually had a small part in another Ronan film, “The Lovely Bones.”

5. Niccol finds the fans fascinating. You might think Meyer’s followers are annoying, but they’re invested and creative. Even before Niccol officially signed on to adapt the book and direct the film, Meyer’s fans had put their casting choices online. “It’s a new age,” he said. “They cast the movie for you. They make the trailer for you. Some of those trailers are really well done.”


6. When the audience starts screaming after the big kissing scene, you can laugh knowingly at Niccol’s editing. Niccol tells us that after seeing a “Twilight” screening and realizing that Meyer’s fans react audibly in the theater, he rethought the movie’s biggest make-out scene so that there would be an extra beat between the kiss and the next line. “Girls were screaming and you couldn’t hear the movie.” Now you can.

Meredith Goldstein can be reached at