Actor Dylan O’Brien will be the first one to admit that there’s a mixture of joy and sadness over the fact that the final chapter of the Maze Runner movies will be reaching theaters tomorrow, Jan. 26, 2018. With the release of Maze Hunter: The Death Cure, the story will have been told, yet the most prevalent thing on the former Teen Wolf star’s mind at the moment is the experience he’s had with his co-stars since the first film’s release four years ago.

“The time that we all had together on that first movie, I mean, it’s irreplaceable,” Dylan said during an interview provided by 20th Century Fox. “And the time that we’ve had on all of them — we’ll never get that back, but at the same time we’ll always be in each other’s lives. We will. I’ve made friends for life. But there’s something special about that time on set. You’re spending 16 hours on set, then you’re going home to the same hotel with them. It’s literally a 24-hour constant thing, and we all just voluntarily did that. We all just genuinely loved one another so much, and had so much fun hanging out that we just never left each other alone. Which is really cool and was always a part of what made this so special. I think you feel that on screen, too. We were all just so pumped to be with one another. We all had such tremendous respect for one another.”

Based on the book series by James Dashner, Maze Runner kicks off with Dylan’s Thomas awakening to find himself among a community of guys with his memory erased. What they discover is that they’re all trapped in a maze and the only means of escape is for them to work together and join forces with other “runners.” The adventure (described in more detail below) goes on from there, the current cast including Rosa Salazar, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Katherine McNamara (perhaps you heard of her own fantasy series, Shadowhunters?), Aidan Gillen and Ki Hong Lee.

“Reuniting on each one every time is hilarious,” Dylan said. “I turn into a little kid again in a way, because in between these films we’ve had years of growing up. We’re in our mid-to-late 20s now, but I turn into my little crazy energetic self; just that excitement and energy that we all created with each other on the first movie. That just kind of snaps right back in, I guess. I’m going to miss that. It makes you work harder, too. It makes you more passionate about what you’re doing.”

The Maze Runner (2014)

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(Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)

Thomas awakens as he’s being delivered to the glade. He has no memory of who he is or why he’s become a member of a community of young people, among them Minho (Ki hong Lee), lead maze runner; Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), a good friend and advisor; Gally (Will Poulter), a leader and adversary; and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), the only female Glader, with whom Thomas may have a potentially dark history. Together they are trapped, surrounded by 200 foot walls and an ever-changing maze.

One of the things that drew in director Wes Ball was Dylan’s character of Thomas. “Thomas is someone who takes that step forward into the unknown when everyone else take a step back,” he said. “It’s this idea that you have to be brave enough to face the unknown if you want to find yourself. Thomas is curious, and some in the Glade perceive that as a threat, but it may be the thing that gets them out of there. Additionally, I love movies about world creation, and this film is a world creation, top to bottom. We start in the Glade, which the boys have built, then outside those walls, we enter the grand world of the Maze, and that’s a whole different scenario.”


(Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)

Of the casting of Dylan as Thomas, producer Wyck Godfrey (The Twilight Saga) explained, “He has a great everyman quality. Dylan is very relatable in the way that recalls the young Tom Hanks. He’s not overtly glamorous and he’s a great athlete. Dylan could handle the physical requirements required for the character.”

For his part, Dylan points out that despite the bizarre and unexpected surroundings and situations, Thomas manages to rise to the occasion. “Until that moment he wakes up in the Glade, he’s probably led a pretty sheltered life,” he said. “Being put in this situation and under those circumstances allows him to tap into instincts and a kind of heroism that was always inside of him. He doesn’t let his fear of this new and unknown world prevent him from being curious about it. It doesn’t hold him back.”

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015)

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(Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)

The situation for the Gladers goes from bad to worse when they finally escape the maze, only to discover they are in the middle of a desolate wasteland called The Scorch. Thomas and those who have survived meet new allies while uncovering clues about the mysterious group known as WCKD [hmm, is that short for….”wicked”?), responsible for all of the trials that they’ve been through. In the final battle, the survivors of the deadly disease The Flare (which has wiped out most of the world’s population) have defined their purpose: to find a safe haven away from the influence of WCKD.

Wes explained, “In this film, we learn there is a much bigger world waiting for Thomas and the Gladers; one that’s been ravaged by the sun and a deadly virus. These young people have to find their place in this world and figure out how they can fix it. The Gladers are very valuable to several different groups and they’re torn between saving the world and their personal freedom.”

In talking about the changes in the character between entries, Dylan said, “In the first film, Thomas transitions from being a boy to a man, and he becomes a leader. To the Gladers, he represents hope, and Thomas realizes it’s up to him to get everyone out of the Glade. In this movie, he shoulders the responsibility for what’s happened to his fellow Gladers. Thomas convinced them to go for it and escape from the maze. Now they enter this world that’s not necessarily what they thought it would be. He promised friends that leaving the maze was the right move — it was going to save them. So Thomas must carry that weight, because he now realizes that they aren’t safe. It might even be worse for them out there in the Scorch, and in the hands of WCKD, essentially. So it’s not about him having to deal with that and staying strong.”

Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018)

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(Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)

The motives of WCKD become clearer, with the organization’s executive director, Dr. Ava Paige, close to what she believes is a cure for the disease known as The Flare. But the cure is achieved by sacrificing the few young people left in the world who are apparently immune. In order to free those who have been rounded up as test subjects, including his friend Minho, Thomas must now band together with fellow survivors, old and new, and take the battle to what may be the last remaining city and the final stronghold of WCKD. He must break into their highly-secured headquarters and try to bring down the organization from the inside.

For the key to the next step on Thomas’ evolution, Wes points to the end of The Scorch Trials, where everyone looks to him for a plan on what to do next. “It’s a defining moment for the character,” he said. “You see the leader emerge.”

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(Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)

“When we first meet Thomas,” offered that emerged leader, Dylan, “we’re meeting a scared and fragile, vulnerable kid in a way; this little scared animal in a cage. And it takes him a little bit, too. In that first film I’ve always thought it was such a cool coming of age arc of this kid discovering that he has this leadership in himself, and this drive that he can kind of put these kids on his back and get them out of there. And with that, though, comes a lot of responsibility and a lot of wear and tear. He really takes every loss that they go through to an extremely personal level. And now the Thomas that we see in the third film, you’re seeing a very weathered person who’s been through a lot, has felt everything, and still considers it his job to protect these people. It’s a whirlwind of emotions, and I think that’s a nice way to end what’s been a whirlwind of a trilogy.”

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