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The Untold Truth Of The Maze Runner

Young Adult trilogies have been a box office staple since the early '00s, but they have fallen to the wayside since the hit Maze Runner trilogy concluded in 2018. With the Dylan O'Brien and Kaya Scodelario-led series marking the conclusion of a wave of dystopian teenage movie franchises, fans are missing the likes of Thomas and Teresa on the big screen as they fight the shady WICKD organization and try to cure a pandemic. 

But just because there aren't any new films doesn't mean we can't go down memory lane to look back at the delightful (and horrifying) moments that happened both on and off the screen throughout the Maze Runner trilogy. Between an author cameo, terrifying on-set conditions, and a K-pop homage, the Maze Runner series has a slew of Easter eggs and behind-the-scenes moments that even the most discerning fans might have missed. Did you catch these details when you watched the series for the first (or 40th) time? Warning: Spoilers below. 

The Twitter casting

Most fans dream about getting hired as actors on their favorite film franchise, but few live out their fantasy. However, 12-year-old Blake Cooper won that honor after firing up a tweetstorm expressing his desire to play Chuck in The Maze Runner. Even before the films were underway, director Wes Ball was available and willing to listen to the fandom — helping Cooper snag the role of Chuck after a fan-led Twitter campaign.

During an interview with Collider, producer Wyck Godfrey said, "With Chuck, the funny thing is that Wes kept on getting these tweets from this little guy in Atlanta, like 'I'm your Chuck, I'm your Chuck!'" Godfrey noted, "Eventually (Wes) was like, 'Eh, you kind of look like Chuck, the casting director is Denise Chamian. Contact her, I'll tell her you're going to contact her. Send in an audition!'"

The young actor still had to work for his role, of course, but his audition sealed the deal. Ball announced the casting decision on Twitter, bringing everything full-circle. The young actor earned nothing but high praise from his co-stars, too. In a separate Collider interview, O'Brien revealed, "As far as the character goes, he's got Chuck down. He is Chuck. It's great working with him."

James Dashner appeared in a cameo

Fans of The Maze Runner books may have noticed a familiar face at the end of the first film. In 2012, author James Dashner tweeted, "I'd love to have a cameo in the movie!!!" He later got his wish. Moviegoers who didn't read the books or follow the author may have missed it, but Dashner has a cameo at the first film's conclusion.

Instead of playing a Good Guy (do those even exist in this series?) Dashner plays one of Ava Paige's henchmen — an orchestrator of the Maze Trials. The author sits at the top left corner at the sleek-looking table (just to the left of a bald man) when Ava declares the Trials a success while she reveals that she "wasn't expecting as many survivors." Charming, Ava.

After the hurdles Dashner went through to get his brainchild published, it's not surprising that he wanted a little piece of the film's glory. According to an interview with Barnes & Noble, it took the writer three years of multiple drafts and a slew of rejections before Random House published The Maze Runner in 2009.

Easter eggs at Memorial Rock

Some YA franchises are unwilling to kill off beloved characters, but The Maze Runner certainly isn't one of them. If you compare the number of main characters who survived the series to those who didn't, the death rates are staggering. And that brings us to the remembrance depicted in the final film, The Death Cure. To honor their fallen friends, the surviving Gladers created the Memorial Rock — reminiscent of the carvings each Glader added to the Maze when they first arrived.

When Thomas etched his name on the Maze wall, discerning fans may have noticed two extra names: "Wes" and "Wyck." Of course, the Easter eggs are referencing none other than director Wes Ball and producer Wyck Godfrey. Paying homage to the original carvings, Ball got another carved shout-out in the Memorial Rock depicted in the series's final moments. Godfrey must have survived the events of the series because his name appears to be absent.

Airing a griever-ance

The Maze Runner universe is chock full of creepy crawlers. However, fans might not realize that there was a genuine threat slithering out in the Glade for every prop creature like the grievers. Sure, grievers are creepy, but many cast members likely preferred the mechanical spiders to the real thing. And let's face it: The only Black Widow most people dig is a certain fiery red-headed Avenger.

Cue Dylan O'Brien and Thomas Brodie-Sangster's surprise when two of the deadly spiders popped out of a log they'd been filming at for hours. Brodie-Sangster must be a thrill-seeker, though, as he told Page Six, "It kind of added to the excitement." (You do you, Sangster.) He also told the outlet, "We were seeing 10 snakes a day at the beginning, and then by the end, we were still catching four a day."

The problem was significant enough to hire a professional snake wrangler to make sure the cast stayed safe — but that didn't stop one crew member from getting bitten by a baby rattlesnake. Sangster told Vulture that baby rattlesnakes "don't know how much venom to release, so they tend to release everything." Luckily, the bite wasn't serious. The actor added, "But apparently it was a dry bite — no venom. He did get rushed to the hospital, just in case, though."

No love triangles necessary

A successful YA franchise without a forced love triangle is almost unheard of — but The Maze Runner film series wrangled success without partaking in that outdated trope. Between the Edward/Bella/Jacob triangle in Twilight and the Peeta/Katniss/Gale drama in The Hunger Games, it's surprising that, according to a Yahoo Entertainment interview, the studio didn't pressure Wes Ball to go that route. And it only makes the story stronger.

The books seem to insert Brenda into the series for the sole purpose of shaking things up between Teresa and Thomas, diluting an otherwise strong female character. Instead of falling down that rabbit hole, nothing overtly romantic between Thomas and Brenda happens on-screen, allowing her character to develop organically. There's something to be said for ditching the love triangle concept, and maybe a YA comeback will occur if more film adaptations go The Maze Runner route. 

During an interview with DiscussingFilm.net, Ball noted that they "didn't waste our time with that kind of stigma." He added, "We kind of left out the romance triangle stuff and other angsty coming-of-age aspects. I was just trying to make a cool, fun movie with the resources that we had." Mission accomplished.

James Dashner surprised a NY audience

When The Maze Runner family wasn't giving young actors on Twitter the chance of a lifetime, they were surprising fans in the most dramatic way possible. After the studio announced a New York City event titled "The Maze Runner Meet Up With James Dashner," fans were expecting a screening of the first film at the Tribeca Screening Room. But they got so much more.

Fans were promised a sneak peek of the opening The Death Cure scene when they entered the small theater weeks before its release, even signing a hefty amount of legal paperwork to keep things under wraps before entering. So you can imagine fans' disappointment when the moderator announced that the film reel was damaged.

Of course, they were just trolling the fans, and the event was a secret premiere of the entire Death Cure film. While fans in attendance didn't get to see the cast, they were one of the first audiences in the world to see the film — even before the red carpet premiere. Many fans even got to meet Dashner after the movie. And to think, the postponed event was almost canceled entirely because of a snow storm.

Scodelario and O'Brien picked up a pen

Scodelario and O'Brien certainly showcased their acting chops during The Maze Runner trilogy, but little-known to most fans, the pair also displayed impressive writing capabilities. Few people know characters better than the actors who portray them, and that was the case for Scodelario and O'Brien during the scene in The Scorch Trials where Teresa tries to convince Thomas to go back to WCKD. Lying to Thomas, she tells him that she's getting her memories back. (Spoiler alert: she never lost them.) Teresa recalls, "I remember the first time they brought you in. I was taller than you then and faster." 

During an interview with Front Row Features, Scodelario revealed that she and O'Brien were the masterminds behind the short exchange. She said, "You know what was cool? We wrote that. We wanted to add a moment of humanity." Given that Thomas and Teresa's relationship is primarily doom, gloom, lying, and tragedy, Scodelario added, "We wanted to just take a second and show a bit of love to each other. And I think it's such a beautiful way of doing it — like innocent little kids meeting for the first time." Someone get these actors an Oscar – for writing.

The cast slept in the Glade

When people think of sleepovers, there are usually four walls, beds, and a few sleeping bags involved. But as badass as the Maze Runner characters are, the actors aren't far behind. On-set bonding before shooting consisted of an intensive boot camp that would have broken even the strongest spirits — but the cast prevailed. Not only that, but they took it 10 steps further and insisted on spending a night out in the Glade.

The Glade isn't just some set on a backlot, either. It was built in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and filled with snakes and other creepy crawlers. In an interview with Collider, Wyck Godfrey noted that he tried to convince Wes Ball from going through with the event, but the director was persistent. Godfrey said, "Then the actors came and did boot camp out here, and they were working with this ranger that was teaching them all this survivalist stuff, and at some point, they brought it up independently to [Ball]. They said, 'Can we stay out here?'"

Ball gave a resounding "yes." Luckily, the cast had tents, but they were no match for the massive thunderstorm that followed. Godfrey explained that the actors probably would have reconsidered their choice to spend the night had they known about all of the creatures. But according to a Vulture interview with Thomas Brodie-Sangster, the actors were "very" aware of the dangers. They even had two Marines accompany them on their training and camping adventure.

BTS referenced the trilogy in a music video

Fans of the K-pop group BTS, known as ARMY, continually find pop culture references in the group's music. But some Easter eggs are easier to uncover than others. Discovering small nods to literary, musical, and TV influences has become almost a game to the fandom, with fans frequently taking to social media to discuss their finds.

According to Nicki Swift, the group's 2017 song, "Spring Day" likely references the Korean film Snowpiercer. But the musical group occasionally dabbles in American film references as well, as we can see in their music video, "ON." The references are subtle enough until around the mid-mark when two massive doors open — looking eerily similar to The Maze Runner's Maze doors. Then an army of Gladers shows up and BTS singer Jungkook, imitating Thomas, blows a conch (a nod to Lord of the Flies) before the video ends with a Flare-fueled sky.

The Maze Runner author James Dashner sent out a tweet acknowledging the video. He wrote, "So cool to see #MazeRunner featured in the new #BTS music video #ON. Jungkook = amazing as Thomas!" The moment was likely notable for Dylan O'Brien as well, considering he frequently gushes about the K-pop group. According to Teen Vogue, the actor is responsible for expanding the ARMY ranks to other stars like Max Minghella and Elle Fanning.

Kaya Scodelario's Maze Runner family

Some of Kaya Scodelario's most significant life moments with her husband Benjamin Walker occurred during the trilogy's filming. Scodelario posted a photo of her diamond-clad ring finger on Instagram in December of 2014 during the filming of The Scorch Trials. Later, Metro U.K. revealed that Scodelario and Walker had to postpone their wedding plans to promote The Scorch Trials, although the couple eventually tied the knot in December of 2015.

Scodelario announced her pregnancy in June of 2016, and later posted a picture of her baby boy in December — just months before The Death Cure began filming. During an interview with On Demand Entertainment, Scodelario shared how it felt to be a new mom during filming: "I'm fortunate to have a husband who's an amazing co-parent, and he [Walker] came out with the baby to Africa," she said. "He had his own trailer...But it's nice because he kind of just became part of our Maze Runner family."

The actress revealed that Ki Hong Lee (Minho) had a daughter born about a week apart from Scodelario's son, noting that the two babies "were like little buddies" on set. Scodelario also recalled a breastfeeding story to Marie Claire where she said to O'Brien and Brodie-Sangster, "Boys, you're going to have to deal with this." Luckily, she noted, "No one was weird about it. They know me well enough to know that I would have punched them if they were." 

The cast may have stolen Native American artifacts

Beyond the fact that any horror movie will show you why it's officially a Bad Idea to steal artifacts from sacred Native American sites, it's also just a jerk move. Now, nobody is perfect, and we all do things we regret — and by all accounts, The Maze Runner cast was a lovely group of talented (and relatively young) actors. However, it seems like they may have gotten a little too cozy while filming in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

If you steal something from a heavily guarded set, it's probably not the best idea to allude to it on live television — but that's precisely what Dylan O'Brien did during an interview on Live with Kelly and Michael. After revealing that the owner explicitly directed the cast to avoid littering or pocketing anything from Diamond Tail Ranch, O'Brien said, "And everyone just takes stuff, you know, obviously." From there, he noted that the set radiated a horror movie vibe with a string of unexplained sicknesses following the potential sticky fingers situation.

O'Brien didn't admit that he partook in such activities — although he did reveal that he got sick. But despite O'Brien's initial comments, and after a thorough investigation from 20th Century Fox, the network deemed that the cast didn't actually take anything from the sacred set.

Wes Ball is done with the series

Although James Dashner wrote two prequels to The Maze Runner, Wes Ball made it clear that he wouldn't take part in any more big screen spinoffs. In 2018, the director told Yahoo Entertainment that the possibility of future Maze Runner projects was "not for me! I'm done — I'm moving on." But you can't blame the guy given how rigorous (and dangerous) filming was.

The Scorch Trials background actor John McGarrah, who played a Right Arm Militia member, told Looper, "I personally burned my hair and costume during filming, and I ended up with a lung infection from smoke inhalation — a lot of us did." However, he has no regrets: "I'd do it again in a heartbeat! I had the time of my life on that movie."

Ball may not want to direct any more Maze Runner films, but McGarrah is itching to work with him again, noting, "He's the best director I've ever worked for." McGarrah also praised the cast, revealing: "Dylan was awesome – they all were to the background. It wasn't one of these sets where the primaries were hustled into heated tents with huge jackets. They were all just as miserable as us." McGarrah recalled the story of Ball's daughter's teddy bear, named Poopy, which went missing (and was possibly stolen) on set. Everyone pitched in to find it, but to no avail. Maybe Poopy is the real reason Ball wants to leave his Maze Runner days behind. 

Dylan O'Brien had a scary stunt accident

Every director's biggest fear is someone getting hurt on set. Wes Ball had to face that reality when a stunt gone wrong severely injured Dylan O'Brien during the filming of The Death Cure. What he expected to be a reasonably simple sequence almost turned deadly when a wayward stunt car collided with the actor, sending him to the hospital with a head injury. At the time, it was unclear whether or not O'Brien would survive his injuries, but he won the battle to recovery, much to everyone's relief.

O'Brien reflected on the accident during an interview with Variety's Marc Malkin, noting, "I think that it absolutely, completely rewires and restructures the way you see your life and what you deem important." The actor mentioned taking a hard look at his relationships and making time for the people he cares about. He also revealed that he examines stunt equipment much more thoroughly and suffers from anxiety during heavy action sequences.

O'Brien insisted that Ball use the scene, however. He told USA Today, "[Ball] wanted to run [it] by me, or get my blessing...My response was actually like, 'I need you to, in a way.' I would be more heartbroken than if it just went to waste." The scene did end up in the film — though it's hard for fans to watch the infamous train scene without feeling queasy, knowing what O'Brien went through.