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Saoirse Ronan to star in adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s THE HOST

Kate Erbland

by: Kate Erbland
May 3rd, 2011

Rarely do casting announcements make me huff out a "whoa." This one, however, did. The next film adaptation of a Stephenie Meyer book has been languishing a bit in pre-production, with scarce word on just who would be in it and when we could expect to see it. But Deadline has just revealed that THE HOST has gotten a star, and a big one at that.

Saoirse Ronan is set to star in the big screen adaptation of Meyer's bestselling novel (the one that is not part of the Twilight Saga). The film has been scripted by Andrew Niccol, who was once set to direct, and who may be back in the mix, as the outlet is also reporting that director Susanna White is now off the project. Inferno will be selling the film at Cannes next week. I suspect this one will go very fast now that young Ronan is attached to it as lead Melanie Stryder.

The Host revolves around Melanie, "one of the last humans putting up a fight against an alien species called Souls." The Souls, a (fundamentally) gentle species, act as parasites and take over the bodies of whatever other species they are invading, slowly taking over their world and wiping out all traces of their personalities. Melanie is taken over by the Soul "Wanderer," who finds herself less compelled to destroy Melanie and the other rogue humans she meets than to actually experience life as a human (specifically, as Melanie).

Deadline also reports that the "plan is for Ronan to play both Melanie and Wanderer." Um, duh? For about eighty percent of the book (if not more), Melanie and Wanderer as fused as one - two souls in one body. That's sort of the entire point of the novel - an internal and intimate struggle between two souls.

When I first launched my "A Novel Idea" column, The Host was the first book to go through my book-to-film ringer. If you want to know more about the book, check out the full column here. But for condensed thoughts on just this casting, this is what I said way back then:

"These picks are significantly more on target. Melanie picks included Sophia Bush, Megan Fox, Camilla Belle, Olivia Wilde, Summer Glau, Milla Jovovich, Natalie Portman, Amanda Peet, Evangeline Lilly, Rose Byrne, and Eliza Dushku. A mixed bag, but I’d personally gun for Rose Byrne....But, certainly, the bulk of the film will fall on whoever is cast as Melanie. In body, she is Melanie Stryder, but in mind and emotion – she’s split between Mel and Wanderer. A key part of this is how Wanderer 'hears' Melanie in her head – in the book, it is portrayed as though the two are conversing mentally, differentiated from the other prose by the use of italics. How this will be brought to the screen is worrisome – the conceit takes some time to get used to within the book, and even seems a bit silly. In the constraints of a film, it could be even worse – it could be laughable. But it’s a vital part of our understanding of the plot, and it’s just about the only way we get to know Melanie for nearly eighty percent of the book, so it cannot simply be discarded and it must be presented in a way that feels believable and organic. If that doesn’t hit the screen, the entire project will be utterly meaningless."

Though Melanie is a teen when the story starts, she goes through so many unbelievable things that it was sort of a no-brainer to picture her as someone slightly older. But with Ronan - well, that's a teen actress fully capable of the heavy lifting of the role. Solid casting.

The next important roles to be cast will be the dueling male leads of the story - Ian and Jared. With Ronan attached, it looks as if my prediction of B-level television stars being cast in the film is right out the window.

The tidbit about White being off the project is also good news - her involvement with the film was my main issue in imagining the adaptation. I certainly hope Niccol comes back on board as director now.

Fans of The Host, does this change your casting picks for Ian and Jared? What do you think of Ronan as Melanie?

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  • Cunning-Ham

    Wow! This is so sudden! I definitely agree they’ve landed quite the catch in Saoirse Ronan. She’s an exceptional young actress who gives everything to her roles. I’m ‘shout out loud’ excited to hear she’ll star as both Melanie and Wanderer!

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