With The Hunger Games and Divergent both taking the year off from Comic-Con, there was a dystopian-size hole that needed to be filled. The Weinstein Company's new Y.A. novel-turned-movie, The Giver, stepped in to fill it.
As today's panel began, the moderator explained that while there may be other movies in Hall H with "more bombast and more spectacle...you're not going to find a story with more heart or more soul than The Giver."
The book's author, Lois Lowry, producer Nikki Silver, and actors Jeff Bridges, Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush were on hand to discuss the movie and debut exclusive new footage. Absent from both the panel and the footage? Taylor Swift .
That and five more things we learned about The Giver, below:
1. Taylor Swift Fans May Be Disappointed: Or not, if you keep your expectations in check. While Taylor had a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo in The Giver's first trailer, she neither attended the Hall H panel nor appeared in any of the new footage.
In fact, she only ever even came up once in conversation, when Silver explained how Taylor got cast: "That was Harvey [Weinstein], I think. We actually wrote the character as a piano-playing character before Taylor was cast. The executives from the Weinstein Company were at one of her shows and were like this is crazy, but it might work."
She continued, "She came down to South Africa and came and played with us for a little while." That said, anyone who's read the book knows that Taylor's character Rosemary is never seen. So, in that regard, her even appearing in the movie is an upgrade. Lowry described the character as "someone special."
And, fun fact: Jeff Bridges said between sets he'd get out his guitar and jam with Taylor.
2. Meryl Streep Is Just Amazing as You Think: And she was the true star of The Giver's Hall H—even though she wasn't there either! The new footage screened was very heavy on Meryl's elder character, and panelists had nothing but nice things to gush about her.
Of Meryl's scenes opposite Jeff Bridges, producer Nikki Silver said, "We'd watch them on set [going head to head] and everyone would just stop."
Meanwhile, Jeff has never worked opposite Meryl, but the two did know each other: "Meryl's like a soccer mom. Our kids play soccer together. So I'd never worked with her before, which was a real thrill."
3. Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgård Like You've Never Seen Them Before: Rounding out the cast are Holmes and Skarsgård, playing parents to the 16-year-old protagonist and playing against type. Actually, based only on the footage shown today: They seem to have switched roles. Katie takes on the seemingly more badass role here—with smoldering glares and glimpses of what could ultimately be action scenes—while Skarsgård plays a naive scientist-type (with a mop of brown hair instead of his True Blood blond).
4. It Really Is the Next Hunger Games (or Divergent, Whatever): Author Lois Lowry may be the mother of the dystopian future young adult genre, but movies like The Hunger Games (and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), as well as this year's Divergent made it to the big screen first.
The Giver seems to pull from both, which might make it the next big hit: The footage screened showed shots of a city that looked a lot like Hunger Games' Capitol. Meryl plays an icy politico type, so you may be having déjà vu when Julianne Moore does the same in Mockingjay. There is even a choosing ceremony situation that look straight out of Divergent.
Unlike the others? There are a lot of dead babies.
5. The NSFW Scene You Won't See in the Movie: If you buy into The Giver's controversy (it's banned in a number of schools), there's one scene that children should not be reading: One in which the book's 12-year-old protagonist (turned into a 16-year-old for the movie) bathes a naked old woman. The scene will not appear in the movie, but did provide one of the funniest moments of the panel:
Jeff Bridges: "When that scene was cut from the film, Lois was disappointed because [she] wanted to play that woman!"
Louis Lowry: "It's the only old woman in the movie! It was my cameo!"
Later, when star Brenton Thwaites patted Bridges on the back, Jeff joked, "Don't touch me, man." To which Lois quipped, "He can touch me all he wants." And naturally the moderator called out, "She's ready for her bath!"
6. Brenton Thwaites Is Your Next Big Crush: Seriously, get ready to start cutting pictures of Brenton out of magazines and gluing them on your trapper keeper, because he is super-cute. He has kind of a rock star vibe going on. Like a young Johnny Depp (because he wears a lot of jewelry). You'll be into him.