One of the more interesting and buzzed about films of the past few weeks is writer/director Alex Garland’s Ex Machina. Having gotten a limited release two weeks ago, with an extended release last Friday, more and more audiences have been able to decide for themselves if the film is worthy of the considerable critical praise its been receiving – not only its director, but for two of its lead actors, Oscar Isaac (A History of Violence) and Domhnall Gleeson (Frank). Of course, that’s coupled with the fact that both those men will be appearing in a substantially higher profile sci-fi film later on in the year – Star Wars: The Force Awakens. So imagine the geeky delight of sci-fi fans when Alex Garland and both Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson participated in two respective AMAs for Reddit detailing their work on Ex Machina, as well as discussing Star Wars, potential future gigs, and that dance scene everybody seems to be talking about.
For Garland, whose AMA was last week, the discussion was particularly revelatory and insightful. The first-time director and long-time writer of films like Sunshine, Never Let Me Go, 28 Days Later, and Dredd disclosed some nice tidbits about his process, his inspirations, and what’s possibly next up on his schedule, including the revelation that he never actually planned to direct Ex Machina.
The director thing just felt like the easiest way to approach this production. Didn’t think about the directing when writing. At that stage, you’re just testing to find out if the idea works.
Garland also divulged that shooting the film wasn’t as intimidating as one might expect for a first-time filmmaker, hinting that time constraints may have forced a less demanding experience.
First day of production was easy. The whole shoot was, in fact. It was six weeks, so we didn’t have time to reflect, which also in some senses made it straightforward.
The director also revealed the initial impetus for his idea behind writing Ex Machina, which had been in his mind since before Dredd. In response to user “Frajer” asking where he got his inspiration from, Garland replied:
From reading about AI and consciousness. Specifically, the story came to me while reading a book about consciousness and embodiment, written by Murray Shanahan, who is professor of cognitive robotics at Imperial in London. I was in pre-production on ‘Dredd’ at the time, and wrote it down very fast, then put it aside until ‘Dredd’ was cut and handed over.
As for any future projects in the works, Garland mentioned in two separate responses that he’s hopeful his next project will be an adaptation of a sci-fi novel by writer Jeff VanderMeer:
‘Annihilation’ is a terrific and strange book by Jeff VanderMeer, which I just adapted into a screenplay.
I just wrote an adaptation of a novel by Jeff VanderMeer, and I’m waiting to see if finance comes together.
For Gleeson and Isaac, the AMA session was predictably more of an array of Star Wars questions than those pertaining to Ex Machina, and there was more friendly banter and jokes between the two stars, though still some revealing moments. Oscar Isaac had a few kind words for some of the talented directors he’s worked with. The actor described J.J. Abrams as “the most positive and enthusiastic” director he’s worked with, and characterized Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) as a “crazy man and very inspiring.” He also praised the Coen brothers (Inside Llewyn Davis) as “very special human beings” that taught him a lot, as well as J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year) as “very sharp and detail oriented.”
Domhnall had some enthusiastic words for his collaborators as well, describing director John Michael McDonagh (Calvary) as “brilliant and straightforward” and Oscar-winner Alejandro González Iñárritu, with whom he’s working on the upcoming The Revenant, as “brilliantly barmy” explaining that “he shoots for the stars and doesn’t compromise, which is difficult but always worth it. I think he’s great.”
Regarding Ex Machina, Isaac seemed to reinforce the idea that the shoot was relatively quick and simple, stating that there wasn’t much rehearsal for the cast.
We didn’t have much rehearsal. Although Alex and I got together a few times to read through the script and then we had one full cast read through before shooting.
There was an exception though, as the actors commented that one of the more popular scenes in the film actually took some time to nail down. Regarding the much celebrated dance scene of the film, Isaac revealed that it took all day to get it right, but Gleeson supportively followed Isaac’s response by stating, “It was always great, though. Every take was great.”
Between both AMAs, there’s plenty of other little bits and pieces that are sure to be of interest for fans of Gleeson, Isaac, and Garland, as well as those interested in sci-fi in general. Garland’s AMA can be found here, and Gleeson and Isaac’s here. Ex Machina is currently in limited release, but may see expanded release within the next few weeks, so check your local theaters.