July 10 marks famed electrician Nikola Tesla’s birthday. So it is only fitting when IFC Films dropped the first official trailer of Tesla on July 10, celebrating the story of the inventor. Tesla, written and directed by Michael Almereyda, stars Ethan Hawke in the titular role and Kyle MacLachlan as Thomas Edison, who was a long-time rival with Tesla. Also starring are Eve Hewson, Jim Gaffigan, Hannah Gross, Josh Hamilton, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach.
The synopsis of Tesla reads: “Brilliant, visionary Nikola Tesla (Hawke) fights an uphill battle to bring his revolutionary electrical system to fruition, then faces thornier challenges with his new system for worldwide wireless energy. The film tracks Tesla’s uneasy interactions with his fellow inventor Thomas Edison (MacLachlan) and his patron George Westinghouse (Gaffigan). Another thread traces Tesla’s sidewinding courtship of financial titan J.P. Morgan (Keshawarz), whose daughter Anne (Hewson) takes a more than casual interest in the inventor. Anne analyzes and presents the story as it unfolds, offering a distinctly modern voice to this scientific period drama which, like its subject, defies convention.”
Almereyda had initially penned a script for a Tesla biopic in the early 1980s, spurred by his friend’s interest in the figure. But the film was never made. At the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, the director reported: “I dusted the script off…It had a lot of dust on it. And we reinvented it for the present moment.” The period feature also won the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize after its premiere at the festival.
As stated in the trailer, the unconventional biopic evokes Derek Jarman, writer Henry James and even certain episodes in Drunk History. Instead of the typically serious, intense profile of Tesla, the trailer portrays more unconventionality with a comical scene where Tesla and Edison get into a heated ice cream fight, with Tesla shoving his cone into Edison’s face. We also see the characters use modern day smart phones, do Google searches, and perform against painted backdrops, making it an unusual way to present these characters in the early 20th century setting.
The film is anticipating a theatrical and on-demand release on August 21, 2020. Watch the trailer below: