Cast: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor
Director: Spierig Brothers
Rated: MA 15+
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Synopsis: Predestination chronicles the life of a Temporal Agent sent on an intricate series of time-travel journeys designed to ensure the continuation of his law enforcement career for all eternity. Now, on his final assignment, the Agent must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.
Release Date: August 28th, 2014
Writer/director/producer Peter Spierig first read science fiction legend Robert A. Heinlein's famous short story '"All You Zombies"" many years ago. The way the story puts a new spin on the time travel genre and turns it on its head thrilled Peter: -I had never read a time travel story like that one, and I don't think there'll be another time travel story quite like it again.'
'"All You Zombies"" begins with a young man, known as The Unmarried Mother" it's his true-confession writing pseudonym"who relates his strange life story to a bartender, who is revealed to play a larger part in the story than initially appears to be the case. The story involves several complicated interconnected time travel journeys and the action moves from 1945 to 1993.
The complex, mind-twisting and paradoxical themes of the Heinlein story stuck with Peter Spierig and he knew that one day he would turn the story into a film. And, as he says, -one day I just sat down and started writing it.'
Peter Spierig and twin brother Michael, with two successful features behind them, adapted '"All You Zombies"" with a determination to remain faithful to the feel of their inspiration, but brought what Peter calls -a significant cinematic arc' to the compelling central characters.
Producer Paddy McDonald responded very strongly to the script: -It's rare that you read a piece of material that's singularly different from anything else you've read. The execution and the craft of the script deliver something that has never been seen before.... It's a script of singular vision and quality.'
Writer/director/producer Michael Spierig characterises the narrative as -an unconventional journey. It's essentially like five or six films"an action film, a detective movie... and then it turns into an intimate drama about somebody telling their life story to a bartender.' Producer Paddy McDonald adds, -It's going to mean different things to different people. It's taking ideas from academia and philosophy and theology and playing with them"it tells a time travel story in a way that's never been told before.'
Ethan Hawke sums up the appeal of the film in describing his reasons for signing up for the production and working with the Spierig brothers for a second time: -If a movie can simultaneously entertain you and leave you with a subcurrent of something to think about, then that hits the bullseye for me.'
Noah Taylor agrees: -It's not the sort of film that you can just sit back and predict what's going to happen. As well as being exciting, it's moving as well: because of Ethan and Sarah's performances you really feel for the characters and their journey. It is both thought-provoking and entertaining.'
About The Directors
Identical twins Peter and Michael Spierig have been making films together since they discovered their father's video camera at the age of ten. After completing their tertiary studies at the Queensland College of Art the brothers made many short films together, many of them award-winning, which inevitably brought them to the attention of the advertising industry. Pooling their savings enabled the brothers to make their first feature, Undead; its success got them on the radar and their script for Daybreakers, with the pair attached as directors, was picked up by Lions Gate Entertainment.
The received wisdom within the film industry is that multiple directors of a film inevitably results in chaos. Director of photography Ben Nott, who also worked with the brothers on Daybreakers, found the opposite to be true: -I did have that trepidation about having two masters. I expected them to be fighting every five minutes while the rest of us smoked cigarettes and waited... But their relationship is incredible in that they won't knock heads about anything"one guy is simply more passionate than the other and the other guy recognises the threshold of passion and backs off"this is how they work.'
Ethan Hawke: -My greatest wish for every good director I've ever worked with is that I could bestow on them the gift of a twin"because, let's face it, most directors, if they're good, turn into kind of megalomaniacs"they think they know everything. But Peter and Michael have the benefit of their brother standing next to them, saying -Well, actually that sounded a bit obnoxious"did you really think that through?' They test each other and they keep each other humble and hard-working, and it's a wonderful gift to have a best friend support system. Film directing is such a naturally dictatorial position"with a twin, as an actor you can, say, agree with Michael but disagree with Peter. There's a lot of little avenues for collaboration to happen along that aren't normally possible.'
Ben Nott continues: It is a bit of a generalisation but I feel that Peter Spierig is the head and Michael is the heart, but even that isn't true because they swap in and out. They're both very clever about everything.
The writing process brought the Spierig brothers to the realisation that they were working on a time travel story like no other, and that the paradoxes contained within the plot brought huge implications for casting the film. Michael Spierig: -A lot of the process was, initially, figuring how we're going pull this off"who was going to be playing what part"and at what point do the parts cross over? Early on, both brothers found themselves envisaging American actor Ethan Hawke, known for both his dramatic range and his interest in compelling, thought-provoking filmmaking, in the key role of The Bartender. Ethan had worked on the Spierig brothers' previous film Daybreakers, and the brothers liked what he brought to the role"they were just unsure whether such an in-demand actor would be able to fit them in.
They emailed Ethan Hawke on Thanksgiving. Within a day he had emailed them back saying -I'm in.' As Michael tells it, -Ethan Hawke said -I have just one question: which part am I playing?' and we looked at each other and said -Not sure yet. We'll figure that out.''
Michael Spierig sums up what draws them to Ethan Hawke: -Ethan Hawke is such a talented actor, such a contributor. He likes to get involved in the script, makes suggestions. It's such a joy when actors come in ready to play"it's not about coming in, reading lines: they want to contribute to the story.'
Eventually the Spierig brothers decided that Etha Hawke was so perfect as The Bartender that it was a no-brainer. But making this decision raised a difficult question: how should the dual casting/double gender role of The Unmarried Mother and Jane be cast?
Michael Spierig picks up the story: -When it came to the initial casting of The Unmarried Mother we went back and forth repeatedly: should it be two parts? Should the part of The Unmarried Mother and Jane be one part or should the two roles be played by two actors of two different genders? What we thought was the most interesting choice was if we could find one actor who could play both parts, and that was in some ways a frightening prospect: what if you don't pull it off? The whole movie falls apart.'
But all the producers, having seen the breadth of talent among Australian actresses, were confident that they wanted to cast the dual role in Australia. They met with Sarah Snook who, since graduating from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 2008, has appeared in many television and film roles, including the lead in the ABC drama Sisters of War, for which she won the 2012 AACTA Award for Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama. Producer Tim McGahan was amazed by Sarah's transformation over the course of the film. -One of the most amazing things was watching Sarah become The Unmarried Mother"through the casting process and then to watch her on set and in dailies was unbelievable. Sarah is an incredible talent and in this film she really gets to demonstrate her skills and diversity.'
About The Shoot
32-day shoot, 9th April to 21st May.
With a script and themes of such complexity, the Spierig brothers knew they would need to approach pre-production almost with a military mindset in order to present audiences with a film at once deeply intricate but at the same time accessible"no mean feat.
Peter Spierig: -Time spent shooting a movie is precious... We try to do as much preparation as possible so when we get onto set it's about executing a plan, and we spend a lot of time in pre-production, from the look of the film"getting right down to the details of that look, every bit of costuming, every bit of props, everything we can do"just so there's no guesswork when we get there on the day.
Producer Tim McGahan: -We chose Melbourne for a variety of reasons but mostly because it was location-specific and the film requires a whole series of locations and being a time travel film there's a whole series of vignettes. Melbourne catered for just about all of our location needs without having to build too many sets.' Director of Photography for Predestination is multi-award winning Ben Nott ACS, one of Australia's most renowned cinematographers. He was drawn to the project because of a rare quality: -What's interesting to me about this film is the variety. I mean the narrative is fun, but being a man of -picture' I have to say that first and foremost is the fact that it's about eight different films in one film.'
Because the story traverses a period from the 1940s to the 1990s there's a necessity of differentiating one era from another. Ben Nott enjoyed the challenge: -The period is defined largely by the architecture and design. Essentially they're the elements that set the movie where it is. I chose some marquis colours and I injected those into different time periods. For instance a sodium-type feel for the '70s, we had a slightly de-saturated look for the '40s with a different filter pack"to aid and abet the art direction and the design in coercing the audience on a ride.'
For this complex story, it was vital to evolve a method of achieving a heightened clarity of storytelling. Unusually for a cinematographer in our high-tech, digital age, Ben Nott loves to operate the camera himself: -I like operating the camera because of the nuances of where the frame goes and what the frame sees. In doing that I think that you're crafting the story, you're crafting the way the audience is seeing the movie.'
Because the Spierig brothers and Ben Nott have worked together previously, they've developed the kind of trust that can allow filmmakers to build layers of meaning into their film by depicting characters, emotions and atmosphere in more than one way.
Ben Nott speaks of the -element of trust and a short-hand that makes the process easier, from deciding the photographic style of movie to day-to-day, working shot-to-shot. I completely understand their vision; they have the right of veto.' The film noir story and setting of the film gave Ben Nott the opportunity to bring a rich atmosphere to life: -It's an interesting thing, film noir, because it's as much about the story as the look of the film, by definition. We've used a lot of deep shadows which are borrowed from those wonderful films. So I've tried to use shadows, shadow play a lot ...to give it this more contemporary-type spin.'
The Spierig brothers brought old friend and colleague Matthew Putland in as Production Designer. The three began their careers at the same time after going to university together: Matthew Putland designed the brothers' first film, Undead. His experience in both film and television has given him the versatility to transform Melbourne sets and locations to American settings from the forties to the nineties. Costume Designer Wendy Cork was intrigued by the project: -Before we even entered into the look of things, the brief was to undo the puzzle... This piece was like putting a huge jigsaw together. They travelled through time, characters, personalities, sexualities.'
Part of this process involved breaking down characters"an intricate journey because characters split in different directions, and these directions have to be reflected in production design and costume. Wendy Cork speaks of -a lot of dissection of character before we got into design.'
Working with the directors and DOP Ben Nott, Matthew Putland and Wendy Cork developed a palette for each time period, both as a design feature and to better differentiate between eras: -One of the complexities of the film is the many time periods. Early on we came up the idea of giving each time period its own palette. Forties: de-saturated green, dirty look. Sixties: clean blue hues, peacock greens through to silver modern finishes of Spacecorp. Seventies browns, oranges, earthy and timeless. Eighties/nineties feel quite monochromatic: neutral to make it timeless.'
The backbone of the narrative is the unfolding story told by The Unmarried Mother to The Bartender. The bar is set in 1970s New York and features in many scenes of the film and as such needed, as Matthew Putland puts it, -to be textural and layered enough to maintain the page content that will be shot in here. So we had to put a lot of layers and detail into the set to hold interest over so long.' He achieved this by using colour and texture, and combines atmosphere with function: -The look of the bar is within our 1970s autumn palette: it's very brown, amber glass, brass fittings. We needed to build a full 360-degree set including entrance stair, bar half-island; there's doors to office basement, booths.'
Ethan Hawke plays the pivotal role of The Bartender"whose character becomes increasingly compelling and mysterious as the film progresses. When Ethan Hawke first saw the script for Predestination he was drawn to it because of its thought-provoking themes: -Nature of fate and the nature of free will"why is it that every time in our lives something that's happened feels like it was inevitable"and yet, when we're imagining our future, it seems like it could go in so many thousands of directions. I think that is at the essence of what is interesting about the idea of predestination.'
The Spierig brothers had worked with Ethan Hawke on their last film, the $65 million-plus grossing Daybreakers, and although they weren't consciously thinking of him during script development, it was obvious once the writing process was complete that Ethan Hawke would be perfect in the role.
Michael speaks about what Ethan Hawke brings to a role: -He's so much fun to work with. Ethan is such a talented actor, such a contributor. He likes to get involved in the script, he makes suggestions. It's such a joy when actors come in ready to play, when it's not about coming in, reading lines, they want to contribute to the story.'
The character of The Unmarried Mother was always problematic. As Peter Spierig says, -We spent a lot of time talking about the character of The Unmarried Mother and whether we needed to have two actors playing it"the male version and the female version"and our ideal scenario was that we could get an actress to play both male and female. I believe it's one of the hardest make-ups you can do, to turn an actor into the opposite gender. And then we came across Sarah Snook.'
Sarah Snook was given the brief for Predestination by her agent, in the form of the Heinlein short story, rather than the script. Her initial reaction (once she realised '"All You Zombies"" wasn't actually about zombies!) was great excitement: -I was really excited to get the chance to dive into the complexities of this story and to possibly play both male and female in the one film"that never comes along!'The dual nature of the role presented many challenges. Producer Tim McGahan speaks about it: -Once we'd settled on Sarah Snook as The Unmarried Mother we went into an extensive testing process with the makeup. The challenge for us was to keep the prosthetics simple and real, but effective, to help us sell the transformation that Jane has gone through to become The Unmarried Mother.'
Ben Nott, DOP, speaks about the role of the cinematographer in the process: -Turning beautiful women into men is done mostly by makeup and prosthetics but I've taken certain care with aspects of how she's lit or not lit, which is more the case. For the female character we'd make her more high-key and we'd see her in all her beauty. For the male character it should be darker and more brooding in the way she was lit. And that in turn helps the makeup and the prosthetic because you're not exposing it to a full frontal nudity, it's more shrouded in shadow. The rest is built by her and her attitude. But we've helped her out where we could.'
Costume design provided another opportunity to build time and gender differences between characters. Costume Designer Wendy Cork says, -We start in 1945 and go through to 1993. I wanted to reflect that in the silhouette of her costumes, and also her progression through to a man. Flared skirts straight skirts pencil skirts to an A-line and eventually into trousers. So it was a natural progression of both history and fashion and it carried her character through so it all married together very well. Creatively, casting the role of The Unmarried Mother was the our greatest challenge. Challenge with prosthetics"finding the right balance of reality and simplicity and that went hand-in-hand with the casting process.'
With casting the versatile Noah Taylor as Mr Robertson, the Spierig brothers had only their own vision to work with.
Michael explains -The character of Mr Robertson does not appear in the original short story. He was created as a guide for Jane's journey into her new world out of her orphanage and into a life of Government Service'.
-Noah Taylor was the perfect chameleon-like actor to play the role. We needed someone who could appear fatherly to Jane but also project a sense of mystery and authority when it comes to his involvement with the Temporal Bureau. There is something very warm yet at times slightly sinister about the character.' Audiences will second-guess his motives through the story.
In terms of costume design for the character, Wendy Cork sums it up: -Mr Robertson came from the '60s so he wears a '60s 3-piece suit. He never changes.'
Release Date: August 28th, 2014