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“It’s a previous version of the future”— Gareth Edwards talks The Creator

5 min read

This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

For a long time, box offices have been dominated by sequels, reboots and adaptations of anything with a pre-built audience. The pandemic didn't help things, with studios becoming even more reluctant to change a safe formula in such uncertain times for cinemas. The days of the original blockbuster seemed to be drifting into the past.

With , Gareth Evans has made something that we've been craving for a while. It's a brand-new big-budget sci-fi story we haven't heard before, with brand-new characters we haven't met before. FILMHOUNDS sat down with him to have a chat about how it all came together, and where it all comes from.

Humans on one side, AI on the other. Is that good timing?

I didn't mean for it to be good timing. I hope it doesn't end in a war, like in the movie. I think it was kind of a science fiction idea originally. It was this far-off thing that was never meant to happen, like flying cars and stuff. It's kind of caught me by surprise as much as anyone else that this is actually a reality now. 

That's partly what I was trying to get at, actually. You would've started writing this long before AI became such a huge, mainstream topic of conversation. Also, Rogue One was seven years ago already, which blew my mind. Is that a testament to how difficult it is to make a modern-day original blockbuster?

I can say that, I don't know if that's really the reality of why it took seven years but you can throw that into the mix. I just wanted to do something where you have a little more control over the process, and it's very hard to try and do things differently on a big level. It's kind of a machine which just wants to go. The way we made this film is we shot in eight different countries, travelled ten thousand miles, all of that kind of stuff. Trying to get a studio to agree to that was the hard part. You can pitch this kind of idea to people, even talk about the process where we really want to go to the Himalayas, not shoot against green screen, and everyone goes “yeah, yeah, yeah,” then leaves the room and you never hear back from them. New Regency, who made the movie, I don't know why, heard the whole thing and went yeah let's go. 

I was really surprised that this is only your fourth film as a director because you've already done a bit of everything. You've done a low-budget indie film, a Godzilla film, a Star Wars film, and now your own original blockbuster. Which of your previous experiences in filmmaking informed this one the most?

Oh, probably the first one. It was just five of us in a van driving around Central America, and then whenever we saw something kind of cool we jumped out and tried to invent a scene from a treatment, and did it, improvised it and got back into the van. We did that for six weeks and then invented the film in post-production. So we were never going to get to do that with a load of money, but the idea was trying to do that on steroids. There was so much good that came from that – there were so many happy accidents and so much realism. It was trying to do that, but with a Hollywood blockbuster kind of sensibility. 

It does feel like that actually. While I was watching it I was thinking “There's something about this that just feels nostalgic,” and I couldn't work out what it was. What I think it was is that so much of it is shot on location and there's minimal green screen. So that feeling of nostalgia that I got from it, is that something you were aware of while you were making it?

Yeah, I mean my favourite films, because I grew up in that era, I just love all the films from the late ‘70s, ‘80s, early ‘90s. There are lots of things we did to try and emulate that — we had a 1970s cinema lens that we shot everything on, shooting in real locations, and even the design was sort of a retro-future design. Instead of everything being slick and a perfect slab like an iPhone, it was more like everything was designed by the people who designed the Sony Walkman. And there's archive footage in the film too, but it's archive for things that are in the future. It's all just subconsciously trying to make people feel like it's a previous version of the future. 

Something that I really wanted to ask is partly about where it all comes from. So George Lucas has been really upfront about how his inspiration for Star Wars came from films like Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress. While I was watching The Creator I kept thinking back to Lone Wolf and Cub. Why do you think Samurai Cinema is such a rich source of inspiration for sci-fi?

I think anything that bounces back and forth between entirely different cultures, it kind of comes back to you in a way that feels fresh. They would say there's a whole load of spaghetti westerns, and westerns, that influenced samurai films, and then we got influenced by Kurosawa, then people go and make Star Wars and Blade Runner, and then Japan gets influenced by Blade Runner and does these really amazing anime films. It just echoes back and forth, and I really like that. I don't want the whole world to be all the same, it's kind of nice when we're different. But it's also nice when we all influence each other. Like, you go around Japan and a lot of the t-shirts and logos that you see have English writing on them, and it's nonsense. It doesn't actually mean anything, but they like the font. And I love that. I love the Japanese font, and I'm like well I'm really glad you're misusing English because I misuse Japanese all the time because it looks so cool.

The Creator is in cinemas on September 28th.