Written by Administrator Thursday, 24 September 2009 20:44
Jonathan Mostow, director of Surrogates, tells us why his Bruce Willis-starrer is no ordinary sci-fi movie...
Surrogates, director Jonathon Mostow’s blockbuster adaptation of the acclaimed graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldes, is a sci-fi action-thriller starring Bruce Willis and set in a alternate version of present day Boston. It’s a version of contemporary Bean Town that looks quite familiar - no space-age megadomes or flying cars - apart from the suspiciously flawless appearance of its citizenry. They all look like movie stars; not a blemish or a hair out of place, let alone an actual physical deformity. It’s as if the Stepford Wives had colonized the city with their picture perfect offspring - which, in fact, is not so very far from the case.
In the world of Surrogates, people lock themselves away in the safety of their homes while their lives are lived by idealized, android versions of themselves. It’s an arrangement that, though it purports to eliminate crime and any number of other social ills, naturally has its share of implications, some more sinister than others. It also gives rise to some interesting parallels with how our own lives have been transformed by the on-rush of cyber technology.
“I guess you could call it a robot movie,” says Mostow, “and there have been a thousand of those. But I think this one is different. It just seemed to fit closely with how we live our lives today. What Surrogates is all about is how people retain their humanity in the face of relentless technology. I got that instantly from reading the script. It’s about how people are tethered to their electronic devices such as mobile phones, Blackberrys, etc; how they do their shopping on the net; how you’re not talking to a person you’re talking to a piece of software when you call the customer service line.”
And if that sounds off-puttingly cerebral, don’t fret. Mostow promises plenty of blockbuster action and intrigue to go with the smart stuff. “What’s interesting about the graphic novel,” he says, “is that it goes into all that with these inserted sections where the story stops and there are several pages of fake news reports and things like that. You can’t really do that with a movie. With a movie you’ve got the audience for two hours and it’s all about telling the story. This is a big-budget studio movie so of course, it’s got all the chases and explosions you’d expect. Even so the meaning comes to the surface anyway.”
The story in question revolves around veteran BPD detective Greer (Willis), a hard-bitten old-timer who pounds the beat in the guise of a pretty boy surrogate, keeping his vulnerable body safely at home, attached to his cyber-self’s sensory transmitters. Things go haywire for Greer when a serial killer starts offing people via their surrogates, something their manufacturers claim is impossible. The investigation and the revelation that surrogates do not render people invulnerable to violent crime - to say nothing of the ethical issues raised by surrogatehood - lead Greer to question the entire system.
“My question before we ever screened Surrogates for test audiences,” says Mostow, was, “Are people going to get what we’re talking about here? Or are they just going to enjoy the chases and explosions? It was great to find out that, even though it plays like a mystery, suspense action movie, all the focus groups wanted to talk about was the social commentary. I’ve never seen that happen before.”
Apart from shifting the setting of the graphic novel from Atlanta and the time zone from the future to the present day, Mostow’s Surrogates (adapted by writers Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato) rejects the comic book’s dark tone for an altogether brighter look. This, he explains, was partly out of necessity. “To create the idealized, surrogate versions of the actors there’s a lot of makeup effects,” he says. “We had an Oscar-winning makeup team. There’s a lot of CGI, too, but in addition to that, we had to light everybody in the most flattering way possible. So, going for the dark, moody look of the novel would have destroyed that illusion.”
The lead role of FBI Agent Greer was difficult to cast due to its dual nature, but Bruce Willis was the perfect fit, so the choice of was a no-brainer, according to Mostow,. “Bruce was absolutely top of our list from the beginning for several reasons,” he says. “First of all, I think he’s a very underrated actor. When he does the big action movies, people don’t realize how much craft goes into those performances. Part of that craft with Bruce is that he makes even the most outrageous circumstances credible. No matter what he’s doing - and in Surrogates he does some pretty crazy things - you always believe him. Secondly, he’s the perfect age. I wanted Greer to be real, a guy who has got some mileage on him, so there’s the contrast with his surrogate who is young and vital. Bruce makes that work. And lastly, he has a track record of playing tough cops and detectives, but he also has a definite science fiction cache because of things like Twelve Monkeys, The’ Fifth Element and Armageddon.”
There’s every indication that Surrogates will be that rare thing - a big budget Hollywood sci-fi movie that, in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner, actually provides food for thought alongside the eye-candy. “This is not a bubble-gum movie,” says Mostow. “It’s definitely got the stuff you’d expect from a Bruce Willis, sci-fi - action film. But it takes the subject matter seriously. There’s nothing frivolous about it.”Play New Surrogates Trailer
Interview by Walt Disney