#SPOTTED: ALEX GARLAND IN TORONTO FOR “ANNIHILATION”
By David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
In 2015, we were blown away by Ex Machina from Screenwriter and first-time Director Alex Garland. The Film was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards and won Best Visual Effects. Zip-forward three years, and Garland has delivered another mind-blowing piece of Science Fiction in Annihiliation. Garland was present for the first Canadian screening of the highly-anticipated Film at TIFF Bell Lightbox tonight, followed by a Q&A with TIFF’s Artistic Director Cameron Bailey.
The Film centers around Lena (Natalie Portman), a Biologist who joins a team of scientists and researchers who venture into a classified area known as “The Shimmer” to uncover its secrets. The less you know about the plot of Annihilation, the better. But suffice it to say, Garland’s Film will leave you breathless and begging to discuss each and every twist.
On the subject of casting, Garland said each actor was cast traditionally and “kind of pushed against each other in a good way. They had very different energies.” He praised the Ensemble, along with those behind-the-scenes he referred to as the “Collective”. After Garland writes his Screenplays, he hands them off to his Production Designers and other members of his crew – some of which he has been working with for 20 years! – and they help shape the Film from the ground up through “conversations”.
“It’s an abstract Novel,” Garland said when asked about adapting the first chapter in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. He “tried to do an adaptation of what it’s like to read the Book”, and explained that the Screenplay was written more as a “memory of the Book” as opposed to a direct adaptation. Without spoiling too much, Garland suggests “The Film is about self-destruction,” and that by playing within the realm of Genre Filmmaking, he was given a “free gift in what you can subvert,” allowing the Film to take on multiple tones, styles and genres.
Garland spoke at length about his take on Auteurism (he prefers working as a team), how he writes female versus male characters (he writes them the same way), and his feelings on adapting the rest of VanderMeer’s Trilogy (sequels are “not my scene”), but received the biggest audience response when he asked if his friend Rob was in the audience. He had never met the Toronto native, but the two have been playing PS4 games online for a number of years. Garland invited his gaming buddy out for a drink after the Q&A, much to the delight of the audience.
While it was a fun and enlightening event, the last question of the night finally addressed the elephant in the room – Netflix. Annihiliation’s distributor Paramount Pictues recently sold international streaming rights to the Company, and will only give the Film a traditional theatrical release in the US, Canada and China. All other foreign territories will see the Film released exclusively on Netflix (much like the surprise post Super Bowl release of Paramount’s The Cloverfield Paradox). “I don’t have a problem with the small screen at all,” Garland said, noting his next project was an 8-part Series for FX. But he added, “This Film was designed for theatres. The immersive experience that we collectively hope happens at the end is not going to happen on a laptop.”
We’ll have more on Annihilation in our review next week, but for our Toronto and Montreal fans, be sure to enter our contest now to win passes to an Advanced Scteening of the Film here.
Paramount Pictures Canada release ANNIHILIATION on Friday, February 23, 2018.
(Photo credit: David Baldwin)