Q and A interview with director Mike Cahill and star Brit Marling of sci-fi film
By Michelle Tennis
We’ve all had those fleeting, or more than fleeting, thoughts about what
it would be like if we had taken another path in life or what it would be
like to live in an alternate universe. But what if there was another planet
similar to ours? What if there was another one of us out there in the universe?
Would we want to meet that person? “Another Earth” (Fox Searchlight)
touches on these subjects and poses the question, “If you could meet another
you, what would you say?”.
(A: Cahill): Very quickly [laughs].
(A: Cahill): For about five or six years we made documentaries. I worked
for National Geographic for a while and then Brit and I went Cuba and we
made a movie called “Boxers and Ballerinas,” which is about a boxer and
ballerina that live in Havana and a boxer and ballerina that live in Miami.
And it’s funny because we never really saw the parallels between that documentary
and this film. But someone brought up recently that ‘you’re looking at parallel
lives: people who live in Cuba and people who left and lived in capitalist
Miami.’ So that was kind of interesting. So we worked and built our chops
making non-fiction movies for a living. Then about 2 ˝ years ago we wanted
to make a fictional movie and we wrote this project together.
(A: Cahill): It does evolve. I think you make a film three times. Basically,
you make it in the writing stage, in the shooting stage and then you make
it in the editing room. Each one of those stages has different evolutions.
So when we wrote it, our first cut of the film was 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Really long [laughs]. This one is 90 minutes. So there was a lot of stuff
that we ended up leaving on the cutting-room floor. Which it’s difficult
to decide what goes. But ultimately we tried to keep the story tighter.
So we lost a bit of the science… that stuff wasn’t very emotional…we kind
of hoped the audience would not require it so much. But it does shift a
great deal from the writing to shooting to editing.
(A: Cahill): Very luckily. Actually when we started, our casting directors
presented a bunch of male leads for the part and no one had the very specific
energy and vibe and everything that I was looking for. So we began shooting
without him. And in the summertime after we had shot a bunch of the movie,
our casting director asked, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about William Mapother?
We just met him and he’s a really great guy.’ What I loved about him from
previous roles [“Lost” and “In the Bedroom”], two roles that he’s very well
known for, he has this intensity on screen, this almost intimidating energy.
fear in those around him on screen in some ways. And I wanted to harness
that. I loved that idea. I saw underneath all that he had this warmth, beauty
and joy. Piece by piece of that outer shell could be removed. So he read
the script and he really loved it. And we talked for a few hours and the
three of us met in a deli.
(Q): He [Mapother] has such a broken quality, too. He’s tough, but he’s
also vulnerable. He seems shattered at a certain level. You [Marling] exuded
that as well. Was that difficult and challenging for you? You don’t come
off as necessarily a shattered or broken person?
(A: Marling): Why thank you. I guess it was challenging. I spent a lot
of time daydreaming, meditating on what it would be like to spend that amount
of time in prison. And I watched a lot of documentaries on women in prison
and read a lot of essays and poetry. By the end of all that [daydreaming]
I decided that it was the most cruel and inhumane punishment imaginable.
That you would really lose whole pieces of your humanity being sort of isolated
and confined like that. So I think a lot of that experience really formed
who Rhoda was. I think we also talked about during the writing phase that
we didn’t want Rhoda to be a victim. And I think with the horrible accident
that happens in the beginning that it’s very easy for her to be wallowing
in self-pity through this movie. We talked that we wanted Rhoda to be really
active, even in her grief. And she’s always attempting to move through it
or figure out how to construct a meaningful life despite what’s happened.
Hopefully some of that came off.
Michelle Tennis, social media manager and feature writer for CinemaCLIPS.com, can be reached at CinemaCLIPSdotcom@gmail.com or follow her on twitter @CinemaCLIPS.
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