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There’s a scene in 20th Century Studios’ The Creator during which AIs wreak havoc on Los Angeles as a TV journalist warns that they are after jobs. But that’s not what director Gareth Edwards, who co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Weitz, actually believes. “I don’t think AI wants our jobs at all,” Edwards says in a new episode of The Hollywood Reporter‘s Behind the Screen podcast.
Edwards recalls that Weitz may have written that line around 2019, long before AI became a pivotal topic in Hollywood and a central issue in the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. “ChatGPT seems to not want anything,” the director says of artificial intelligence today. “But it is an amazing tool. It is going to disrupt a lot of things. We will get to the side of it and I think we will be grateful that it happened. Just like all the other big technological advances like cars, like electricity, like home computers, like the internet, it’s going to change things.”
The futuristic sci-fi movie follows Joshua, played by John David Washington, who is recruited to destroy an AI in the form of a young child. Edwards admits that back when they were writing the script, AI seemed very far into the future, and the story was “really more of a metaphor for people who are different to us.” But as they wrote, more questions about artificial intelligence surfaced. “What if they don’t do what you want them to do? What if you have to then turn them off? What if they don’t want to be turned off? All this sort of stuff that we’re starting to deal with now starts to kind of become more interesting than the original reason you were making the film,” he said.
He notes that one of the questions was what year in which to set the film. “Stanley Kubrick even got it wrong with picking 2001 when we’d all be living on the moon. And so I was like, ‘Don’t try and pick a date, you’re going to look like an idiot,'” says Edwards. “But at some point, you have to. So I went for 2070 and I didn’t realize I was going to be more of an idiot because I should have come earlier. I should have picked 2023 or something.”
In addition to the theme, the VFX-savvy helmer talks about the film’s inventive production process – how he made a movie on an $80 million budget look like they spent much more. He relates that by managing crew size, location work can be less expensive than building sets. With that in mind, a small team brought a camera to eight countries including Cambodia and Vietnam where they lensed a large amount of footage. Afterwards, Industrial Light & Magic “reverse engineered” the footage to create the design.
Similarly, they filmed with actors playing the AI-driven bots, but without motion capture markers or similar techniques. “They’ve figured out ways to track the human body when there wasn’t any markers on it,” he says of ILM’s work. Edwards adds that aside from principal actors, many of the performers didn’t know if they were playing a human or an AI during the shoot. “I stopped telling people because I wanted the robots to be very naturalistic and human in their behavior,” he admits. “We actually chose who was AI about halfway through the edit.”
You can listen to the podcast episode here:
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