‘The Creator’ Director Gareth Edwards on Telling a Humans vs. AI War Story: “The Setup of Our Movie Is Pretty Much the Last Few Months”

‘The Creator’ Director Gareth Edwards on Telling a Humans vs. AI War Story: “The Setup of Our Movie Is Pretty Much the Last Few Months”

While battles over the use of artificial intelligence are currently going on in Hollywood amid the dual strikes, Gareth Edwards is about to release his own big-screen version of the war between humans and AI.

The Creator, which Edwards wrote and directed, stars John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Allison Janey and newcomer Madeleine Voyles, the latter of whom plays a robot with world-ending power, in the form of a young child. At an IMAX screening and Q&A event in Los Angeles on Tuesday — which showcased three key scenes from the film alongside a conversation with the filmmaker, that was broadcast to theaters across the country — Edwards joked that he got lucky with the timing because “there’s a sweet spot window where it’s before the robot apocalypse and not after — which I think is in November or maybe December.”

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He noted that he tried to avoid putting a date on the futuristic war, but after some research decided to set it in 2070. “Now I feel like an idiot because I should have gone for 2023, because everything that’s unfolded in the last few months or a year is kind of scarily weird,” Edwards said.

“When we first pitched the movie to the studio, this idea of a war with AI, everyone wants to know the backstory like, ‘Hang on, why would we be at war with AI?’ ‘Well, they’ve been banned because it kind of went wrong.’ ‘But why would you ban AI? It’s going to be great,’ and blah, blah blah,” he continued. “It was all these sort of ideas that you have to set up that maybe humanity would reject this thing and not be that cool about it. And the way it’s played out, the setup of our movie is pretty much the last few months, it’s kind of strange,” joking, “Go see it before November, because that’s when we’re going to be enslaved.”

Edwards, who previously directed Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Godzilla, said he was influenced by Blade Runner and Apocalypse Now in creating the film, which was shot at 80 different locations around the world with very little green screen work. He first wrote it in 2018, acknowledging, “It did feel back then like this was 30 years away… It really wasn’t on my radar back then in terms of being a reality.”

“When this film began, I obviously didn’t know AI was going to do what it ended up doing this last year, so in the fairy tale of this story, AI was like the other; people who are different to us that we kind of want to get rid of or naturally have conflicts with,” he elaborated. “But the second you make them AI, all kinds of fascinating things started to happen as you wrote that script where you start to think, are they real? How would you know? If you didn’t like what they were doing, could you turn them off? What if they didn’t want to be turned off? And all of this stuff started to play out which became as strong as the premise and that’s what I’m most proud of in the film, that we hung onto that.”

Edwards also reflected on casting its star ensemble, revealing that he first met with Washington at a dinner during the pandemic, where the actor walked in with a Star Wars mask on. To find the young AI star, the team held an open casting call and discovered Voyles, whom Edwards called, “A director’s dream.”

He also revealed some surprising background actors — when scouting locations in Thailand, he found a particle accelerator lab where he wanted to shoot, and was told no; that is, until they found out he directed Rogue One, and asked the director if the staff could be in the film. Cut to one scene shown during the screening: “Everybody in that scene, everyone running around are nuclear physicists. And they were amazing,” Edwards said.

Tuesday’s fan event took place live at the AMC Century City IMAX Theatre and was screened to nine other participating IMAX theatres in New York, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Toronto, Seattle, Washington D.C. and San Francisco, being sold out across the country. The Creator hits theaters Sept. 29.