predestination_ver2I can’t remember ever seeing a film that is so hard to talk about without giving away important plot points. I don’t want to spoil the film for anybody although I must say that I’ve seen the film twice and it’s just as interesting to watch once you know what’s really happening. (Now I’m worried that even THAT is saying too much so I’ll shut up!)

Based on the short story “All You Zombies” by legendary science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein, Predestination chronicles the life of a Temporal Agent (Ethan Hawke) sent on an intricate series of time-travel journeys designed to prevent future killers from committing their crimes. Now, on his final assignment, the Agent must stop the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time and prevent a devastating attack in which thousands of lives will be lost. (There…that tells you everything and nothing about what really happens in the story.)

I enjoyed talking to Michael and Peter Spierig, the twin brothers who wrote and directed this provocative, unique film, along with Sarah Snook, a gifted Australian actress who gets to play both a female and male character in this film (which she does quite convincingly).

petermichaelsarahDanny Miller: It must be such a challenge to do press for this film without revealing important plot points.

Michael Spierig: You have no idea. But there’s also something kind of wonderful about it. It’s fun to create a film where anything you say about it gives it away. But it’s also a nightmare.

Sarah Snook: It’s been a real challenge. I guess it’s up to the writer of each article how much they want to give away. In the end, anything we say about the film is a kind of spoiler alert!

I’ll do my best not to spoil anything! I read the original short story and was amazed at how you were able to be so faithful to that even though you had to expand on it quite a bit.

Peter Spierig: The structure of Heinlein’s short story was so good that we kept going back to it whenever we got lost. But the great thing about adapting a short story is that you get to expand on the ideas whereas with a novel you have to subtract them. Michael and I adapted a novel before this which became more about pulling bits and pieces out. I have to say this was a lot more fun!

Sarah, did it take you a while to really wrap your brain around what was happening with your character?

Sarah: Yes! My partner is quite an analytical fellow and he helped me get a real timeline in order, to make sure that I always knew what was happening. We didn’t shoot in sequence (not that a time-traveling movie follows a normal sequence!) so I always had be on top of the chronology of where the character was at whatever date and what had happened previously.

I love the look of the different time periods. Did it feel in a way like you were making four different movies?

Michael: Absolutely. Our DP and production designer loved working on the film for that reason. Our goal was to define each period as clearly as possible. I started my career as a graphic designer and love design, so that part was such a joy — to get to play with all these different eras that I always wanted to work in.


Did you have a favorite time period?

Sarah: My favorite was the 1960s. That amazing SpaceCorp building actually exists in Melbourne and the fact that they managed to shoot it in a way that it looked like it was built for the film was amazing.

Peter: We didn’t have that big of a budget for this film and we found so many great locations in Melbourne that were just stunning. We got so much for so little. Most of that SpaceCorp building was already there which was unbelievable.

Because of what happens to Sarah’s character, it was obviously of extremely important to find just the right actress for the part. Was that a long process?

Michael: Ethan was the first person we cast and when he came on board we weren’t even sure which part he’d be playing. To be honest, we weren’t sure whether our crazy idea of trying to find an actress that could play both genders was going to work. We auditioned a lot of really great actresses in Australia and then Sarah came along and just blew us away. But we still weren’t sure that it was going to work until we started doing tests. What we ultimately found with the makeup was that less was more. It’s very hard change someone’s gender on film, so it was kind of a leap of faith but a very exciting one.

Sarah: I told Peter, Michael, and Ethan to let me know if anything I did didn’t feel truthful in terms of the character’s masculinity. I did a lot of physical training which helped a lot and a lot of research on dual-gendered characters in literature. And I watched a lot of films where people like Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, and Glenn Close have done that.


I know I’m not the first person to say this, but when you first came on the screen as the male character, I literally thought that Leonardo DiCaprio was doing an uncredited cameo in the film. You looked so much like him!

That was very weird. People started saying that on set and I was like, “You’re crazy!” But then enough people who saw the film were saying it so I thought, “Hmm, maybe there’s something to it!”

Peter: I think she looks like the love child of Leo DiCaprio and Jodie Foster with a touch of Edward Furlong.

Exactly! You know, I saw another time-travel movie the day after seeing this film and the basic message seemed to be, “Don’t fuck with time!” Was time travel something you were already interested in? 

Sarah: Always! Growing up I thought about time traveling all the time. I have some friends who got their PhDs in the philosophy of quantum physics and they make a good argument against it by saying that if time travel existed, people from the future would be here now.

Ah, but maybe they are and we don’t know it!

Peter: I’ve always loved books and movies about time travel. The Ray Bradbury novel A Sound of Thunder is another good cautionary tale. Don’t mess with the space-time continuum or you’re gong to destroy everything! I know some people have given lectures about whether time travel is possible at universities using the Robert Heinlein short story. It’s a very complex, mind-scrambling idea.

Michael: I love all time-travel movies. And we’re living in 2015 which IS the future according to Back to the Future 2! I’m still waiting for my hover board.

Do you think being identical twins gave you a special insight into this story about identity?

Peter: Are you asking us if we want to sleep with each other?

Ha! I hope that comment isn’t a spoiler about the movie!

Michael: Peter and I both loved the short story and felt we’d never seen anything like it. We’ve never seen a character like this in a sci-fi film. It’s also a film about an intersex transgender person and we were fascinated by that part of the character’s identity. What’s interesting about the film, I think, is that it lends itself to repeated viewings. When you see it for the second time and you get past the time travel “trickery,” it’s a whole different kind of experience. I’ve had very interesting responses from people who’ve seen it multiple times.

I’d like to see it again just to see more of the nuances in Ethan and Sarah’s amazing performances. It must be hard to top a role like this, Sarah.

Sarah: It is! Although I just did this film called The Dressmaker that I really enjoyed with Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, and Hugo Weaving.

Holy crap, what a cast!

That was my reaction!

Predestination opens on January 9, 2015, in select cities.