'28 Days Later' writer makes directing debut in style with "Ex Machina"

"Ex Machina” explores the story of a man interacting with the world’s most realistic piece of artificial intelligence.

Perhaps best known as the scribe of zombie classic “28 Days Later,” screenwriter Alex Garland is preparing to make his directorial debut behind the camera with "Ex Machina,” hitting theaters Friday.

Starring Harry Potter alum Domhnall Gleeson, “Ex Machina” explores the story of a man interacting with the world’s most realistic piece of artificial intelligence. Garland said he never set out to direct a film like this and that him doing so just happened naturally.

“I think at the point I was writing it I was really just trying to figure out 'does this work, is there a movie here?'” Garland said. “And the directing aspect of it was something that just came later and just felt like it made sense.”

Following “28 Days Later” and cult remake “Dredd,” the "Ex Machina" marks Garland's third science-fiction feature.

“The reason to work in sci-fi from my point of view is that you’re just allowed to deal with big themes and big ideas and not be embarrassed about it,” Garland said.

Garland said he enjoys the mindset of science-fiction fans.

“Sci-fi audiences are very relaxed about that kind of thing," he said. They want big ideas. They like them being name-checked. It’s seen as an advantage rather than a negative."

When asked about it and how directing a movie is compared to writing, Garland seemed humbled but collaborative.

“I was making this movie with a group of people, many of whom I’ve worked with many, many times before,” he said.

Though the cast of the film may not be made up of recognizable names, it does boast an impressive group of actors like Oscar Issac (“Inside Llewyn Davis “) and Alicia Vikander. Garland said the cast was one of the most talented he’s been around.

“People like Oscar, and Domhnall, and Alicia, what they are is really, really good actors," he said. "And you wouldn’t want to micro-manage their performance even if you could."

Though “Ex Machina” marks Garland’s first original project, his next will be another adaptation, this time a Jeff VanderMeer novel called “Annihilation.”

“I’ve written an adaptation of that and it’s been submitted to a studio, and we’re just waiting to find out if we get the money to make it," he said. “In my sort of working life, I’d say out of three projects I try to make, maybe one of them gets made, and I hope this turns out to be the one.”

Contact this reporter at seweinst@asu.edu or on Twitter @S_Weinstein95.

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