This weekend sees the release of the science-fiction thriller that took SXSW by storm. Written and direct by Sunshine scribe Alex Garland, Ex Machina centers on two engineers (Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson) testing the artificial intelligence of an android called Ava (Alicia Vikander).
We sat down with Isaac and Vikander to discuss the film’s incredible effects, complex relationships, and surprising budget restrictions. Plus, we had some fun playing Bang Marry Kill (a game new to the Swedish starlet) and got Isaac to talk a bit about his upcoming and deeply mysterious Star Wars role.
So I wanted to start off with an Ex Machina version of “Bang, Marry, Kill.” So Nathan, Ava, Caleb: Bang, Marry, Kill.
Alicia Vikander: That’s a reference I don’t know.
Oscar Isaac: So basically you have to choose which one you would bang, which one you would kill, and which one you would marry.
Alicia Vikander: Okay so you knew this. I did not know this. Is this some social media thing?
Oscar Isaac: You’re not supposed to ever do it front of them–oh, we’re talking about the characters?
The characters, yeah! No, I’m not that forward.
Alicia Vikander: Well, I need to choose Ava to bang.
Oscar Isaac: Yeah. I mean, Nathan does bang Ava so–
Alicia Vikander: Excuse me!
Oscar Isaac: Yeah. That’s my backstory. That’s what helped me to perform. That’s my character’s secret.
So you would bang Ava, and you agree with that. So marry and kill?
Oscar Isaac: I’d kill Caleb.
Alicia Vikander: Yeah, probably.
Oscar Isaac: And marry…myself?
Alicia Vikander: Yeah.
Oscar Isaac: Maybe I’d bang myself and marry Ava. That’s a tough one. Not me! I’m sorry–Nathan!
Alicia Vikander: Well, I’m already banging myself, so I’ll marry you!
Oscar Isaac: Yeah, I’m already banging myself too, so we’re made for each other.
Alicia Vikander: That’s why it’s such a good marriage.
Oscar Isaac: Exactly.
So in the movie, the visual effects are just incredible, so I’m curious how much did you know ahead of time as far as what you’re character would look like in the end? And how did that affect your performances?
Alicia Vikander: I did carry around with me this little like–
Oscar Issaac: Like a screen test thing we did, right?
Alicia Vikander: Yeah. Well, I have a little video on my iPhone and photo of kind of how Ava looks on the poster. So I had seen some prototypes of what it could look like. But I mean it just looked like a bald-headed Spider-Man. So it was a good thing that I didn’t see myself. I think it was tougher for you guys having to pretend to see something different.
Oscar Issaac: (Chuckling) It really was. It was hard to look at.
So you were wearing a green screen outfit?
Alicia Vikander: No, it was that! (Pointing to the poster.)
Oscar Issaac: Without the see-through bits.
Alicia Vikander: It was a whole silver mesh thing. I was bald with my forehead on top of my skull like that.
Oscar Issaac: It’s pretty amazing the advances that were made as far as that because we didn’t need green screen or anything. We could just act it the way that–
Alicia Vikander: But that was also the thing–it’s a low-budget film. So it came down that we had to count every, single, wide frame. Because that was just the amount of money we had to do VFX things. So actually the neck and the head were something that there was a last push to the film, because that wasn’t in the cut that I saw. That was a last thing that was worth (the extra money).
That’s awesome, because it looks amazing. Another amazing thing in this movie, your (Oscar’s) dance number. Please tell me how that came together.
Alicia Vikander: It was a big surprise when I was reading the script. I was like, “Uh huh–what!?”
Oscar Issaac: Yeah. Yeah that a disco non sequitur that happens there is crazy. We got a choreographer. He like won Mr. Disco or something at some point.
Alicia Vikander: Wow!
Oscar Issaac: Yeah. And then we just did hours and hours of disco dancing.
Alicia Vikander: And the rest of us just stood there, jealous and looking at them having so much fun that day.
Maybe Ex Machina 2 has a dance number for Ava?
Alicia Vikander: Next Machina.
For our last question, what would Nathan think of your Star Wars character?
Oscar Issaac: What would Nathan think of my Star Wars character? Uh.
Alicia Vikander: This is a trick question.
Oscar Issaac: Yeah, it’s a trick question, total trick question. Well, see he would think that that part where I–what is this amateur hour? They’re fake. They’re fake. He wouldn’t think anything. (spoilers for Ex Machina redacted).
Well, I know that you guys have incredible contracts that are like, ‘You can’t talk about anything!’ So it’s like–what can I ask?
Oscar Issaac: You have to come up with tricky ways–
Alicia Vikander: (To Oscar) I saved you. Otherwise you would have–
Was the Ghostbusters bit in the script? Because it feels so spontaneous.
Oscar Issaac: Yeah. But it what was funny is that [director Alex Garland] did say–because one take I sang it–and he’s like, ‘You can’t sing it.’ And I’m like, ‘Why not?’ And he’s like, ‘Because we don’t have the rights to sing the Ghostbusters song.’
Ex Machina opens April 10, 2015