Rupert Wyatt has been named as the “Runaway Bride” for movie studios. The genius director that kicked off the critically acclaimed Planet of the Apes franchise back in 2011 has since then departed projects such as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Halo TV series, and of course Gambit. When learning about Wyatt, and in speaking with the director one will quickly find that he is not one to sacrifice creative vision for fame and fortune. Over the years audiences have been privy to the rise and falls of independent film directors who are given big picture vehicles, and then cave when they lose too much control.
Once Gambit was out of the picture Wyatt dove into the development of his sci-fi flick, Captive State, with writing and life partner Erica Beeney, writer of The Battle of Shaker Heights. Captive State is an original sci-fi flick that frames the United States as a country under occupation by extraterrestrials. This intense thriller stars Moonlight’s Ashton Sanders, White Boy Rick’s Jonathan Majors, 10 Cloverfield Lane’s John Goodman, and The Conjuring’s Vera Fermiga.
We spoke with Rupert Wyatt and Erica Beeney about the parallels between their film and real life history, and were able to get their thoughts on the Disney/Fox merger, and Wyatt’s vision for his version of the Gambit film.
Screen Rant: Many people will comment on the parallels between this story and the current administration, however this was being developed during Obama’s term. Is it a bit shocking to see life imitating art?
Erica Beeney: It's a good question. Yes, exactly. We started writing it prior to this last election cycle. I think that some of the themes are sort of timeless and universal in a way, right? And we were always in danger of becoming complacent, whether it's, prosperity, or media manipulation. So, the fact that there are parallels. That’s sort of surprising and then come as no, surprise.
Screen Rant: When you were developing this script with Rupert, and you were brainstorming about who the antagonist was going to be, did you think it was easier and a little more attractive for the audience to come see a movie where the oppressors are extraterrestrials and not actual people themselves?
Erica Beeney: Certainly Rupert as you know from his past history with science fiction and, coming to it myself as a genre that I love, it brings possibilities and opportunities of holding up a mirror to society. And I think sometimes that, you know, it’s easiest done with the ‘One Step Removed of Distance’ that science fiction offers. No way when we set out to write this was it going to be a polemic, or some kind of teaching thing. There's none of that. It was sort of, how can we tell a story about these situations that Rupert found really compelling and interesting, and I did as well about how people behave under the immense pressure of war time. The background of that, looking at French people under German occupation, at the troubles in Northern Ireland, at various conflicts in the Middle East. The science fiction part of it gives you an opportunity to make that more entertaining and and have fun with it. That opportunity for distance that maybe makes it easier to see.
Rupert Wyatt: It did also allow us well to put it on the footprint of America in a kind of plausible grounded way. We sort of pushed into the future, but in the very near future and it's always our intention to sort of ask that question what would it be like to live in a country, that was the great democracy for the last 100 years. Of course that sent us into the realm of side by side.
Erica Beeney: Another piece of it is you know finding it very compelling with these pictures and these ideas of the places that are now kind of totally decimated by war whether it's Syria or other countries that used to be beautiful thriving places where people were living their everyday lives and sometimes we forget that because we're certainly used to seeing them another way but we’re using this opportunity to use Chicago really highlight that.
Screen Rant: Like you said this film is more of a character study of how people react to certain situations and Rupert mentioned that he didn't want to set this too far into the future. We’re used to sci-fi films being set 100 plus years into the future, so what is something that you guys don't want the audience to miss with their first time viewing this film? What is the ultimate message?
Erica Beeney: I would say, as much as there are aspects of it that are sort of serious or bleak that it's fundamentally an optimistic movie.There’s the idea that there is some kind of great hope for human nature and mankind that deal is is really the heart of the story.
Rupert Wyatt: When you're dealing with the near future totalitarian society where civil liberties kind of been thrown out of the window that is sort of natural tendency to expect that to be a dystopian future. One that kind of in a way has a narrow bleakness to it, but I think what we tried to do was bring this idea that within that existence there’s always cover there's always life. Basically people going about their business in a way that's every day and Erica was very keen as we were writing it to show, even in small little moments a mother seeing her child walk for the first time. That is far more interesting way to approach a character whose husband is about to walk out the door to join a terrorist cell, to see her in that brief moment of happiness is, even though their lives are under duress. I think often you can kind of forget that when you're making films in an Orwellian sort of way. We were really keen to make it more visceral and colorful.
Erica Beeney: And also, you know, love so many of these characters so much and, that it is such an ensemble in that way. I'm thinking of Daniel, one of the members of this now. and just the specificity of a trans person. All of these sort of people who do tend to be the people who feel ‘bring the fight to the man’ if you will, and to bring those characters to life in their small ways was such a pleasure.
Screen Rant: Now, I love this entire cast here. Besides actors like Will Smith and Billy Dee Williams, John Boyega, and a couple others you don't really see black actors headlining science fiction films. The characters that the actors I mentioned play are moreso framed as archetypes that has no bearing on their race, so that was something that was really nice for me to see in this film. Did you utilize blind casting or did you always see the roles being played by black actors?
Rupert Wyatt: We saw it as colorblind in a way. We saw it as trying to be true to the cultural diversity and the ethnic diversity of Chicago. I mean our two brothers are sort of key younger characters in this film even though it’s obviously a large ensemble. Rafe and Gabriel played by Jonathan Majors and and Ashton Sanders could have been frankly any ethnicity, but what was important, was to ask the question, ‘in the times of an occupation period who is it that invariably becomes the hero or who is it in the eyes of others becomes the terrorists?’ depending on how you look at it. You look at the French Resistance, and it was the railroad workers or the communists who were for criminal. You are joining that movement. Then there’s the boy who is hanging out with the Nazis. Culturally, and I’m really pleased that you say that, but I'm really pleased in a way that the film is never really kind of getting into the sort of the notion of racial divide. We, as a species, are uniting. You know tribalism is going out the window and there’s this unity to all these peoples ifrom very different backgrounds, whether they be an ex Catholic priest, a member of the trans community to young African Americans within this kind of working class neighborhood in Chicago. They’re all together in this which I think is pretty exciting
Erica Beeney: There are some people who are more used to you know ‘fighting against the man’ than other people are for sure.
Screen Rant: Rupert, some of the biggest industry gossip surrounding you in the past few years was the fact that you exited Fox’s Gambit project. Now that it looks like the film may never get made at least under the Fox banner, what would a Wyatt-Tatum Gambit have looked like had your vision been brought to life?
Rupert Wyatt: Well, yeah, I think I mean, when, when I was working on it with Josh Zetumer another writer, Channing and Reid Carolin, his producing partner. It was this really exciting and very interesting. It was kind of The Godfather with mutants.There was this amazing clan like. Multiple gangs of different mutants in Louisiana, in the bayou swamp area of Louisiana and New Orleans. It had a heist quality to it. There's a gang of thieves….it was a really great take on the superhero genre. I do know, after I was no longer involved the development took a slightly different turn and it became somewhat more of a romantic comedy. Yeah, I read that script. It was great. Very different.
Screen Rant: Is there another superhero project or character that you would like to helm?
Rupert Wyatt: I’ll go ahead and let Erica take this one.
Erica Beeney: I mean, I'm so I'm so down with the current trend of people realizing that, you know, superheroes are not all muscley, white men. I'd love for it to be another woman, person of color, that’s where my interest lies for sure.
Screen Rant: A sci-fi character probably.
Rupert Wyatt: Yeah, maybe, that would be interesting.
Erica Beeney: It's like Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse, we could reincarnate, or rebirth one of those old school superheroes in a completely new incarnation. You know what I mean, it be so interesting to see, ‘Oh, it's Iron Man’. But now the character is a scrappy, young Asian girl. I'm not. Amy now, that would, that would be fine. Yeah, because they do have like, a female version of Iron Man, iron heart. So that would be fun to see. come to life as well.
Screen Rant: Yes, it would! I have just one last question for you both. I know that Rupert, at least has a history with Fox, but for the both of you how surprised were you to find that the studio decided to sell itself off? And do you think it creates this industry monopoly?
Rupert Wyatt: I might be interested to know and find out what Disney plans to do with Fox because if it becomes an arm that actually continues to make a particular kind of film I think there’s value in that .It’ll allow Disney, the brand, to sort of expand in a way that perhaps they can’t otherwise. But if it all gets confused into the same sort of equivalent of what the Disney films are then I think you know, there is always that challenge when the monopoly to start to take hold then there are less diversity in the types of filmmaking that’s happening. I would like to think that they're still looking at Fox as being its own thing just under the Disney ownership. I hope that's the case.
Erica Beeney: I think one of the big reasons that they get it was for the Marvel characters. People love those movies and they love them for a good reason and ultimately it's down to the audience. If we keep on being able to make lots of different kinds of movies, the big fun tentpole movies and the more personal movies, and as long as the audience finds them it's all good.
Rupert Wyatt: I read the other day that both Green Book and I believe Roma to an extent, have gone massive in China which on paper you would never think. That's the wonderful thing in many ways for a film that isn’t necessarily a typical tentpole. For an international audience like the Chinese market they are actually seeking out different types of things. I think that's proof positive that that no one really ever knows anything as they say, you know, that says that just that unknown of what people going to go for. And I think as long as people keep on making original films that are proving that then cinema will be alive and well.
Erica Beeney: And it's going to get as much as people decide streaming and all that. It has opened up so many opportunities in that way. So we're still watching it all unfold.
- Captive State (2019) release date: Mar 15, 2019