I Origins

/Film: Sure. I wanna get back to a little bit of that, but jumping ahead to the super duper spoilers. As much as I like the movie, the end credits scene, the coda, it was insane. It blew my mind.

Mike Cahill: Oh cool.

Can you talk about the fact you basically came up with, even though it’s not true, a scientific way to almost prove there’s a higher power. Talk about the development of that scene with the famous people and the fact the good lives are being reincarnated and the bad ones have not. [Note: Read a better explanation of this here.]

Ah… That’s so sharp of you. Right, the bad ones are not. I, for, well that was a thing, they’re not not reincarnated.

Yeah, well you don’t know for sure, but there’s no matches on Hitler, but there could be.

Yes, there could be. So…

But the way I read it was, if you lived a good life, maybe you came back in the system. If you lead a bad life, you did not come back.

You were probably a fly.

Yeah.

Or you did not come back. Well, I mean, one thing to kind of throw, one variable to throw in there is that the Earth has seven billion people and we’ve realistically scanned maybe 300 million eyes. So that’s a small…what is that… that’s like one 16th of the world? I can’t do math.

I understand what you mean.

So there’s potential that Hitler lives, you know, on a raft on a floating island in some wherever.

Right, it’s not definitive, but…

It’s not definitive.

But your movie, the idea of it is…

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I just didn’t wanna have to deal with like picking a place where he would be for example or whatever. But that’s a whole ‘nother movie that I wanna make. And it’s called I. This is I Origins. This has such an unusual title, right? And a lot of people are like are literally like this is grammatically confusing. It’s like “What the hell is going on there?” And the thing about me is I’m so literal when it comes to titles. Another Earth is about another Earth. Boxers and the Ballerina is about boxer and a ballerina. I Origins is the origin story for I. And I is another movie that I wrote and sold to Fox Searchlight when Another Earth came out. It takes place 20 years in the future. Basically the coda is the beginning of that film.

Okay.

We didn’t make it. We were developing it and I couldn’t crack it. There were some aspects of the story that I just couldn’t crack it yet. And so before making a movie that was gonna be not so good, not to say that this one is. This one is just a modest little movie or whatever. It’s our tiny little baby. But I was so eager to make something and I had this rich back story for I. So we made Origins first. As a very small like super low budget movie for a million bucks.

So I would be…

I would take place in the future.

And it’s a result of that scene? 

Exactly.

Asking “What are the implications if everybody ever might have been reincarnated?”

Right. When a baby is born in this world. Once this discovery sort of gets out into the world, here are the implications. Number one, very wealthy people start leaving their fortunes to their future selves. Not just their kids.

Oh interesting.

Right? So you can inherit… you can grow up in the middle of like poverty stricken wherever, scan your eyes and find out you were, you know, this dot com millionaire who left this fortune to you. Also there are people who find out they that were not so good and have to deal with that. And that’s where emotionally it’s interesting to me. ‘Cause it’s like I like sci-fi for the purpose of getting at something human. And if you find out you were a bad dude, what do you do? And that’s a metaphor for our own suppressed pasts that we don’t wanna deal with, right?

Sure.

Like “That’s not me. I have nothing to do with that.” And yet that may influence us subconsciously, our behavior. So we don’t have free will until we acknowledge it.

Is that idea something that you’re still trying to crack then?

I’ve got a lot further to cracking it right now. And so Searchlight’s really excited about it. So we just kind of have to, you know, if people like this movie, we’re gonna…

Make the movie, yeah, sure. 

If three people see it, then, you know.

Yeah, it’s gonna be an issue.

Then ’cause it’s a bigger budget anyways, yeah.

Okay, and is that sort of why you put it at the very end? Because, I mean, 90 percent of my theater walked out and missed it. But I guess it’s such a great scene but it’s also a different movie, like you said. This movie’s about Ian’s closure with Sophie.

Right, that’s why I wanted to put it way at the end.

So you’re okay if people miss it.

MIKE: Yeah, I’m totally cool. Like we were having this debate with Searchlight ’cause they were like, “You know, you wanna move it forward so that people don’t miss it?” Here’s my rationale, it’s like you could put it earlier, but then that feels like the end of the movie and the movie felt like it was over when he walks out the door.

Yeah, sure.

Like emotionally that’s felt right and then I could have even put it after the cards, you know? But then still I was like, “You know what? It’s a little bonus if someone sticks around to see who was the grip for this scene or whatever.” You know, if you stick around for the thing, like there’s a little bonus. And if you miss it, no biggie.

Yeah, okay. I have so much more, but we gotta get wrapped up in a couple minutes here. These days it seems like filmmakers like yourself who make really awesome small budget movies are getting sucked up by Hollywood for the huge movies. You know, there’s Gareth Edwards, Josh Trank, Colin Trevorrow.

Yeah.

Is that something that A, interests you and B, do you think it’s even possible like to go from a movie like this to a 200 million dollar Star Wars movie or something like that?

Aw man, that’s a really tough question. Those guys are all brilliant. I’ve met Gareth. Colin and I, we met. Those guys, you know, they’re like really talented, talented filmmakers. And I think they’re gonna make brilliant Star Wars movies. And Jurassic Park movies. And those 200 million dollar movies. And I’m gonna be the first person watching those movies. I get a pinge of sadness to think that I’m gonna miss some of their original work for the next six years. But I expect they’re gonna pick up a whole ton of tricks and techniques and things to apply to their original work. I would be beyond honored if someone even started a conversation with me about doing something like that. And I would entertain it certainly, but I’m not calling my agents being like “Yo, can you try and hook me up with these meetings?” I like doing my thing. Whatever that may be. These existential, philosophical things.

I would like the scale to get a little bit bigger in terms of visual spectacle and stuff like that. I’m intrigued by that. And I think that’s really great. Like I wrote a alien movie, a very grounded movie about extraterrestrials based on spore theory and how, the idea that the Earth is not the originator of life ’cause 4.5 billion years ago where we traced the beginnings of R and A.D. and a carbon based life, was also same time period where the Earth was collided with so many meteorites. And the idea is that there was this other super Earth in the Milky Way that originated life say six billion years ago or five billion years ago. And it collided with another planet and those microorganisms spread throughout the galaxy and therefore on all these Earth like planets, which we just discovered in the last since Another Earth came out which is kind of crazy, the Kepler Space Project discovered all these other Earths. You could imagine life carbon based reptilian and mammalian life forms evolving throughout our galaxy. I’m interested in that and that’s expensive. But I have a story that’s very much my kind of story or like it kind of deals with themes that I’m interested in. And uses that as the playpen. And I would like someone to pay for that.

And then I like you said.

And then I, right, is that like, you know, it’s philosophical sci-fi.

Right, which I love and I think our readers love. 

I Origins is now in theaters.

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