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The Creator’s Gareth Edwards on the importance of original sci-fi

The Creator's director Gareth Edwards has made some of the biggest science fiction movies of the past two decades, and now after Star Wars he's back for more.

John David Washington in The Creator

If you took a trip to the multiplex today, you’d be forgiven for thinking that original ideas were an endangered species. Indeed, so much of our cinematic diet is made up of adaptations, sequels, remakes, and reboots that even the biggest of franchise fans can start to feel a little overwhelmed. Enter The Creator by Gareth Edwards.

The Creator is easily one of the best science fiction movies we’ve seen in recent years and an original idea to boot! We love The Creator (read our The Creator review here), calling it big, ambitious, and thoughtful sci-fi that eschews spectacle to tell a story about how war is inherently dehumanizing. So, as we were such big fans of the film, we were delighted when we got called up to interview Edwards about his fantastic new movie.

The Digital Fix: After the success of Rogue One, you must have had your pick of the scripts. Oh, he’s shaking his head. No?

Gareth Edwards: No. You should be running Hollywood. That would be cool.

TDF: I mean, I would have given you everything after Rogue One. OK, well, I know after Rogue One, you took a break and went on a little bit of a journey. Was that where the initial seed for The Creator came from?

GE: Actually, yes, I went on a road trip with my girlfriend to see her parents after finishing Star Wars. I wasn’t trying to think of anything; I just had some headphones on. I don’t know why I was listening to music and not talking to my girlfriend. It was like a four-day drive. Right? [Laughs]

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So at some point, I was just looking out the window, and there was all this farmland, you know, it’s the Midwest, it goes on and on for days. But I saw this factory that had this logo on it. This is how I remember it anyway. It had a little logo that was like Japanese. And I thought, ‘Oh, I wonder what they’re doing in there,’ and then, as a sci-fi geek, I went, ‘Ah, maybe robots?’

Obviously, they’re not doing that in the Midwest. And then I imagined being a robot in a factory, and you stepped outside and saw this farmland in the sky? Like what would you think was going on? You’ve never even seen the world before? I thought, ‘Oh, that’s a fun little moment in film’.

But I threw it away, you know, you have those thoughts a lot, but then it was like somebody tapped me on the shoulder and went, ‘Oh, what if someone came and was trying to kill all the robots, and one of them escaped.’ So I was like, alright, OK. And then went to throw it away again, but then someone tapped me on the shoulder again and went, ‘What if it’s that lone wolf and cub kind of vibe that you’ve always wanted to do, and it was a little kid robot?’

Young robot girl in The Creator

It just kept creeping up on me, and by the time we got to the house, I had the whole movie kind of mapped out very roughly. Normally, it takes months to kind of figure all that stuff out, but here, it sort of all came very quickly, which is either a good or a bad sign.

TDF: [Laughs] I feel like it worked out because the film’s spectacular. Honestly, it feels like something I would have watched while growing up in the ’80s and ’90s. Back then, it felt, through my rose-colored spectacles, like there was original sci-fi in cinemas every week, which doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. How important do you think it is that films like The Creator get their time in theatres?

GE: They weren’t rose-colored spectacles. You were right [laughs]. For me, it’s really important because even if you’re a massive franchise fan, guess what? They all began as an original idea at some point. That’s how you get these things.

Yeah, I’m with you in that when I grew up, every week something, I saw something that turned out to be a classic. I didn’t realize it at the time. I just thought this was normal. I sound really old now [laughs]. But all those movies that I love and were so influential are in The Creator.

Farm field in The Creator

I felt like a chef going around a supermarket, putting all these different ingredients in a trolley, and going back to my kitchen to try and make something. It was like I was going around with my trolley, and I was grabbing all my favorite DVDs and Blu-rays, and putting them in and then trying to stir it in this big pot and come up with something hopefully that combination in such a way that felt original in some form.

I just missed that kind of cinema, and I think it’s really important. But you know what? The reason they don’t do this is because they just respond to what people go and see, whatever they may be. You’ve got to go see them at the cinema because that’s kind of your ticket. That’s your democracy in the film world. They basically make films based on what happened a year before

TDF: I don’t want to get into the industry side of things. But do you think Hollywood’s eating its own tail because it doesn’t invest in new IP? Instead, it focuses on established franchises and then wonders why people won’t go and see original films.

Robot woman in The Creator

GE: Well, you said it [Laughs]. Yeah, it’s funny because, in France, they have rules by the government. I can’t remember the exact rules, but basically, for every amount of money a big blockbuster spends on a billboard, they also have to give money to an independent film to give them a billboard. I think Spain has a similar thing.

I think something’s going to happen, and it’s going to swing back around at some point. Hopefully, sooner than later. You know The Creator is a love letter to cinema of the ’70s and ’80s, but I think at some point, there’ll be a new gold rush where we go back to original filmmaking.

TDF: Were you concerned at any point with making the US military so unambiguously the bad guy in this, which I think is a bold take for a film? Were you nervous about that potentially being divisive?

GE: No, no, in the sense that, like, you know, people with English accents were the bad guys in Star Wars forever. It’s not about America. The hero of our movie is American. I live in America. I love America. My girlfriend’s American. It’s more about a superpower, and to me, it was like, ‘Shall we not make America the superpower? And maybe we’ll make another country the superpower in the future?’ And I just felt like, ‘No, America is gonna be the superpower.’

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I think I tried to balance it out. I mean, if it’s anti-anything, it’s anti-war and anti-oppressing another country on the other side of the world that can’t stand up for themselves as easily. It might feel timely, but unfortunately, if we made this ten years ago, it would feel timely. If you made it 30 years ago, it would feel timely.

We’re always having a war somewhere. There’s always someone with a lot of power doing something to people with a bit less power. It’s just this cycle we’re continuously in. And The Creator’s about trying to break that cycle in our story. But yeah, it’s not it’s not really about any particular country. It’s really about humans and humanity in the way that we just constantly get stuck doing this to each other.

For more on The Creator, read about why it’s nothing like The Terminator despite the AI connection, and check out our breakdown of its astonishing first reviews. You can also read about The Creator age rating, and how to watch The Creator. Or, swap sci-fi franchises and check out all the developments so far on Avatar 3 if you can’t wait to go back to Pandora.