There are a lot of brothers doing movies together these days, but it’s rare to find well-traveled twins creating gender-bending sci-fi flicks. Enter the Spierig Brothers. Born in Germany and raised in Sydney and Brisbane Australia, Peter and Michael Spierig are bringing their critically-acclaimed film Predestination to the States with enthusiasm.
Predestination, in theaters today, stars Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook in a crazy spin on time-travel. Even though you might be tempted to read up on Robert A. Heinlein’s All You Zombies, the short story the film was based on, I highly suggest that you go to the theater with an open mind and no point of reference. You will undoubtedly be able to pick up on certain parts of the film’s plot as you go along, but the twists and turns get so wicked by the end, that you’ll probably want to sit through it one more time just to really grasp the whole story.
Rather than relying on a bunch of special effects tricks and over-the-top action, Predestination goes deep with the story and characters. As Hawke, The Bartender, meets a somewhat odd man in the opening scene, the mind-boggling begins. Snook shines as The Unmarried Mother, a tortured soul in every sense of the word. It’s safe to say that the Spierig Brothers put their hearts into creating characters that will stick with you.
After success in Australia and at film festivals in 2013, the brothers are excited to find out how American audiences will react to the thriller. We talked with Michael and Peter Spierig about their work on Predestination, the synergy they have working with Ethan Hawke for a second time, their plans for 2015 and much more. Read on!
You made so many short films of your own. What was the interest of making a full feature film out of someone else’s short film?
Michael Spierig: Actually it wasn’t a short film, it was a short story. I believe there were some student films that made the attempt before. There was a stage play version of it I think. I could be wrong on that. It was a short story written by Robert A. Heinlein in the late 1950s called “All You Zombies”. It’s quite amazing that someone like Robert A. Heinlein, who is a brilliant author, came up with that material over 50 years ago and the ideas are so topical and interesting today.
As far as adapting, what’s interesting about it is we’ve adapted full length novels before and the complexity of that is you have to reduce and remove things and essentially reduce and remove characters. The joy of this is since this is a 10 page short story we really got to expand the original work and add another layer to the characters which was a true joy.
You had worked with Ethan Hawke previously on Daybreakers. Did you have him in mind when putting Predestination together?
Peter Spierig: Once we finished the script, we talked about a number of actors and Michael and I kept coming back to Ethan. We kept thinking that he would love the material. We had a pretty good sense of the genre of material that he’s into. We’re big fans of his and the choices that he makes, so we sent it to him, and I think it was on Thanksgiving Day… within one day he sent us a message saying “Tell me where and when, I’m in.” He had a question at the end of the email that said “I just need to understand, which part am I playing?” And our reaction was “Leave it with us because we need to figure that one out.”
Well the parts get a little confusing, and not so confusing, and then confusing again…
Peter: Yes, it’s a bit of a jigsaw puzzle, especially when you’re trying to make it all make sense.
What is your favorite thing about working with Ethan Hawke? What’s great about the synergy between you?
Peter: He’s the kind of actor that comes in wanting it to be as good as it can possibly be. He doesn’t turn up, say his lines, and goes back to his trailer. He really wants to be a collaborator, a contributor, and he’s not just thinking about himself. He’s thinking about everyone involved, the whole movie. He’s not asking for more lines for himself if they’re not contributing to the overall quality of the movie.
He’s very collaborative, he’s very smart, he really knows the material very, very well, and he’s great with his fellow actors. He’s really there to be supportive and make everyone’s performance as good as it can be as well. It’s always great to have somebody who really has the bigger picture in mind.
You guys were born about 15 miles outside of Hamburg, Germany and you were raised in Sydney, Australia and then you grew up in Brisbane correct?
Michael: …and then we went to high school in New Jersey! [laughs]
The timing is funny because I actually did a travel piece with Tech N9ne recently about his favorite places to visit. Two of those places were Hamburg, Germany and Australia. Curious to know, out of all the places you guys have traveled, what is your favorite place? And is there a particular destination anywhere in the world with no restrictions would you want to film a movie?
Michael: I would say my favorite places in the world are Melbourne, Australia and New York City. If I could make a movie anywhere, and I had free reign to do anything I want I would definitely pick New York City.
Peter: I tend to agree with you, but to shoot somewhere where no Western film has shot anywhere would be very interesting. If you had free reign to do it anywhere, North Korea would be interesting [laughs].
Michael: How about the moon, would you want to shoot a movie on the moon?
Peter: The moon would be fantastic too. I think that would be logistically complicated.
Do you feel really confident about Americans liking Predestination?
Peter: We’re still waiting for that feedback I suppose. We had some feedback from around the world, but waiting on the American feedback. The bits that are coming in seem to be extremely positive. My feeling is that we made the film for people who want to see something unique, different and interesting. Hopefully we succeeded in what we were trying to do. I think if an audience is looking for something they can really dig deep into a film, then I think they will respond well to it.
I think this is also the kind of film that you can get the enjoyment out of watching it multiple times. My hope is that the feedback happens and continues to happen for quite awhile as people watch it over and over again. I think that’s a positive – it’s a unique movie and there’s no other movie quite like this out, there so I’m hoping that it has its place and people respond positively.
Do you have anything coming out in the next few months people should be looking out for?
Peter: Sure. We’re always writing and working on different projects, and there is one project that’s been announced so we can actually talk about that one. It’s called Winchester, and it’s based on the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose California. It’s a tourist attraction now, but it was a mansion built by Sarah Winchester.
She was an heir to the Winchester rifle fortune and she believed that the people who were killed by the Winchester rifle haunted her, so she built this extraordinary mansion to confuse the ghosts and keep her safe. There’s stairs that go to ceilings, there’s doors that open to two-story drops and all sorts of strange and interesting things. She was a real person; this place really existed, and still exists today. It’s a fascinating story. It’s a terrifying, creepy haunted house film that’s based on a true story.
Is it your goal to get more into the horror film genre?
Michael: We’ve done two horror films and now a time travel movie. I think this project excited us. We loved the idea and it’s a different kind of horror film for us. We never really thought of Daybreakers as a scary movie. It wasn’t our intention really. [Winchester] is intended to be very scary. That’s the hope. So it’s a challenge for us in that respect, we’ve never done this type of film. The fact that the character in the Winchester story is so interesting, it’s going to be a really fun one for a great actress to play that part. We’re still working on the draft, but after that process we’ll soon start casting.
If you can go back in history and remake any movie, what would it be and why?
Peter: That’s a really tough one, there have been so many films that have been remade. Remakes are very tricky. What I wouldn’t want to do is remake a really good film because why would you want to touch that? The chance to remake something not so good maybe. That’s hard question.
Michael: One I wouldn’t say I’d like to remake, but would like to see it be potentially remade is Videodrome by David Cronenberg. I love that film and saw it again recently. Obviously the technology in that film dates it, but the ideas, effects, performances… and Deborah Harry is so wonderful in it. Updating that with a modern use of technology would be interesting, but I love that film and I love David Cronenberg.
That’s a classic! What would you like people to know most about you as a team and individually? What would you want them to know about you and your life?
Peter: I guess what I would personally like people to know that even though we are individual people, our work is sort of a combined effort. If we continue to make movies, which is something we hope to do for a long time, my hope is that people see our movies as something different and unique. That’s been our intention for three movies. Make a movie in a genre people know and love and look at it from a slightly different angle. And when our name is attached to a project, people might say “this is something new and different.”
Michael: We grew up with a love for American movies. We grew up in Australia in the ’80s with a love for Spielberg, Lucas, and Scorsese, and that was such a huge influence on our childhood. A lot of those films that we loved in the ’80s, there are pieces of those in us as we make those films. Peter and I are just big film nerds at heart, so it’s such a thrill to actually get to do this as a living, we’re just basically fans. I hope everyone sees that everything comes from a pure place, a place of love of cinema.