As to why Edwards, whose latest effort, The Creator, will be in theaters Friday, was in the country? He got a text from Jordan Vogt-Roberts of Kong: Skull Island fame, asking him to visit. And considering he was in nearby Thailand, he agreed.
“We were doing this boat trip where the farmers used long sticks to push the boats,” he said. “As we went along, there was this little old lady — she must have been 90 years old — pointing at Jordan and shouting, ‘King Kong! King Kong!’ I asked, ‘How does she know?’ and he went, ‘Yeah, people recognize me.’”
At the time, Vogt-Roberts was Vietnam’s tourism ambassador, as appointed by the government. But the more likely source for his publicity was his impressive beard.
Besides Thailand and Vietnam, on Edwards’ itinerary were Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, and Nepal. For him, all that traveling was necessary to realize the look of The Creator, a 2070-set sci-fi action revolving around Joshua (John David Washington of Tenet) on a mission to eliminate a weapon made by “The Creator” (or Nirmata) to save mankind. Can he do it, however, when this weapon has the form of a child named Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles, in her debut role)?
Also starring in the film are Gemma Chan, Marc Menchaca, Allison Janney, Ralph Ineson, and others.
“I spent that whole trip kind of imagining this robot film,” he said before sharing an occasion where his vision replaced those entering temples from monks to machines. “I got really excited about the idea. And I felt like if anyone else had that same idea, they would be racing me to make the film first. So I was like, ‘I’ve got to do this next.’”
The Creator marks Edwards’ return to writing after his feature directorial debut, 2010’s Monsters. It also sees him again collaborating with folks during his Star Wars run, namely producer Kiri Hart and d.p. Greig Fraser (who won an Oscar for Dune: Part One).
On the “before the camera” front, Edwards’ latest reunites him with Japanese star Ken Watanabe and, more interestingly, Veronica Ngo. In The Creator, Veronica plays Kami, who is in the trailer offering ice cream to Alphie. Both Edwards and her were in the eighth Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, but they didn’t share any scenes (the actress played gunner Paige Tico, and the filmmaker had a Resistance Fighter cameo in the climactic battle).
While far from the only film about AI released this year — M3GAN, The Artifice Girl, and part one of Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning, to name a few — The Creator still has notable points of difference. It’s a large-scale original sci-fi or not the kind of material Edwards expects to be green-lit nowadays. It’s all of his favorite films gathered in one place gathering of his favorite films. It again has him reliving his adolescent years traveling with his parents to locations in East Asia and Southeast Asia that his brain just can’t let go of.
“I’ve never been anywhere like these in my life, and it kind of blew my mind,” he added while naming Hong Kong and Thailand. “To me, it was like watching Star Wars, where all these things were happening, and they made no sense. I didn’t understand them, but I was fascinated by it.”
Above all, however, it’s actually making use of the tropical climate, actually being on location for inspiration and filming there as well (The Creator’s main production location is ultimately Thailand) rather than just emulating vibes like the usual.
“I felt like it was the obvious thing to do,” he said. “These are beautiful countries. And then when you put this science-fiction thing on top — it’s like a perfect combination.”
Speaking of vibes, in a potential homage to how George Lucas had built the world of his early Star Wars films, Edwards pitched to Lucasfilms his visual approach to Rogue One using materials from the war in Vietnam. Viewers have noticed it in the final battle taking place on a, you guessed it, tropical planet.