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  • Kurt Morrison


Movie Scene Canada had the pleasure in chatting with the Alex Garland, director of CIVIL WAR. Our reviewer, Kurt Morrison, was on site to ask Alex some questions regarding his newest film, which is now playing in Theatres from Elevation Pictures.


Hi Alex, my name is Kurt from Movie Scene Canada. I want to turn the spotlight on you and your leading ladies to start. 

Over the last 10 years, you've done 4 films with 4 magnificent leading ladies - Alicia in Ex Machina. Natalie in Annihilation. Jesse in Men and obviously here, Kirsten and Cailee with Civil War. 

So that being said, when you and Francine (Maisler, Casting Director) were in the process of finding your Lee and your Jessie, what was it about both Kirsten and Cailee that made you just stand up (Kurt snaps fingers) and say 'That's it. We've got our Jessie... We've got our Lee"

Alex Garland:

That's amazing that you just name-checked Francine. Wow. That's a very specialist type of film knowledge. Well done. Great question.

It was different in both cases. Cailee, I had worked with before. We worked on a TV show called Devs, with several of the actors in truth.

But within that car (points to screenshot behind Kurt), there was also Stephen McKinley Henderson - who plays Sammy in the film. So I knew Cailee and I knew Stephen well and I knew, in a funny way, I was kind of writing to them because I know what they're like together, and sort of on camera off camera kind of thing.

With Kirsten, I didn't know but I sort of knew her in the same way that YOU sort of know her, which is she's been around since she was a child actor. And so you see, she's one of those few child actors who then made the transition into being an older actor and in a literal way you've watched her grow up. I watched her grow up, you've watched her grow up, we all have.

And what that does is, is it means number one you're very familiar with her as an actor. What her abilities are, that she's got range that she can contain in something like (Lars Von Trier's) Melancholia something..... something really soulful and sad.

It's not, it's not all Spider-Man as it were.  There's lots of shades, lots of dimensions in her. But there's also a lot of lived experience and in the case of a war photographer, you need that. You need to believe that and not all actors have it. Not all actors have access to that kind of sadness or soulfulness. That's probably partly to do with them just as people. 


Wonderful. I just wanted to ask you a little bit about the soundtrack because I think you made some really interesting choices, specifically about using Sturgill Simpson's track 'Breakers Roar'. I thought that was a really powerful choice and an unexpected choice for that scene and I just wanted to discuss with you about why you chose that. 

Alex Garland:

Well, one of the things that actually with something to do with making a war movie, what is essentially a war movie and the way music can be used and accidentally, in a funny kind of way, change the tone and make it too seductive or too enjoyable. So often the music choices are slightly jarring. They come in at a strange moment, not actually in that example, though it might be subtly jarring, but then start to make a kind of sense.

But it's particularly true if it's music alongside violence, you have to be thoughtful in terms of what effect these two things will have together.

We try to choose bits of music that for a lot of people would not be immediately recognizable because a whole bunch of extra information arrives with that. 

And also avoid really contemporary music because that would date the film in a particular kind of way and that, that also brought information in that we weren't that we were kind of trying to keep out.

So it was surprisingly complicated in the end. That means sitting with your phone in an editing suite - Me and Geoff (Barrow) and Ben (Salisbury) who are composers on the film, and Jake (Roberts) - the editor - and we're kind of looking through our iTunes and Spotify and saying "Do you think this might work?" "Yeah, should we try it?" and then sometimes you play through the speakers on the phone and it sounds fucking terrible and sounds like shit. Then you download it. And try to be discreetly confrontational in a funny kind of way with the choices. 

(Poster/Photo/Video credit: Elevation Pictures)

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