By Emily Hewitt
Director, producer, and co-writer Gareth Edwards went through quite the filmmaking process to make the sci-fi action thriller The Creator. The film, set against a future war between a human military and AI robots, is about ex-special forces agent Joshua (John David Washington), who is recruited to hunt down the Creator, the architect of advanced AI who has developed a weapon with the power to end the war and mankind itself. Instead of the formidable weapon he expects, Joshua discovers an AI robot in the form of a young child, whom he dubs Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles). He soon comes to believe Alphie holds the secret to a tragedy from his own past, which takes him on a journey between their two worlds.
In anticipation of the film opening September 29, only in theaters, here are eight facts you didn’t know about The Creator:
1. Gareth Edwards got the idea for the plot when driving by a factory.
After finishing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), the director took a break by going on a four-day road trip to his girlfriend’s home state of Iowa. Not expecting to think of any film ideas on this trip, he simply put on his headphones and looked out the window. That’s when he saw a factory with a Japanese-looking logo on it, situated amid the tall grass and farmland.
“I wondered, ‘What they’re doing in there? Oh, maybe it’s robots or something cool,’” Edwards recalled during a recent press conference. “And then I was thinking, ‘Oh, imagine being a robot built in a factory and you step outside the factory for the first time.’”
The idea took ahold of his imagination, and by the time he got to his girlfriend’s parents’ house, he had the basics of the whole movie mapped out.
2. An open casting call found the young actress who plays Alphie.
After seeing hundreds of kids from around the world who sent in audition tapes to the open casting for Alphie during the pandemic, Edwards met with Madeleine Yuna Voyles. At her in-person audition, he said, “We were just trying not to cry. It was so emotional and brilliant. And I just thought, ‘Okay, this is too good to be true.’… And I got paranoid that it was a one-off thing and it would never happen again.” To challenge the young performer, “I invented this other scene and she did something even more heart-grabbing. And I was just like, ‘Okay, this is it. This is our kid.’”
3. Certain scenes were purposely held until the end of the shooting schedule.
Edwards left the most emotional scenes until the end so Voyles could build a strong relationship with Washington. “Madeleine’s a very quiet, shy girl,” Edwards said. “It’s really hard to become her friend. I tried the entire movie, and I think she let me a little bit in, but not fully. But [John David] cracked the code and became like a big brother to her—and her best friend.”
The two were “inseparable,” Edwards said. After wrapping a take, when Washington would walk off set looking for some quiet time alone—“trying to keep in that headspace before you do the next take”—Voyles would simply “run after him, hold his hand, and start talking about a toy she really likes. And he’s such a sweetheart, he’d go down to her level and start getting really excited about what she was saying.”
4. Many of the actors were local to the regions the film was shot in.
Many of the supporting performers and background actors seen in the film were from near where the shooting was taking place. In Nepal, people from a little town by the Buddhist temple were used as actors.
“Some of the kids agreed to shave their heads and play some of the robot monks,” Edwards said. “It was kind of surreal. They all got really excited about being in a Hollywood movie.”
Rather than shoot in a studio, against green screens, and then creating the sets and landscapes with pricey CG effects, Edwards decided it would be more cost-effective—and more visually compelling—to film on location in Asia. The production visited eight different countries, where they handpicked each location based on the scenery and the script needs.
“We cherry-picked: the volcanoes of Indonesia, Buddhist temples in the Himalayas, ruins of Cambodia, and floating villages,” Edwards said, listing just a few of the film’s many stunning locales.
5. Edwards creates a visual bible for each of his films.
Edwards said his favorite moments in cinema are the “things that are nonverbal, like music and sound design and cinematography.” So, for his own films, he creates a visual bible for these elements that don’t always stand out in a script. This also helps people he brings onto the film to understand his artistic vision better.
“For each scene in the movie, there’s a stack of imagery [I’ve put together] that’s like, this is what this scene is going to feel like,” Edwards said. “And then there’s music. I create a playlist of music”—existing recordings that capture the mood of each scene.
6. Instruments from Asia were used to make composer and Disney Legend Hans Zimmer sound less like himself.
“I really wanted it to feel like if someone played this soundtrack not knowing anything, they might not guess it was Hans Zimmer,” Edwards said—an idea Zimmer and his collaborator, Steve Mazzaro, loved. The resulting score was inspired in part by western themes, but “using instrumentation from Asia.”
7. AI is used as a metaphor for people different from you.
A big reason Edwards adores the science fiction genre, he said, is that “when you change some aspect of the world… suddenly a lot of the things you thought were true start to not work and be wrong. It makes you question what your beliefs are. And I think that’s the best kind of science fiction.”
For The Creator, reality started to catch up to the fiction while the film was in production. “We were using AI as a kind of metaphor for people who are different to yourself,” Edwards said. “But then obviously in the last year or so, [AI has] become quite a reality. It’s gotten very surreal.”
8. Edwards has no plans for a sequel.
“I really like endings,” he said. “My favorite part of a story is how it ends. It’s like the best part of a joke is the punchline. And so, when I’m trying to figure out a story, I’m always working backwards from the end to try and get it to [reach] this climax [I’ve envisioned] as much as possible. Everything sort of leads to that moment. So this [story] is self-contained.”
Of course, one can never say never in Hollywood. “It’d be a high-class problem to have the studio come up and tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘Hey, Gareth, you gotta think of something. We need a sequel,’” he said. “But that’s not on my agenda. So… fingers crossed.”