NINE DAYS Video Interview With Director Edson Oda And Star Benedict Wong About The "Spi-Fi" Drama (Exclusive)
Nine Days director Edson Oda and star Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange) discuss how making a movie like this one differs from a Marvel Studios blockbuster, key scenes, and why it's more "spi-fi" than sci-fi.
Nine Days was released in New York and Los Angeles last Friday and has been met with widespread critical acclaim since. Now, it arrives in U.S. theaters nationwide starting August 6, and we were recently lucky enough to sit down for a conversation with director Edson Oda and star Benedict Wong.
In this brilliantly unique sci-fi original, Will (Winston Duke) spends his days in a remote outpost watching the live Point of View (POV) on TVs of people going about their lives, until one subject perishes, leaving a vacancy for a new life on Earth. Soon, several candidates - unborn souls - arrive at Will's to undergo tests determining their fitness, facing oblivion when they are deemed unsuitable. But Will soon faces his own existential challenge in the form of free-spirited Emma (Zazie Beetz), a candidate not like the others, forcing him to turn within and reckon with his own tumultuous past.
In this video, Edson discusses the challenges of putting together such an impressive cast, the challenges of bringing his script to life on screen, and whether he'd helm a Marvel Studios movie. Benedict, meanwhile, talks about his role as Kyo, why Nine Days appealed to him, and the buzz surrounding his roles in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Check out the full interview with the Nine Days director and star below:
Edson, you've put together one of the best casts of the year here, but how challenging is that as a filmmaker, especially for an original sci-fi film that, unlike the film behind me, can’t necessarily just cast anyone [it likes]?
Edson Oda: [Laughs] I thought it was impossible to get all those amazing actors together. I wrote something that was very personal, very intimate, and I shared it. Somehow people started reading it and some of them didn’t get it. When you do something [like this], some people will get it and some won’t. Those that got it just said, ‘I really understand this. In some way, I went through this.’ For them, it was very special and they wanted to meet me and possibly be part of it. That’s how it started. I started having meetings mainly because of the script which was insane. I’d meet with them and we’d talk about our own deep experiences and that’s ultimately how I got all these amazing actors together.
And Benedict, this year, we'll have seen you in everything from a big Disney animated film to the next Spider-Man, but for you as an actor, how important is it that you make time for a project like this that maybe has more to say than a blockbuster film?
Benedict Wong: I’m like a moth to a flame to scripts like this. It’s not like ‘scripts like this’ because this is such an individual moment in time for me. You can tell because when it comes from something that is a raw experience like Edson’s, you can feel it permeate through the script. Everybody, cast and crew, came on board and we were in the trenches. We did anything and everything for this movie. Now the fruits of our labour is that people get to see this. The audience has this reflective moment about themselves and the cherished moment, so to have that and a film that’s essentially a healing moment, that’s an incredible way to tell art, isn’t it?
Will seems to have become almost disillusioned with the work we see him doing here, so why do you both think it's important for him to have someone like Kyo in his life to help with what he’s doing and prevent him from falling fully into the darkness he’s avoiding?
Benedict Wong: For me, it feels like he’s the hope and the optimist. He hasn’t been alive and is, in a way, in his own personal purgatory. He’s still romantic about life even though he lives through these screens and he’s got an appetite for life and wants that moment. He wants to be at a wedding and stand and be an audience member. This conscience and devil’s advocate to Will to try and pull him out because he’s seen him on the screen and is trying now to wake him out of his fog.
Edson Oda: Beautifully said, Benedict. I think it’s also because he’s the oldest person in the room, but also the child. He has the wisdom of watching everything, but also a childish thing about him where he’s never had that before and is like, ‘I want that. This is great. This is cool. How can you not enjoy it?’ I think that’s an interesting quality to him.
The conversation with Will where Kyo talks about the possibility that even he and Will are being watched and judged feels very meta, but for you Benedict as you explore this incredible dialogue that Edson’s written, that must feel pretty special?
Benedict Wong: I try not to get too wrapped in there and just play the moment as well and, in a way, deliver that concept. It’s coming from...like Edson said, he’s like this old, wise sage, but yet there’s still this big kid in him. To deliver that sort of deeper philosophy is just [raises hands]. It’s kind of palatable for our audience as well as you get into that.
Edson, this is such an interesting and thought-provoking film, but as you go from writing this to shooting, is it difficult for you to get those ideas you have on the page onto the screen? You’re dealing with such challenging material, especially with mental health awareness, so is there an added sense of pressure there?
Edson Oda: Something that’s very important is to not just be intellectual. There’s a danger of writing something so high-concept that it’s like a dissertation about life and choice, and I think it was my responsibility to be there and to make sure it was a story about people and their emotions. Then, you just let them say the lines, but in the end, it has to look as real and human as possible. It’s difficult sometimes, but having the most amazing actors, they can make the most intellectual and unemotional line sound right. It was teamwork in order to make everything make sense.
On another note, the internet has been going nuts between seeing you in the Shang-Chi trailer fighting Abomination and toys making it look like you’ll have hair in the next Spider-Man movie, but is there anything you can tease about those two projects?
Benedict Wong: My son is quite confused by why I've got hair in the LEGO character and no hair in the other ones! I'm just explaining that to him," he joked. "Thank goodness for portals...you can find yourself in various different movies [Laughs] and I'm glad of that. Hey, I'm a big kid myself. I'm living my own dream really. I'm a massive Marvel fan. Also, to be in this existential, incredible...what did I coin it as? It's spi-fi: spiritual-fi. [Edson] is this incredible first-time feature director. Let's put the spotlight on that. Edson is a special, special talent, and we can't wait for the second album.
Finally, you’ve had this experience with an original sci-fi film, but would you be interested in those big Marvel blockbusters if you could bring these thought-provoking ideas into a project like that?
Edson Wong: I'm a huge fan of Marvel. I grew up with comic books and everything, so there's always that right project. I think, right now, I'm still growing as a filmmaker. I feel like I still have so much to learn and stories I have to tell, but of course, I'm open to that down the road.
Benedict Wong: I'll make the call now Edson. Kevin? [Laughs]