×

Hilary Swank on Technology, Political Polarization, and ‘I Am Mother’

“I Am Mother” depicts a future in which humanity has been nearly wiped out and robots are left to pick up the pieces. The thriller, which debuted on Friday at Sundance, sounds a cautionary note about the perils of automation. It’s a message that resonates with Hilary Swank. The Oscar-winning actress who stars in the film as a woman fighting for survival doesn’t need to be pressured to put down the iPad or iPhone.

“I’m so old-tech that I think of gadgets as a hole puncher or a cheese grater,” she told Variety in an interview on the eve of the film’s premiere. “I’m not a technical person. It took me forever to figure out Instagram. I don’t know about apps. I don’t surf the internet. I don’t spend time on my computer. I prefer reading a book to looking at a tablet.”

That’s not the case with Grant Sputore, the film’s director, a self-described “gadget head.”

“I’m not a ‘beware technology is Frankenstein’ kind of person,” said Sputore. “It’s clearly made all of our lives so much better. I just think we are entering new terrain where machines will likely be smarter than us and we should be mindful of that.”

In “I Am Mother,” a robot has raised a young girl since she was an embryo. Growing up, the child (Clara Rugaard) is lavished with attention and told that she must live in an underground bunker because of an ecological catastrophe. The relationship between the girl and her surrogate parent is tested when Swank’s character appears at their hideout, bleeding out from a gunshot wound and carrying a devastating secret. Swank said the part was physically grueling, requiring her to be in a state of panic and near collapse throughout the shoot.

“Over the entire movie I’m sweating and panting and trying to overcome this pain,” said Swank. “She’s completely feral. She doesn’t know who to trust and she’s just trying to survive.”

As tensions mount between Swank’s character and the robot, Sputore drew on films such as “Alien” to create a claustrophobic atmosphere. He also insisted that an actor wear the robot’s suit (Rose Byrne provides the voice), instead of relying on a green screen to bring her to life. Sputore notes that “Alien” director Ridley Scott employed a similar approach to creating the Xenomorph in that 1979 horror classic.

“Sometimes it’s the practical effects that contain more magic,” he said.

Swank is reluctant to describe the film’s message, but she thinks that it has lessons that are applicable to today’s fractured political environment.

“We want people to think about morals and manners and ethics,” she said. “That’s timely when you think about how polarized we are as a country. We want people to agree to disagree with more kindness.”

More Film

  • Jennifer Lopez Owen Wilson

    Jennifer Lopez-Owen Wilson Film 'Marry Me' Moves Back to Universal From STX

    The Jennifer Lopez-Owen Wilson romantic comedy “Marry Me” has moved from STX back to its original home, Universal Pictures. STX previously took over the project in April. Kat Coiro is directing from a script written by John Rogers and Tami Sagher, with a rewrite by Harper Dill. Colombian singer/rapper Maluma has joined the cast and [...]

  • Austin Butler to Star as Elvis

    Austin Butler to Star as Elvis in Baz Luhrmann's Biopic

    Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic has found its king of rock ‘n’ roll. After numerous screen tests, Austin Butler has been tapped to play Elvis Presley in Luhrmann’s next feature film for Warner Bros. The studio tested with a handful of actors in full hair and make-up at the end of June to see who [...]

  • 'The King's Man' Trailer Debuts With

    'The King's Man' Trailer Showcases Secret Service's Origins

    Disney is promising plenty of sword-fighting, gunplay and devastation in its first teaser trailer for the Fox spy comedy prequel “The King’s Man.” The studio unveiled a first look Monday that sets the stage for an origin story of the private British  intelligence service, portrayed in the two previous films in the franchise: 2014’s “Kingsman: The [...]

  • Emma Stone Damien Chazelle Babylon

    Emma Stone Eyes Damien Chazelle's Next Film 'Babylon'

    “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle is heading back to Hollywood for his next feature film “Babylon,” and Emma Stone is in early talks to star. Sources say Chazelle has met with a handful of suitors over the past couple weeks, and Paramount and Lionsgate are both vying to land the project. While Chazelle previously [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez

    2019 Imagen Awards Nominations: Jennifer Lopez, Antonio Banderas and More

    Jennifer Lopez and Antonion Banderas are among this year’s Imagen Awards nominees, which span a range of categories including informational programming, on-air advertising, outstanding individual performances and prime time programming in film and television. The Imagen awards were first established in 1985 upon recommendation from TV veteran Normal Lear in an effort to recognize more [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content