Coming to theatres from director Mike Cahill is the Fox Searchlight film I ORIGINS starring Michael Pitt and Brit Marling.

My first introduction to this superb storytelling was in 2010 with the film ANOTHER EARTH. I knew after seeing that film I was going to be hooked on anything this director put in front of me. I was seeing something I had been screaming for and hoped I would see it again. He has kept me waiting no longer.

I ORIGINS is a film about Dr. Ian Gray played by Pitt who is a molecular biologist studying the evolution of the human eye. Falling for a young woman by seeing her eyes on a poster, their time together is brief. Joined by lab partner Karen, played by Marling, they discover that the evolution they are studying is deeper than they could imagine. Now the implications will challenge both his scientific and spiritual beliefs.

I had the chance to speak with Mike about the film and its fantastic stars.

Hi Mike, I’m so thrilled to talk to you. The last time we spoke was for ANOTHER EARTH along with Brit.

Yes, I know. She has been very busy hasn’t she? I’m more of a slow burn taking three years to complete my work.

But what a three years it has been!

Yes, what a three years.

I saw the film and you’ve done it again.

Thank you for saying that.

You freaked me out, you got me thinking and I have a million questions. I got in my car and said out loud, ‘I hate Mike’ {laughing}

Bravo, bravo that means I’m doing my job. I am disrupting people’s world view one film at a time, one half hour at a time. {laughing}

You know that saying that ends ‘don’t disturb my universe’, well you disturbed it.

Great! Now deal with this new paradigm.

So you know I have to ask, where did this idea come from?

Believe it or not it came from a dream twelve years ago. One night I woke up after having an intense dream and wrote down this one sentence on a scrap of paper and the sentence was ‘the eyes of dead people return in newborns’.


I started researching and learning about biometrics and it slowly built over the last 12 years. It became tons and tons of logged in research but it wasn’t until I met Michael Pitt at a general meeting in Brooklyn and we sat down for a cup of coffee to meet artist to artist. It was about half way through a conversation that was inspiring, fun and interesting that I realize I was sitting before my Ian Grey. It took a hold of me and I thought he would be brilliant in this role. I told him the whole back-story of a scientist who studies the eye. I told him he falls in love, loses love and falls in love again in a completely different way. He was inspired and we started working together right away. After that I jumped on the computer and put together a script in two weeks. The abstraction became concrete.

When you went back to Michael and say ‘hey, guess what?’ what was his reaction?

He said, ‘oh you’re not messing around, you’re serious!’ We literally began working together. The thing that’s fascinating about Michael is that he really dives deep when building a character. He goes from the ground up and we had a wonderful opportunity to go to John Hopkins Medical Research labs and work with scientists there who are molecular biologist. We saw how to extract DNA and run gels and sequence genomes. It was really very hands on and exciting. Both Michael and Brit would just sort of sponge up all the information and it was beautiful to witness. They built those characters for many months until we shot.

How has this film affected you now that you’ve gone from dream to paper to screen?

It’s weird. So much of our experiences in life are abstraction with dreams, moments, colors and sounds. It seems like part of our responsibility as humans is to create a narrative and make a story come together. I feel like I’m participating in life and opposed to being numb.

Here’s my little freak out for you because I just can’t get it out of my head. The scene with the young girl choosing from pictures she recognizes or doesn’t. What popped into my head, when she’s getting the answers wrong and if the theory is re-birth – who is to say her answers are really wrong? If she lives once – who is to say she didn’t live again, and again?

Oh my – what wisdom you have. That’s wonderful!

Does that make sense?

So the theory goes if it is once is it not infinite or since the dawn of time with 50,000 lives before that. The artifacts presented, with animals so of course. I think the test was flawed in many ways but what you get is a scientist that doesn’t believe in this. He requires evidence and there is a moment where he wants it to be true. It sort of scattered and messy but it’s like fumbling the football five feet from the end zone.

The young actress, Kashish, who by the way was wonderful, the look on her face wasn’t so much that she wanted to please them by choosing the right thing, but always a look of recognition no matter the photo.

Yes, she was so sure of herself. That’s the first time that anyone has said that and I love that you did. It’s audience participation in the film, it’s yours and you own it.

You said that to me before too.

I believe it and it’s important. Your participation and our performance is together. It’s yours and who ever is on the receiving end of this play we’ve put together.

I don’t imagine you had a hard time getting Brit to jump on board.

No, not at all. We have a history and a deep, deep friendship and trust and mutual admiration for one another. I did send her the script and asked her what she thought and she was moved by it. I wrote the part for her knowing how good she is. The role of Karen is hard to pull off but Brit is able to give this character such depth and feeling.

When it comes to Karen and Ian, she is so intense. She wants to understand what he’s doing and wants to be a part of it. She has such an intense look sometimes.

That’s phenomenal; I mean who can do that. It’s incredible and exciting to work with her. I get to watch that unfold in real time.

The end – everyone walked out very quiet. But here’s the thing Mike, it couldn’t have ended any other way. You left it for us to decide how it ends; when that door opens it’s a door for us.

Exactly! We leave the seeds earlier with Sophie and Ian. The reason he was so drawn to her was not only the fact that she was beautiful, but the primal thing is that she saw in him something most people didn’t see. She saw that he had that mutant gene that allowed him to touch the spiritual side of the world. He repelled and fought against it with 95% of his being anti-believe! Some part of him was pulling him toward the light on the other side of the door. Here we are they are walking through this glowing new world. It was in that process where I saw that moment where I said, “whoa, cut to black, we are done!” I shot more than that too.

What’s next for you?

I’m thinking of massage, glass of champagne…

Warm beach…

Yes! Actually I’m working on a story about extra terrestrials that is a love story and it deals with aliens in a way that is very scientific. It is really exciting to me. There is a sequel to I ORIGINS so stay past the credits where there is a coda that teases. I have other crazy and weird projects that I’m not ready to talk about yet.

Well, your idea of crazy and weird is awesome to me.

Thanks so much, it will give us something to talk about again soon. It will be great tradition for us.

And that couldn’t make this writer any happier. Cahill is a force to be followed as his story telling is sincere, and directing captures every nuance of that same story. So if you’re looking for a film that gives you all the beauty that’s been lacking in theatres lately then see I ORIGINS opening this Friday!



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About the Author

Jeri Jacquin

Jeri Jacquin covers film, television, DVD/Bluray releases, celebrity interviews, festivals and all things entertainment.