'Morgan' Director Luke Scott Reveals the Origins of His Creepy New Thriller
Luke Scott grew up on the film sets of his father, "Blade Runner" director Ridley Scott, and after serving as second-unit director on Ridley's films (including "The Martian"), Luke steps out on his own with the sci-fi thriller "Morgan," about a genetically enhanced human who can't seem to keep her violent tendencies in check.
Moviefone: Why did you choose this to be your directorial debut?
Luke Scott: It's a long story, actually. I'd made a short film called "Loom" -- directed and written it -- with Giovanni Ribisi and an actor called Jellybean Howie, which dealt with a lot of this stuff.
Giovanni played an artificial meat quality-control expert and he, in his spare time, makes a partner for himself in his room. It's set in the near future. And it all goes horribly wrong and very sad. It's on YouTube. That was seen by Fox, who requested we try to expand it to a feature. I wrote this fantastic script that had nothing to do with that story. I told them, "I'm really sorry. I just got taken off in another direction." Still a big sci-fi thing, but much darker. But as that was being completed, I was shown this fantastic Seth Owen script, "Morgan." I read it. There's a pivotal scene in it -- an interview between Paul Giamatti and Anya Taylor-Joy -- and on that page it read just as intense as I think it comes across on the screen.Once you optioned it, you reworked the script. Were there any major changes you added?
Not massively. I think there were a couple of scenes that we added and a few we took out. There was some tonal stuff that we took care of. We added a catalyst that set Morgan off, that was the deer scene. That didn't exist in the original. That came in various guises. Initially, it was that the deer was wounded by a hunter and Morgan is introduced to these hunters and this shocking fight takes place. But we settled for this milder -- I suppose you could call it milder -- and more tragic version. And we took out a lot of guns. There were a lot more guns in it than there are now.
There are some obvious parallels to "Blade Runner" in "Morgan." Was that a plus or a minus for you?
I don't really see any parallels. I suppose the only thing which I'm conscious of, which was a thought about how to give it a time and a place, I suppose. The intent was you could somehow find a path to Roy Batty and the Tyrell Corporation, that Morgan represented that first stage in the corporation. This is set about 25 years before that. But the timeline on "Blade Runner," I think, is 2019 so... You hear that? We're here already. [Laughs]
That's right, it was just recently Roy Batty's incept date [January 8, 2016].
When you cast Anya Taylor-Joy as Morgan, had you already seen her in "The Witch"?
I had. I was fortunate enough to see a preview. And I was blown away by the movie and I was also blown away by Anya. Terrific. The character is fairly androgynous. Was there ever any thought that maybe you would cast a male for the role?
There was a moment when we weren't finding Morgan. Should we be looking at more androgynous males, perhaps? That's something we started to contemplate and entertain. And then Anya showed up and it was like, "Found it."
You go in a very different direction from "Ex Machina," where there's a very clear reason why the A.I. bot is female. The genesis is very different.
Absolutely. Not to be put too fine a point on it, but "Ex Machina" is closer to "Weird Science" than this is. And I loved "Ex Machina"! Don't get me wrong, I thought it was a terrific movie, but there's clearly a kind of sexual motivation there.
Right, that isn't really there in "Morgan." What about casting Kate Mara as Lee, the corporate "fixer" who's brought in to deal with Morgan?
She was the first one to get on board. There was no one else. She was the first person we asked and she said, "Yeah, that's great."At the Q&A after the screening at the Egyptian Theatre, you revealed that the lab set is in the shape of a womb. That's not something you realize just by watching the movie.
That's right. You don't see it, you don't know what it is. From an aerial viewpoint, if you look down on it, you go, "Oh, okay." Also, myself and [production designer] Tom McCullagh were sitting there, asking, "What the f*ck does this thing look like?" We didn't want to do necessarily a rectangular room. We wanted to break it up, so we had different angles. It was only an accident that we arrived at this shape. As the shape began to evolve and develop, we looked at it and said, "That actually looks like a biology book diagram of a womb."
Did I hear correctly that your dad said he put you in a small space suit on the set of "Alien" to solve a perspective problem?
Yes. I remember it well. I was about 9 years old. That was a great few weeks.
Were you on set when the alien bursts out of John Hurt's chest?
I was. I was hanging around set a lot on that particular movie.
Did you know that was going to happen? Because I understand that the actors [besides Hurt] did not know what was coming.
Did that scare you?
No, I enjoy that sort of thing. Nothing really scares me.
Is "Morgan" a cautionary tale?
Oh, certainly. We're always trying to play God, aren't we? I think we're always trying to create the thing that will supersede us.
You hinted you might be interested in doing a sequel to "Morgan."
I'm open to it.
What's next for you?
I'm working on a re-imagining of The Donner Party. What makes people eat each other?
Will there be a lot of blood?
I imagine so.