TIME movies

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Craig Zobel on Z for Zachariah‘s Surprising Ending

Roadside Attractions Margot Robbie and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Z for Zachariah

The actor and director on working with a small cast, religion and what they'd do in a post-apocalyptic scenario

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What would you do if you thought you were the last person on Earth, and then someone else came along? That’s the question faced by the characters in the new Craig Zobel-directed movie Z for Zachariah, in which Margot Robbie plays Ann Burden, a young woman who’s been protected from nuclear fallout by the self-contained weather system of the valley where she lives alone—until John Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor) shows up. And unlike Ann, a devout Christian, Loomis is an atheist and a scientist—he’s been protected from radiation by a high-tech suit—and views their situation in practical terms. Just when it seems they may be ready to take on the work of repopulating the planet, scruffy coal miner Caleb (Chris Pine) shows up, proving that three’s a crowd.

The film is an adaptation of the 1974 novel by the same title, though the character of Caleb was invented for this version; the addition complicates every aspect of their existence, from religion (Caleb, too, is a Christian) to sexual tension (Ann now has a choice of mate), making their valley a microcosm of human relations.

TIME caught up with Zobel and Ejiofor ahead of the film’s release on Friday to talk about small casts, the sci-fi genre and the film’s surprising ending.

TIME: What drew each of you to this project?

Zobel: I was drawn to the idea that it was a way to talk about relationships. It has a moment of people who are being individuals, and being alone and living with that, and then having to be with another person—even in a platonic way, just having to share a house with another person changes your life slightly, you know?—but then of course any romantic feelings… changes things. Adding a third person, it becomes a community.

Ejiofor: I thought it was fascinating for much the same reasons. I’d also been a huge fan of Craig’s film Compliance, which was a really fascinating film. Even though it’s very contained [because it’s] set in a fast-food joint, it had an epic scope and a dynamic quality to it—the discovery of characters and the nuances of language and personality. And to get into the interpersonal relationships of a two-hander and then into a three-hander, being able to ratchet up the dramatic tension just on the basis of personality—I thought, as an acting exercise, it was pretty exciting.

Had either of you done any post-apocalyptic reading in preparation, besides the book this is based on?

Zobel: In my life I have. I’m a big fan of The Last Babylon, which is kind of in the same vibe of being a realistic post-nuclear situation.

Ejiofor: I hadn’t really looked at it in terms of novels, really, but the [cinematic] sci-fi reference points are always quite strong. You [Craig] were talking about that movie The Quiet Earth. I was thinking about it in terms of the films that I’ve seen that have a minimal amount of characters. The ones that spring to mind are Dead Calm. Then there’s that movie Sleuth with Michael Caine and Lawrence Olivier.

How was working with such a small cast different from other movies you’ve worked on?

Zobel: The more I think about it, it’s still the same work. The plus is you get to know each other enough where the communication is a little faster.

Ejiofor: It’s interesting. I don’t know 100% if that’s right. There is a point that we got to where we were actually communicating at a very high rate. I remember, there was a conversation we had outside the trailers, and it was the four of us standing up, talking in a kind of a huddle. By that point we had such a rapid shorthand that there was this quickfire session that actually went on for quite a while, all of us pinging the ideas we were thinking about that scene. It’s very hard to imagine that occurring, actors and director, without ego—to be able to build that level of conversation, of trust, engagement, is quite rare. It required all that time and isolation.

Zobel: That’s true. And I’m not sure that that scene was, frankly, written as good as it could have been, and I like it in the film—it’s one of the dinner table scenes. I think it’s a strong scene in the movie, but I don’t know that it would have survived the edit if we hadn’t done that.

How did the religious aspects of the film come together?

Zobel: It’s baked into the story from the novel on. I didn’t want to make it about that first and foremost, but it’s a tribe we all do or don’t join. The interesting thing is [Ann] truly believes, and I don’t necessarily have that strong a faith, but there is a part of me that when I see people who really, truly believe, it’s fascinating to me. That does help them, and it’s something that I don’t have. If I were in her place, I would probably not feel the same way. More than anything, [it’s] essentially a level of politics that they can play.

Chiwetel, your character is more science than church. Personally if you were in this world, would you be more on the science side or the church side?

Ejiofor: I think it would be a transition from atheist to agnostic. Loomis is definitely an atheist, and cannot and will not shake that—even in the face of his minoritization when Caleb turns up and they’re starting to bond over their religion, at which point he’s completely outmaneuvered. Loomis’ close-mindedness to all that ends up not being very helpful to him than a more broadly agnostic approach might have. That’s probably where I would have ended up.

 

Obviously you didn’t pick the title, but who or what do you think is Zachariah?

Zobel: In the book, the idea is that it’s kind of like a reference on “A is for Adam” would be the first man—this certainly has an Adam and Eve thing going on—and Z is for Zachariah, he’s the last man.

Ejiofor: What is the character Zachariah? I can’t remember now.

Zobel: In the Bible? Gosh, now I can’t remember either. It doesn’t correlate quite correctly.

So, I have to ask: Did John drop Caleb?

Zobel: I think you know.

I think he does…

Zobel: Yeah. I feel like it’s heavily hinted at.

Definitely, but I did leave wondering if maybe he did decide, It’s too crazy, I’m just gonna hit the road.

Ejiofor: That’s not a terrible thing to think. I think it’s slated one way, heavier in one direction than the other.

Zobel: Sure. Because you don’t get that moment, you’re allowed to have hope.

Do you think Ann knows?

Ejiofor: She’s gotta be deeply suspicious either way. The real thing is what they can rebuild—and if they can. Or is there a point where she does drive him off the land. Is that in their future? Or is there a future in which they actually figure it out?

Zobel: It certainly isn’t superfluous why Caleb isn’t there anymore, but certainly the fact that he’s gone and Loomis is by himself is enough of the problem for her. I think it’s a different story if you fast-forward two days after the movie ended to, like, six months after the movie ended—might totally be different stories.

TIME Books

George R.R. Martin Says This Character Is Still Alive in the Books

Helen Sloan—HBO Stephen Dillane as Stannis Baratheon in Game of Thrones

Spoilers for both A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones ahead

Long live King Stannis. According to George R.R. Martin, the supposedly slain Baratheon is still alive — at least in the books.

Taking a (hopefully short) break from writing The Winds of Winter, writer George R.R. Martin fielded fan questions on LiveJournal Wednesday. When one enthusiast asked the author to “cut the crap” and confirm whether Stannis was dead or alive, Martin wrote: “In my books? Alive beyond a doubt.”

Stannis is currently presumed dead in both the show Game of Thrones and the Song of Ice and Fire books upon which the HBO series is based. In the books, Ramsay Snow spread a rumor that Stannis met his demise. But in preview chapters for the upcoming Winds of Winter that Martin posted online way back in 2012, that rumor proved untrue. Stannis is very much alive.

What this means for the onscreen version of Stannis is unclear. The last time fans Game of Thrones saw him, he was about to be killed by Brienne of Tarth. Of course, audiences never actually saw Brienne finish the job.

That doesn’t mean showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss didn’t get rid of the would-be king. The series has diverged in many ways from the books, including killing off Stannis’ daughter, Shireen.

Still, the often-bloody drama rarely shies away from a gruesome death. Any time the camera turns away is cause for suspicion. Fans will eagerly comb the Internet for photos of Stannis actor Stephen Dillane on the Game of Thrones set, just as they search for clues of the survival of The Hound or revival of Jon Snow.

TIME movies

New Star Wars Footage Shows Another Lightsaber

It popped up on Instagram today

Star Wars’ official Instagram account on Thursday uploaded new footage from The Force Awakens, taking full advantage of the app’s new change that allows users to upload landscape- and portrait-mode photos and video.

There has been an awakening… #StarWars #TheForceAwakens

A video posted by Star Wars (@starwars) on

The new footage first shows another angle on a scene we’ve already seen in the trailers, wherein a bunch of First Order bad guys are gathered in a Nazi-esque rally.

But the second and third clips are very new: Rey, looking very concerned, with droid newcomer BB-8 in the background. And then there’s the really good stuff: One of the film’s villains, Kylo Ren, activates his controversial three-bladed lightsaber (we’ve seen that), then maybe-bad-guy-turned-good-guy Finn flips on his blue lightsaber (looks like Luke’s!), presumably in defense (that’s new!).

Expect lots more of these little snippets to pop up here and there before the film’s Dec. 18 release.

TIME Television

MythBusters Puts Breaking Bad Final Scene to the Test

Could Walter White really rig a machine gun up like that?

Leave it to the team at MythBusters to put Breaking Bad protagonist Walter White’s last act of desperation under the microscope.

The Discovery Channel show recreated the machine gun booby trap that Walter White hides in the trunk of his car to take out a house of white supremacists in the series finale. Using supplies that could be found in any small town — and with help from series creator Vince Gilligan — hosts Adam and Jamie proved that the Breaking Bad ending is entirely possible.

The gun trick was Breaking Bad’s third “myth” to be busted. The hosts earlier proved that acid eating through a dead body and disintegrating parts of a bathtub and ceiling don’t work out as well in real life.

TIME Music

UK Officials Explain Why They Denied a Visa to Tyler the Creator

tyler the creator
Daniel Boczarski—Redferns/Getty Images Tyler the Creator performs on stage during Lollapalooza at Grant Park on Aug. 1, 2015 in Chicago.

Rapper's presence "is not conducive to the public good"

The British government has elaborated on its decision to ban rapper Tyler the Creator from entering the country.

“Coming to the UK is a privilege, and we expect those who come here to respect our shared values,” said a spokesperson for the U.K. Home Office, Pitchfork reports. “The Home Secretary has the power to exclude an individual if she considers that his or her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good or if their exclusion is justified on public policy grounds.”

Born Tyler Gregory Okonma, the L.A. based rapper has been the subject of controversy since early in his career. Okonma and his friends and labelmates from the Odd Future collective are known for a sometimes obscene sense of humor. He was forced to cancel a four-date Australian tour due to pressure from a feminist group there, claiming that his music promotes violence towards women. The UK Home Office took issue with the rapper’s older lyrics, particularly from 2009 album Bastard, released when Okonma was 18 years old.

Okonma took to Twitter earlier this week to voice his frustrations, as he was forced to cancel a run of tour dates in England and Ireland, including an appearance at Reading and Leeds Festival.

[Pitchfork]

 

TIME Books

This Famous Book Is Turning 60 Today

PHILIPPINES-ZUMBA-GUINNESS
NOEL CELIS—AFP/Getty Images Filipino residents broke the record for the largest Zumba class with 12,975 participants in a single venue in Mandaluyong on July 19, 2015.

It's celebrating 60 years of superlatives

Here’s one for the record books: the Guinness Book of World Records celebrates 60 years of documenting the strangest, most impressive, and generally superlative accomplishments on Thursday.

The record book’s first edition was published in 1955. The managing director of Guinness Brewery, Sir Hugh Beaver, thought the book could distributed for free across bars, where a definitive compilation of world records would settle plenty of bar fights in the pre-Google era. It turned out to be a hit: 50,000 copies of the first edition were reprinted and sold, resulting in three more editions in the following year.

The Guinness Book of World Records has never been snobby about what it records: from the most expensive bottle of wine (a 1947 French Cheval-Blanc sold for $304,375 in 2010) to the fastest time to drink a liter of lemon juice through a straw (24.41 seconds). There’s also the man who holds a record for holding the most apples in his mouth and cutting them with a chainsaw in one minute (8 apples).

“We celebrate them all equally,” Craig Glenday told CBS News. “Whether you’re Usain Bolt, who can run a 100 meters in 9.58, or you’re the guy from Germany who can run it in clogs in 16 seconds, or on all fours, or backwards. It’s that rich variety, and we treat them all the same.”

TIME Music

This New Song From Frankie Is Pure Pop ‘Gold’: Premiere

The 23-year-old's song "Problems Problems" was already an Internet hit

It’s fitting that Frankie’s impending EP, Dreamstate, kicks off with a song called “New Obsession,” because she might just become yours too. The 23-year-old Bay Area native and Los Angeles transplant already scored a major label deal on the strength of the buzzy, blog-approved “Problems Problems,” whose mix of modern synth-pop and girl group vocal stylings made the track feel both retro yet somehow of the moment.

Perhaps that’s to be expected from a singer who grew up listening to a mix of ’70s rock and ’90s bubblegum pop and holds artists like Stevie Nicks and the Spice Girls in equal regard. Another song called “Gold,” which premieres on TIME today, sounds nothing like either of those artists, but it has its own seeming contradictions: the track has humble origins in rising producer Petros’ bedroom studio, but “Gold” sounds like it should be all over the radio with its big, in-your-face hook.

“‘Gold’ is all about me trying to figure out what success means to me verses other people, and it definitely speaks to some of my worries about getting into the entertainment industry,” Frankie tells TIME. “It’s been my experience that sometimes money and power tend to leave a bitter taste in peoples’ mouths. Meanwhile I’m out here trying to search for the pureness in this crazy world—which is the gold in everything.”

Hear “Gold,” below, and catch the rest of Dreamstate when it drops Friday:

TIME Television

Finally, Here’s Your Chance to Live in the Mansion From The O.C.

The-OC-House
Pacific Palisades Brokerage

Ready to be an honorary Newpsie?

It’s been eight years since The O.C. ended, and our long national nightmare of facing a world without Sandy Cohen’s deeply expressive eyebrows began. But there’s hope for us yet, at least those of us who have several million dollars to blow on real estate: The house that served as the exterior for the Cohen’s grand Newport Beach mansion is for sale. All you’ll need to pick it up for yourself is about $6.25 million and a strong sense of early aughts nostalgia.

A few caveats, though: The house isn’t actually located in Newport Beach, but in Malibu. There’s no pool house on the property, which means there’s no brooding juvenile delinquent with a penchant for wife-beaters and punching things on the property, either. Most tragically, there’s no Seth Cohen hanging around the manse, ready to engage in wry, pop-culture laden banter at all hours of the day. According to Trulia, the house does offer “intense privacy for residents who want to avoid the prying eyes of the paparazzi…or evil surfer dudes named Volchuk,” as well as six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, and a chef’s kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances—though Kirsten never cooked, so why would you, similarly rich and gorgeous person?

The four-acre estate also boasts a sunroom, a library, a home office, the ghost of Caleb Nichol (dude had some unfinished business) and the ability to have something interesting to share about yourself at every party for the rest of your natural life.

TIME Music

Hear Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Funky New Song ‘Downtown’

He'll play the song live at the MTV VMAs this Sunday

Today in imagery you didn’t need think about: “I’m so low that my cojones almost draggin’ on the concrete,” which comes courtesy of Macklemore on his new song with Ryan Lewis, “Downtown.” The Seattle rapper must be done with his thrift-shopping days, because the track finds Macklemore in the mood to spend some serious dollars on a moped for this funky follow-up to his comeback Ed Sheeran collaboration. “Downtown” feels like several songs in one—some ’80s arena-rock vibes, what sounds like a Sugarhill Gang tribute—which will probably make for a splashy debut performance at this weekend’s MTV Video Music Awards.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the content of the song.

TIME Ashley Madison

There Are Almost No Active Female Users on Ashley Madison

HONG KONG-LIFESTYLE-INTERNET-SEX
PHILIPPE LOPEZ—AFP/Getty Images

Most appear to be bots, fakes, or inactive accounts, a report says

The large disparity in the number of male and female accounts on the adultery website Ashley Madison is well-documented. But an analysis by Gizmodo of the massive data dump released by people who allegedly hacked the company’s website shows the number of active female users is absolutely miniscule.

Ashley Madison has about 31 million male accounts and 5.5 million female accounts. But the overwhelming majority of those female accounts appear to be bots, fakes, or inactive accounts that were hardly used in the first place, the report says. Gizmodo found that only about 1,500 of the female users had ever checked their messages on the site, while only 2,400 had ever chatted on the site, and only 9,700 had ever replied to a message.

Hackers first threatened to release personal information about Ashley Madison users in July, and then proceeded with a massive data dump earlier this month. Ashley Madison is now facing several lawsuits from several former users who say the website knew about the security vulnerabilities in its systems.

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