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An interview with I ORIGINS writer/director, Mike Cahill, and star, Michael Pitt.

In I ORIGINS, the latest film from director, Mike Cahill, molecular biologist, Ian Gray’s (Michael Pitt) life is shaken when he meets a masked woman at a Halloween party, who has the most piercing set of eyes he has ever seen. He searches for her afterwards, her eyes the only key to finding her, and this leads him to confront all of the mysteries human life holds. Cahill and Pitt were recently in Toronto to promote the film, and I was fortunate enough to sit and chat with the pair about their compelling, new film.

“4.5 billion years ago the greatest coincidence of all happened, which was that our DNA forged life. We are products of a coincidence,” Cahill says, rationalizing Ian Gray’s choice to pursue what he perceives as a series of notable coincidences, when he notices the number 11 appearing around him in a number of different contexts.  Pitt recounts how it was initially a difficult choice for him to understand. “We discussed it a lot because it was something in my character that was really hard for me to grapple with,” he explains. “It goes against the bulk of his being.” Cahill adds, nodding, “It was almost like a string on a suit that if you start pulling, you’d unravel the entire thing.” In the film, Ian Gray is a scientist, who believes purely in fact, so following these coincidental markers was very strange for him indeed.


The 11’s are just one of the obscurities in Cahill’s complex script. The idea behind I ORIGINS itself has been bouncing around Cahill’s mind for quite a few years. “It was after a meeting with Michael that I wrote the script,” Cahill explains. “It was the excitement that maybe I’d be able to work with who I think is one of the greatest actors of our generation,” he says, gushing over his star, who is sitting right next to him.

Like Cahill’s previous film, ANOTHER EARTH, I ORIGINS doesn’t give its viewers the answers to all the questions that arise throughout the film. Cahill feels that to do so would be unfair in a way. “It would be a lie if at the end of the film we were to say, ‘all right everybody, this is the truth’,” Cahill says, explaining how this was very important to him and to Pitt. “When you give all the answers you kind of stifle the viewers’ complexity, their own mind. Like …” Pitt struggles at this point to remember the name of the person he was thinking of. It ended up being the great filmmaker, Alfred Hitchcock. He continued, “One big lesson you can learn from [Hitchcock] is not showing certain scenes. What you don’t show will manifest in the minds in the viewers and what they can manifest in their own minds can be greater than what you would show them.”

Cahill with I ORIGINS co-star, Brit Marling

Cahill with I ORIGINS co-star, Brit Marling

Pitt is an actor who has recently become very selective over what roles he chooses. He mentions that he won’t just make any film with just any filmmaker. “I’m only interested in doing things that are different. One of the things that drew me to this was Mike. I don’t see people making the types of films that he’s making,” Pitt says, showing that the love is mutual. Pitt also says that he hasn’t done much work in science fiction, and that I ORIGINS is unlike many of the sci-fi films being made today. “Sci-fi has become about special effects with millions and millions of dollars. What really interested me when I saw Mike’s first film, ‘Under the Earth’,” It’s actually called ANOTHER EARTH, but we’ll let that one slide. “It was a very complex thing that he was attempting to do, without the bells and the whistles. That speaks to someone’s talent.”

I ORIGINS marks the first time Pitt will serve as an executive producer for a film he is starring in. “Ron Howard said something in an interview that stuck out to me. He said that some of the best actors are writers to the core. They might never put a pen to paper or touch a typewriter, but innately they are writers,” Pitt says, explaining that every actor should be involved in shaping the films they are in. Cahill jumped in to point out just how much Pitt helped shape Ian Gray. “Michael, from the moment I met him, dove so deep into his character. We had a really great opportunity to go spend some time with scientists from Johns Hopkins. I got to witness how [Pitt] would sponge up everything they were doing.”


Pitt’s last on-screen appearance, before I ORIGINS, was the Toronto-shot television series “Hannibal”. Pitt doesn’t do much work in television, but he couldn’t resist playing Mason Verger. “When they called me for Hannibal they said, ‘this character cuts off his own face and feeds it to dogs.’ I was like, ‘sign me up!’” Pitt is only half joking when he says this.

As I ORIGINS doesn’t give you all the answers, Cahill and Pitt were certainly not going to give them all away in this interview. I’ve given you as much as I can though so now it is up to you to figure them out for yourself after you see the film.

I ORIGINS opens in select Canadian cities on Friday, July 25. Black Sheep Reviews is giving away passes to see the film ahead of time in Toronto and Vancouver. Click here to enter!

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