Director Joseph Kosinski had a wonderful two months, between the release of “Spider’s Head” on Netflix and his recent film “The Best Shooter: Maverick”, which officially became the highest-grossing Tom Cruise film ever. Another achievement he can add to his long list is showing a completely different side to both Miles Teller and Chris Hemsworth, who play very much against the font in this sci—fi thriller.
Based on George Saunders’ short story “Escape from the Spider’s Head”, which was published in the New Yorker in 2010, “Spider’s Head” transports viewers to a newfangled prison facility where Hemsworth’s Abnes conducts scientific experiments with mysterious drugs on his cellmates. Teller plays one such prisoner, Jeff, who feels obligated to obey his charming warden until his feelings for Lizzie (Jerny Smollett) become stronger than his impulse to obey.
Link: Hemsworth and Teller bring up an intriguing thriller in Spiderhead
Screen Rant talked to Kosinski and producer Eric Newman about what attracted them to the project in the first place, as well as why Hemsworth and Teller were perfect for their roles.
Screen Rant: Eric, how did you first encounter Spiderhead? Did you read George Saunders’ story first, or did you first hear about it as a script? What prompted you to leave your mark on it?
Eric Newman: I read the story. In fact, I don’t even know if Joe knows about it, but I told our agent — coincidentally, we have a common agent — about this short story. And he said: “I heard they’re trying to adapt it as a movie.” I knew the writers who wrote to order, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, who wrote “Deadpool” [and] “Zombieland.” I called them and doubted anyone’s ability to adapt George Saunders and keep George Saunders in all of this.
I called them and asked if I could read it, and after I read it, I call them and ask, “Can I do this? Because I think you guys did it.” Although some time has passed since that moment, starting with Joe, we have assembled this wonderful team that simply does not have a weak link. And I went and made this really special, cool, amazing, real George Saunders movie. It was a great experience.
Speaking of an amazing team, Joe, you seem to enjoy working with Miles Teller. In this film, I understood very well what you are recording; I saw a vision. Can you tell me about this vision and what you like about him as an actor?
Joseph Kosinski: I think what makes Miles so interesting is his unpredictability. When he’s on the screen, you lean forward because you have absolutely no idea how he’s going to play the next bit. And this is a very special thing that only a few people have.
Miles, I think, is kind of a natural talent. He has an incredible range. He’s a very emotional actor and just one of those people you can talk to on screen. This is my third movie with him, and what I liked about him is that he’s a different character than the other two roles I’ve played with him, and I think everything he’s done before.
Jeff is a very vulnerable, malleable character; partly charmed by the charismatic Steve Abnes during the first two-thirds of the film. It’s only when he sort of figures out what’s going on that he doesn’t take control of the narrative. It was something new for Miles, and I thought it would be a big challenge for him.
I feel like this is not the role I usually think of for Chris because I think of him as a god or at least as a very good person. Do you think this is what makes it so easy for the characters to follow instructions that one would hope in real life they wouldn’t want to?
Joseph Kosinski: Yes, I think Chris’ natural charisma is one of his superpowers. And what we liked about the selection of an actor who had never played such roles before was that the audience also fell in love with the advertising presentation of Abnesti in the first half of the film. This was something we really liked about choosing someone who hadn’t done this before.
And obviously getting Chris in the movie was incredible. I think even for us he exceeded our expectations for this role; he really put everything he had into it and did something really special.
Summary of the movie “Spider’s Head”
Two prisoners establish a bond while struggling with their past in an ultra-modern prison run by a brilliant visionary who experiments with his test subjects with mind-altering drugs.
Watch our interview with the stars of The Spider’s Head series Miles Teller and Jerny Smollett, as well as with composer Joseph Trapanese.