Culture » On Set » I Origins: Behind the Scenes

  • <em>I Origins</em>: Behind the Scenes - I Origins Behind the Scenes
  • <em>I Origins</em>: Behind the Scenes - Michael Pitt I Origins
  • <em>I Origins</em>: Behind the Scenes - Astrid Berges-Frisbey in I Origins
  • <em>I Origins</em>: Behind the Scenes - On the set of I Origins
  • <em>I Origins</em>: Behind the Scenes - Astrid Berges-Frisbey in I Origins
  • <em>I Origins</em>: Behind the Scenes - Brit Marling on the set of I Origins
  • <em>I Origins</em>: Behind the Scenes - On the set of I Origins
  • <em>I Origins</em>: Behind the Scenes - On the set of I Origins
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  1. 1/10

    Michael and Astrid in Bushwick, Brooklyn NY. We shot with two RED cameras simultaneously to capture the spontaneity of their screen chemistry.

    Photo by Jelena Vukotic; Copyright 2014 Twentieth Century Fox.

  2. 2/10

    Subway filming. A real NYC train does wonders for authenticity. I had heard Darren Aronofsky, his DP Matt Libatique, and Natalie Portman stole subway shots for Black Swan, so we hopped on an empty J train in Brooklyn early one Sunday morning and took over an entire car along with 30 extras. Everyone in the car was on our team except for one guy who decided to sit down right next to Michael Pitt and take a nap.

    Photo by Jelena Vukotic; Copyright 2014 Twentieth Century Fox.

  3. 3/10

    Michael and Astrid at La Esquina, a great spot in Williamsburg. The work of our costume designer Megan Gray is wonderful; note Sofi’s orange and blue combo. The wardrobe has such a textured and authentic feel.

    Photo by Jelena Vukotic; Copyright 2014 Twentieth Century Fox.

  4. 4/10

    Makeup artist Jennifer Fleming, sound mixer Kyle Porter (slightly obscured), and costume designer Megan Gray applyt finishing touches to Astrid at Brooklyn Borough Hall before Sofi marries Ian. The wedding dress, designed by Megan, was inspired by a white peacock that has special significance for Sofi.

    Photo by Jelena Vukotic; Copyright 2014 Twentieth Century Fox.

  5. 5/10

    Michael, Astrid, and I joke around between takes of the wedding scene at Brooklyn Borough Hall. We blasted The White Stripes’ Hotel Yorba before each take, right up to the moment I called “action.”

    Photo by Jelena Vukotic; Copyright 2014 Twentieth Century Fox.

  6. 6/10

    Brit and me in our mice room at Rockefeller University, which had an empty lab that our production designer Tania Biljani magically transformed into the real deal. One thing I love about Brit as an actor is that she’s so deft with subtext; while her character Karen may be speaking complex scientific jargon, the real romance is right beneath the surface. Also, little secret: this room actually has no mice—it’s amazing what a few close-ups and great sound design will have you believe.

    Photo by Jelena Vukotic; Copyright 2014 Twentieth Century Fox.

  7. 7/10

    In the Okhla market in Delhi, India, preparing to shoot the scene where Salomina (Kashish) and Ian meet. The scene starts with a wide shot 50 feet in the air, then drops down, moves 360 degrees all the way around Michael Pitt, slowly zooming in the whole time, and then across the market toward Kashish, ending on an extreme close up of her eyes. Our DP Aishwarya’s room for error was about 3 millimeters. It was difficult, but the impact of the scene was worth it.

    Photo by Jelena Vukotic; Copyright 2014 Twentieth Century Fox.

  8. 8/10

    Archie Panjabi and Michael Pitt alongside our crew on a Delhi street. Archie brought so much wisdom and light, as well as a rich backstory, to her performance.

    Photo by Jelena Vukotic; Copyright 2014 Twentieth Century Fox.

  9. 9/10
  10. 10/10

I Origins: Behind the Scenes

Writer-director Mike Cahill discusses his new film.

When making a supernatural love story that deals in reincarnation, cosmic coincidence (not just meet-cutes), and other potentially troublesome grand designs, as the ambitious new film I Origins does, it can be useful to cast your protagonists as a pair of sober-thinking, data-inclined skeptics—namely, scientists. “It plays with that whole reversal of expectations thing,” says writer-director Mike Cahill.

In the romantic drama, which hits theaters this Friday, the biologist Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt, dour and bespectacled) and his lab partner Karen (Brit Marling) are hunting the genetic link that would prove the human eye developed as a result of evolution. Amid the close-quarters courting of PAK6 genes, romance flickers—until, from out of nowhere, Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), a flighty, spiritual young woman with a smoky French accent and progressive fashion sense, dances into Ian’s orbit.

There is really only one proven theory about what happens next. (Opposites attract.) But what’s harder to predict is that Sofi would suffer a tragic accident, and that, although a shattered Ian falls into Karen’s waiting arms, he is nevertheless possessed by an unquantifiable sense that Sofi’s spirit lives on. He’s convinced the clue lies in her spectacularly vivid irises. “If you look at a person’s eyes very closely, it’s like looking at a nebulous supernova that’s the entryway into someone’s soul,” says Cahill, before adding, “I get a bit crazy about it now.”

It’s an idea that came to the director after a stint working at National Geographic, which published Steve McCurry’s famous 1985 photo of a young Afghan girl with otherworldly green eyes. Almost two decades later, McCurry and a team managed to track down the unidentified girl, now a grown woman, using iris biometrics, which scans for eye patterns (said to be unique and more accurate than fingerprints). In the film, which was shot in Brooklyn and India, Ian thinks that he’s found a posthumous match for Sofi’s distinctive eyes—her spirit reincarnated in another. “It rattles everything he believes in,” says Cahill, who comes from a family of doctors but was kicked out of freshman biology at Georgetown for asking too many questions. “I heckled my way out of the world of science, and found myself in the world of science movies.” He laughs. “You hang out with me a little bit, and things start to get creepy.”