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As the film's title suggests, writer/director Agata Alexander’s Warning is an admonishment against the potential evils of too much technology. Like Black Mirror, it’s subtle sci-fi, told in an anthological manner, which paints a terrifyingly real portrait of the future evils of space communications, AI, VR, androids, mind control, and, in the vignette starring actor Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike), immortality.
**SPOILER WARNING: It’s very hard to talk about Warning without spoiling a few things, so if you want to go into the film fresh, proceed with caution as there are some minor spoilers below.**
Pettyfer plays Liam, who forebodingly brings his serious girlfriend, Nina (Annabelle Wallis), to meet his parents (Annabel Mullion and Alex’s real-life dad, Richard Pettyfer) for the first time at their sleek and secluded mansion kept in ship shape by a very efficient staff of androids. It doesn’t take long for things to get uncomfortable though, as their Romeo and Juliet storyline tensely plays out, though in this scenario, instead of Montagues and Capulets it’s mortals and immortals. Yep, Nina is a mortal, and you can just guess what Liam’s immortal mum thinks of that.
Like all the vignettes in the film –– which also stars Alice Eve, Thomas Jane, Kylie Bunbury, Patrick Schwarzenegger, and Rupert Everett –– the scenario is not just dramatic, but also emblematic of the double-edged sword that technology can wield. On the one hand, immortality sounds like a great way to beat death and enjoy life to the fullest; on the other hand, immortality sounds like an awfully long time, and probably wreaks havoc on any relationships you might want to have with a mortal.
With Warning opening in theaters and On Demand this weekend, SYFY WIRE caught up with Pettyfer to discuss the cautionary tale, working with his dad for the first time, and the intricacies of immortality, including whether or not immortals get wrinkles.
Why is the film properly titled as far as your vignette goes?
I think we’re in a place where we have to be mindful of technology, and how we proceed forward as a human race. I think that technology helps us, and is hugely beneficial towards healthcare, bringing unity to certain groups that have very powerful messages, but I think we are on the precipice of something that can become dangerous, like anything that is overindulgent. And in this movie, that explores that. And it is a warning, and it’s thought provoking in a way, because we are very close to that.
Is there anything to look forward to in the future?
Yeah, today. Now. If you’re trying to look forward to the future then you are not living in the present. And if there’s one thing this last 18 months or two years of Covid times have taught me is to enjoy today, and enjoy now.
What did working on this film teach you?
That Agata is an incredible visionary, an incredible director. It was amazing to watch her work, as someone who’s obviously continuously aspiring to direct, and I’ve only directed one film in the past, but being on her set and the way that she holds the narrative that she’s created. Working with the producer Cybill [Lui Eppich] who I actually have another project now with, and the way she’s commanding a set, being intricate with the details, because obviously the movie has many different storylines that are interwoven. And then from the personal matter: I got to work with my father… I got to work with my dad. And that was a huge honor, a big honor, very emotional for me; I’ve never worked with my dad, and my dad plays my dad. I was very grateful that Cybill and the producers on the film allowed me to have that experience.
How did that come together?
I asked. I asked if my dad could play my father, and they agreed. So I was very lucky.
I’m sure you learned a lot about acting from your father previously, but what did you learn actually having acted across from him?
You know my father was in the musical theater background, and I can’t sing to save my life. My father is a good singer and a good musician. And we come from completely two different spectrums of entertainment. I commend anyone who goes on stage, because I think that’s the purest form of acting. At this point in time, I don’t think I would ever have the courage to do that, maybe later on in my life. But I feel very blessed when I get to make a movie, it’s very hard to put a film together, and to be on a film set is where I feel most comfortable. And so it was actually interesting to see the dynamic of my dad and myself in the way that we approach the work.
I love being on film, and I love watching how different actors approach coming to the work. I just did a movie with Guy Pearce, and ... I was like a pig in s**t. Sitting there, watching this guy that was iconic to me, his process and the way that he works, it’s like taking a Master Class 2.0 to be in front of these guys. So yeah, it was a huge honor, and I feel very grateful. Actually, funny enough, I’m producing a movie that I’m in that we start in two weeks, a biography on … John Bindon’s life, The Chelsea Cowboy, and my father’s gonna play my dad again.
Well, he seems like the guy for the job.
He’s the guy for the job, sure. [Laughs.]
So was it hard to bring family tension to the dinner table?
Yeah, you know what’s funny, when you are making a film, whether it’s a romantic comedy, a horror, or action film, the dynamic on set is you have to become very close to the people that you’re working with very quickly, you experience a lot of different emotions, a lot of different connections. So it was nice because I’d known Annabelle Wallis for a very long time, she was an old friend of mine, and to get to work with her finally was also fantastic. She is beyond talented. And then having my father be there… the environment was very familiar, which made it very easy to go to work every day.
Were you aware of the other vignettes or were you only aware of what was going on in your part of the world?
I read the script, because obviously you want to know what film you are signing onto. But then after reading the script once, I just focused on my segment. But then I watched the film a month or two ago, and I’m a fan. It’s great when you’re only in this much of the movie and that you get the opportunity to actually enjoy the film as a whole and not nervously watching what your performance has turned out like.
Is there any benefit to immortality?
Life is about impermanence, we are ever changing. And immortality is only an egotistical view of holding onto the rigidness of something. So no, I don’t think there is any benefit; I think we are constantly evolving, and the circle of life is something that’s beautiful.
Do immortals get wrinkles?
Probably. I was immortal and I could see a few wrinkles on the movie from me.
It’s a cool and subtle take on androids, but it’s not one we’ve seen before.
It’s very obscure in the way that Agata has created it, because you’re kind of in this dystopian world, but you’re not, and then there’s like a relative reality. It’s super intricate, so that [for] people who love science fiction and are fans of that genre, there are very subtle things that are put in the film, and the aesthetic that she creates. Personally, as I said, I’m a fan. It’s really well done.
Warning drops in select theaters, On Digital and On Demand Oct. 22.