As life slowly tries to work its way back to normal, big action movies are starting to release with a little more regularity than we’ve seen over most of the last year. One of the newest ones to come to theaters is the futuristic sci-fi adventure Cosmic Sin, which stars Hollywood icon Bruce Willis and Marvel Cinematic Universe star Frank Grillo in a 26th-century first contact story.
This movie has quite the interesting premise. It tells a first contact story that takes place on Earth, rather than in the vast reaches of space. This was something that director Edward Drake had been interested in filming for a long time and put in a great deal of work to make happen.
The Illuminerdi had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Drake and chat with him about his next adventure. Below is the transcript of his chat with Illuminerdi journalist Richard Nebens.
Director Edward Drake On His Film Cosmic Sin
The Illuminerdi: Where did the first ideas for this story come from? How long did it take you to develop the plot all the way through?
Edward Drake: “I was always really interested in doing a first contact story where the humans are the bad guys, so that was huge to be able to get this through the system. Trojan horse, a little cheeky way of looking at the way we have conflict in our lives and a need for perspective into a big sci-fi world.”
The Illuminerdi: Cosmic Sin is set 500 years into the future, what sort of inspiration did you use for how Earth and the universe would be in the 26th century?
“Pretty similar to today. We’ll have new technology, but honestly, the way we work through the world isn’t that dissimilar from how we’ve been doing it for the past thousands of years. We’re still very tribal, and we’re still living, breathing, loving people, and what I wanted to do was take what I think was entrenched in today’s world and see how how that would grow into tomorrow’s world. The technology might be a little bit more advanced, but the world itself is still very grounded.
I think that’s something Ridley Scott obviously changed the game with with Alien, was just to be able to create this very grounded reality for Alien, truckers in space. We’re always gonna have transpo people, we’re always gonna have electricians, plumbers, janitors, we’re always gonna have the military. What’s a militaristic society 500 years down the line gonna look like?”
The Illuminerdi: With this being more of a sci-fi adventure, what’s the biggest differences between a story like this and a story like True Detective, which you worked on and is set more in the real world of today?
So True Detective, I was a PA on, and I was a PA way back in…far too long ago, and that was awesome, cause I got to learn a lot from Cary Fukunaga and the cinematographer Adam Arkapaw, and just seeing the way they bounced off of each other. There’s a time and a place for every story, and the greatest thing about genre is that you can take the trappings of the sci-fi world and the conventions and turn them on their heads to speak about the issues that are shaping society today.
You get to work with Hollywood legends like Bruce Willis and Frank Grillo, how much easier does it make your job to have actors of that caliber bringing your vision to life?
Oh, a dream come true, because I was able to write for their voices. So I was able to calibrate the characters to bring….Bruce was really interested in doing something that was a lot more grounded and a lot more gruff and stoic.
It’s unfortunate that a lot of people slight him for just taking the paycheck jobs, that’s never true, he would never, ever, ever do that. The guy gets 30 scripts a week, and I’ve seen them. So when he attaches himself to a project, he’s there to do a good job, and he’s there to give a performance. Same with Grillo, the man is intense, smart, well-read, I’ll work with either of them any day of the week. If they call, I’ll answer, because it’s great to work with anyone of that caliber with that legacy, and to be able to play with that legacy.
I think for Cosmic Sin, you needed a guy that is traditionally, you needed leading men that have an edge to them, and able to be engaging as well as being the villains of the story.
The Illuminerdi: This movie has a few interesting personalities, was there any one character that you were most excited to write for when you were developing the script?
Outside of Bruce as the Blood General, I knew Bruce was interested, so I had a leg up. I was able to write for Bruce’s voice, because we’d already had conversations about it, I was able to dial in exactly what he was looking to do character-wise.
The really interesting part of it was looking at someone like the Sol Cantos role, cause that was originally looking for a man. We were speaking with some really cool people, but it wasn’t ever quite right, and then a friend of the project, he actually knew CJ Perry. CJ has so much personality, and she’s so cheeky and very witty. English is her third language, so she has this very unique energy that she can bring to any character.
When we heard that she was interested, I said ‘Yes, absolutely!’ We just changed the pronouns for the Sol Cantos character. That character was so much fun to write, I did a little polish to speak to CJ’s voice, so that was awesome.
The Illuminerdi: Speaking of more personalities, I realized I have a personal connection with an old middle school friend of mine, Trevor Gretzky. What was it like working with him on this movie?
Gretz is so cool, he’s a mate. We’ve hung out a bunch, he’s a really good dude, so down to Earth so chill. When he got cast, it’s a very small role for Gretzky, but as soon as we wrapped his scene, I just went up to him and said ‘I’d love to work with you again, your instincts are so spot-on for acting.’ And he was like ‘Groovy, man, all right, that’s awesome, let’s do it!’”
The Illuminerdi: With this movie being so heavily dependent on real-world action and CGI, how did you find that balance in the story between what you shot on set and into post-production?
My background is a bit in VFX. I’ve worked closely with a lot of VFX teams. My better half, she’s a world class production manager for a post-production company, she’s now at ILM and so anytime I had a question, I just called her up. (laughs)
The trick is with VFX, you have to understand, everything is just one layer and one added dimension. If your camera movements are nodal, they’re quite easy to track, because you don’t necessarily need to go 3-D for paintings and stuff like that. It’s just when the camera starts to move along a plane, then you have to deal with, there’s gonna be a lighting shift, because you’re changing the environment, even just slightly.
I went in with my eyes wide open, and there’s a great dude Zeke at Chariot Drive, he headed up and single-handedly did 90% of the VFX in this movie. And when it was crunch time, I stepped in, I think I ended up doing about 47 or 48 shots on this, it was all hands on deck. You can set yourself up for a lot of success with visual effects if you’re locked off and you keep your movements nodal, and if you know exactly how many 3D assets you need to be able to generate. It doesn’t have to completely blow out the budget, you can actually do it quite smartly.
The Illuminerdi: You mentioned Alien as one of the first real first contact movies to make it big. Were there any other classic sci-fi movies that you used as inspiration while developing this one?
Annihilation was always sort of rattling around my head, and I still think about that movie every day. The idea of doing a first contact story on Earth, I thought was such a brilliant approach to it. We weren’t trying to do ET, we were trying to look at a darker version of Star Trek, and what the Federation would look like if it were a lot more militaristic. So that was the inspiration for the alliance.
I think it’s really important for writers and directors to understand the legacy of the genres they’re entering. There’s a lot of clichés that you can subvert. There’s a lot of stereotypes that you can reinvent, and what I wanted to do was present a lot of these stereotypes at the top, and then just take it and twist, take it and twist. Edgar Wright’s brilliant at that, there’s a lot of great filmmakers out there. Sonnenberg’s probably the master of being able to subvert expectations, and he’s low-key a brilliant, brilliant writer as well as the world’s best director.
Same with Ridley Scott, he’s a very smart writer. Ridley is probably the world’s best editor. He will go through a script and say ‘we don’t need that, we don’t need that, that’s gonna end up on the cutting room floor, we can do without that.’ It’s not about being an auteur, it’s about being a realist of what’s gonna enhance the story for the audience. If you can make those changes in pre-production and development, you are gonna save yourself time, money and energy that you’ll be able to focus all on the truth of the story.
The Illuminerdi: After this project, is there any major project that you would love to tackle as a writer or director? Drama? Action? Comic book movie? Anything at all?
“Anything that’s over your left and right shoulder right now (Marvel and DC posters in the background). What James Gunn did for Guardians of the Galaxy was such a freaking masterpiece, the Weapon X storyline, oh my god, I’d have so much fun with that. Logan is one of my favorite movies of the last ten years, so quietly understated, and it’s so grounded, I’m getting emotional just thinking about it, it’s awesome.
Pacific Rim, I’d really love to have a crack at Pacific Rim and playing in that world. Guillermo Del Toro set up that series with so much success with the Jaegers and the Kaiju. I was there opening night for it, and I came back again and again and again. I’d love to play in that sandbox.
I’ve got something I’m writing at the moment called Atlas, and that takes place on a moon base, it’s about another rogue general who takes over a moon base and is trying to weaponize a dyson sphere, and the crew have to suit up in these mini Jaeger-like suits and shoot themselves at the moon. I can’t wait to do it, because it’s very much inspired by the Red Rising series, a great series of novels. Shoutout to the Red Rising books.”
Cosmic Sin is set to release in theaters on March 12, 2021. What did you think of what Edward Drake had to say? What property do you think would be a good fit for the director next? Have you checked out Cosmic Sin yet? Let us hear what you think in the comment section below or over on our social media!