Memories and their fleeting nature have deeply influenced US filmmaker Lisa Joy and one such recollection from her past has become part of the narrative surrounding her upcoming movie ‘Reminiscence’.
The co-creator, writer and director of the hit sci-fi series ‘Westworld’ makes her big-screen debut with the action thriller that stars Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson and Thandiwe Newton.
“I wrote ‘Reminiscence’ at a crossroads in my life, an intersection between beginnings and endings, life and death,” Joy said in production notes. “At the time, I was pregnant with my first child and filled with hope, anticipation, and some nervousness, for the journey to come. Then, I got a call. My beloved grandfather had died.”
She describes how she travelled to her grandfather’s home in the North of England, which bears an ornate gold plague that reads ‘Suki Lin’ — a name that has always fascinated her.
As Joy went through his belongings she found a photo that “must have been about 60 years old. Though faded and creased, you could still see the face of a young woman with dark hair beaming at the camera. On the back of the photo, in my grandfather’s signature scrawl, was written the name ‘Suki Lin’. At last, I knew the origin of the name.”
“The truth of who they were and what they meant to each other exists only in their memories,” Joy said.
The mystery and curiosity around her discovery are reflected in the storyline for ‘Reminiscence’, out in the UAE on August 19. Set in the future, it tells the mind-bending story of Nick Bannister (Jackman), a private investigator who helps people retrieve lost memories. He takes on a new client Mae (Ferguson), who needs to remember where she has put her keys. However, she disappears and it leads Nick down a path of obsession.
Jackman explains why he was so drawn to working with Joy on the complex project.
“What attracted me beyond working with Lisa, I think, was a movie that felt so original. I think audiences more and more are going to the movies to see something they haven’t seen before,” Jackman said. “To be immersed in a world that they don’t know. They want to go on a journey that they don’t expect, and this is what you get with this. So, the world of the film really was exciting, but I think it was the originality and the fact that I had no idea where the story was going. And just when I thought I’d worked it out, I would get a massive surprise. The story would zig and then it would zag and had one of the best endings I’ve read in a script for a long time.”
Jackson is no stranger to playing troubled characters; one of his most iconic roles is that of X-Men character Wolverine. In the final instalment in the Wolverine trilogy, 2017’s ‘Logan’, the actor was praised for his dark and nuanced take on the comic book superhero.
In ‘Reminiscence’, Jackman again takes on a character with a grim past.
“[Nick is] a solitary guy; a veteran, and he’s scarred. He has a lot of darkness to him,” the Australian actor said. “That’s probably why he’s so isolated, because he’s learnt to cope that way. And with the reminiscence machine, you’re dealing with memory and the mind. My character is the person who takes you there to that memory, so that you don’t go down the wrong path or veer into the places you don’t want to go.”
Newton made her mark as a lead character in ‘Westworld’ and returns to collaborate with Joy with the film; she plays Nick Bannister’s colleague Watts.
“When ‘Reminiscence’ came along, it took me a week just to wake up to the fact that Lisa wanted me to be a part of her first feature. I don’t think it’s an obvious choice to have me in the role, but that’s where magic kind of happens — when you’re entrusted to do something bold, something different, to use my skills as an actor to transform,” the British star said. “Lisa saw me as Maeve in ‘Westworld,’ and had a very strong sense that I could create that character, which has been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me personally or professionally. With Watts, I got to explore and play a personality that I don’t think I would’ve necessarily gotten the opportunity to do.”
‘Mission: Impossible’ actress Ferguson too enjoyed playing a complicated character like Mae.
“Yeah. I loved it... I was just very excited about the different characters here,” she said. “I mean, I also just loved the idea of seeing someone... The idea that as Mae I am someone in your eyes. I’ll be someone else in another person’s… everyone will have a different view. All of these different character aspects that she has and chooses to share, I got to play. And it was a gradually generating puzzle to create all of them. ‘But what if I do this here? Yeah. But then, if you do that, then you can’t do this here.’ And it was laying a subtle puzzle that wasn’t too on the nose.”
Ferguson says that in one of her first conversations with Joy about ‘Reminiscence’, she was enraptured by the story.
“I remember I had such bad cell phone reception in the house where I lived,” the Swedish actress said. “And I had to stand on one little spot in the garden and it was fricking cold. And I remember just thinking, God, I’ve been out here for 45 minutes. How? Where did time go? I think for me, the way she described the cinematic view of the film that she wanted to do, how important the characters were, the changes, the subtleties.”
Ferguson and Jackson reunite on the big screen after working together on the acclaimed 2017 musical drama ‘The Greatest Showman’. However, Ferguson jokes that it would be her last movie with him.
“There’s just so much I can take. It’s too much really,” Ferguson said about the multitalented actor. “The thespian that he is, I’m like, ‘Seriously, c’mon, stop singing your lines.’ But for me, to be on the receiving end on the film where we had to deep dive into things that were hard and difficult, dark and sexy — and just feeling so wonderful to do with someone who you are safe with. I can do anything and I’m protected. I can try things out. I can be ridiculous. I can humiliate myself and still be so embraced and for him, just holding space for me. And hopefully he feels the same about me.”
There’s is one cast member Ferguson would love to do another movie with — Cliff Curtis, who plays corrupt police officer Cyrus Boothe in ‘Reminiscence’.
“He’s different, but in such an incredible way,” the actress said about the ‘Training Day’ star. “I can’t wait to do another film with him. He’s terrifying. He’s absolutely terrifying... This dude, he finds something and he just makes it so real.”
Fun movie facts
— The reminiscence tank in ‘Reminiscence’ was specially-built and weighed 680kg. The water in the tank was filtered and heated to 36 Celsius for the actors’ comfort.
— Hugh Jackman passed out lottery tickets to the cast and crew of ‘Reminiscence’ every Friday.
— The first week of filming took place in a dilapidated former bar, now fashioned into a drug kingpin’s lair. Jackman’s character is threatened with drowning and, as a result, the actor spent hours with his head being held underwater, “Without ever once complaining,” noted Lisa Joy.
Don’t miss it!
‘Reminiscence’ releases in UAE cinemas on August 19.