I hope audiences don’t get stuck on the nihilism in ‘Reminiscence’, says actor Cliff Curtis

Actor Cliff Curtis gets candid about working with Hugh Jackman again, playing a tortured character in sci-fi thriller ‘Reminiscence’, and why he chooses to work with certain directors

If you watched the trailer for Reminiscence and thought the concept was vaguely similar to Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006), you are not wrong. Cliff Curtis who stars in both films alongside Hugh Jackman confirms this. The New Zealander says over a video call with MetroPlus, “They have some esoteric elements in common, including a man going into an alternate reality for the love of a woman who is not present for him.”

Reminiscence follows scientist Nick Bannister (Jackman) and his infatuation with a singer Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) who suddenly goes missing. With the help of his assistant, Watts, (Thandiwe Newton), he leverages technology, which he uses to help people recreate their memories, to find her. His desperate endeavours lead him to meet Saint Joe (Daniel Wu) and Cyrus Boothe, played by Curtis.

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In a making-of featurette released by Warner Bros, Curtis is seen hurling punches at Jackman on a rooftop in a gritty fistfight. He credits the stunt team and director Lisa Joy for the action. “It is incredibly humbling and a pleasure to work with someone like Hugh Jackman; he is such a consummate professional and fantastic with stunts.”

Joy makes her directorial debut with Reminiscence for which she has also written the screenplay. Curtis agrees that he struck gold in collaborating with Joy, whom he calls a master filmmaker. “She does not work like a first-time filmmaker!”

Describing the film as complex and intricate, the 53-year-old actor lauds Joy’s storytelling. “Lisa has drawn in and woven all of the different timelines and dimensions together. She is poetic and philosophical in her approacheto filmmaking. A writer-director knows the material inside out. With something as complex as this, there is no doubt that what is on the page is going to be on the screen.”

Portraying the complicated Cyrus Boothe, Curtis enjoyed summoning a little darkness and enigma. “I don’t find him relatable but if you do, there is something very dark about you (laughs). I’m just joking! There is a poetry to how Lisa presents this tortured character, that represents a transition from the normal world to the newly-devastated one, and how humanity, under pressure can become brutal.”

That is what makes Boothe relatable, according to Curtis. “We do not know what we are capable of unless someone takes away our home, livelihood and everything we think we know about life. He covets this affection that Mae has for Nick, and feels like an unacceptable, broken human being.”

The worlds presented in Reminiscence proved to be a visual aid for the actors who constantly pivot between old and new worlds. “‘Rich’ is a good word for these environments, as they feel very visceral and grounded. If this world goes through World War Three and a natural disaster it would look like this. You can almost smell it, that is how good the teams working on the production were,” comments Curtis, crediting production designer Howard Cummings and art directors Scott Plauche and Matthew Gatlin.

A still from ‘Reminiscence’ with Saint Joe (played by Daniel Wu) and (Cliff Curtis), a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photographed by Ben Rothstein | Photo Credit: Warner Bros Entertainment Inc

Speaking of the apocalyptic overtones, Curtis says, “the film offers a peek into our worst fears.” He would, however, be happy if audiences did not get stuck on the nihilism, adding, “There is a sea of hope in this film, even under the worst of circumstances, humanity is designed to rise above and find a way to connect.”

The VFX technology in Reminiscence is a conduit for the storytelling. “When I first met Lisa, she was showing me one of the action sequences and how she developed the technology with a team to shoot these scenes to make them visceral and real. She did not want to make a VFX movie, she wanted to make a combination where the actors are in real environments and the technology is woven into them. That is how you know you are working with a serious craftsman.”

On being a tradesman

It is fair to say Curtis is drawn to films that experiment with alternate realities and magical realism. He is currently in post-production for Avatar 2, 3, 4 and 5 as well as an indie film, True Spirit. He has starred in varied projects such as Doctor Sleep (2019), Fear The Walking Dead series, and The Meg (2018).

Given the similarities between The Fountain and Reminiscence, what drew him to working on the latter? He cuts straight to the chase, “It is part-artistry, part-survivalism, as part of the business of what we do to stay relevant in this industry. I consider myself a tradesman in my approach to my career. I just try to keep it mixed up so I do not get stuck.”

Revealing his ‘pull-factor’, Curtis says, “I focus on the directors. With James Cameron, he says ‘a good film is one that fulfils its intention’, where if it sets out to be a small indie art-house film looking for a specific audience and does that it is a good film. If it is a popcorn movie that caters to a specific age group of, say, males aged 25 to 45 and it does its job, that is a good film. He is generous with his estimation of good movie-making.

“It is all about whether the filmmaker and the team set it up with the clear intention. I look for directors that are commanding in their genre. M. Night Shyamalan, Martin Scorcese, Danny Boyle, Darren Aronofsky… and you have Lisa Joy where if you read that script, you think ‘whoever wrote that is not your average storyteller-filmmaker’. I have worked with enough great filmmakers to realise, you may not always get it right, but when you know, you know.”

Reminiscence releases in theatres on August 27

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