With the release of Dune: Part Two right around the corner, the cast has been on a press tour the world over. There's no denying that they're taking the fashion seriously too. From red carpet premieres to photocalls, Timothée Chalamet and Austin Butler—portraying Paul Atreides and newly introduced Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, respectively—have been showcasing a diverse array of looks. Each outfit chosen had been statements in their own right, and are deserving of as much hype as the movie itself.
At CinemaCon 2023, Chalamet was decked out in a grungy look as he wore an edgy leather vest by Helmut Lang over a white T-shirt and skinny leather motorcycle trousers with built-in knee pads. To finish off the biker aesthetic, a pair of pointed black leather boots was the footwear of choice.
At the casts’ appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Chalamet's edgy outfit consisted of a sleeveless black sweatshirt with grommet detailing by Junya Watanabe x Stüssy, leather trousers from Alexander McQueen and black boots. However, he switched things up with a cozy knit from Hermès during the taping.
Butler arrived in a black unbuttoned shirt, wearing a matching black pinstriped suit over, and boots. He also had on a thin silver chain necklace, proving that it's what one needs to complete any suit look.
Chalamet wore a sleeveless calf hair top from Hermès' yet-to-be-released Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear collection, matched with trousers and chunky leather boots. Butler, on the other hand, opted for something a little more relaxed with a simple white T-shirt under a grey unbuttoned three-piece by Givenchy.
The duo kept it smart in Mexico City. Chalamet wore a custom Prada suit and a black poplin v-neck shirt with what is decidedly his more experimental look thus far. The blazer was tucked in and accessorised with a double tour Prada belt.
Butler rocked a striking pinstripe suit from Saint Laurent’s Spring/Summer 2024 ready-to-wear collection with cutting shoulders. Completing the look, he opted for a gold-buckled belt—not too excessive but also not too modest.
In Paris, the Dune lead stayed rather safe with a black turtleneck and sleek leather pants (notably a recurring trend with the actor) from Bottega Veneta's Spring/Summer 2023 collection. Cartier jewellery and a pair of Oliver Peoples sunglasses completed the easy look.
Butler exuded effortless style in a monochromatic Fear of God ensemble, featuring loose-fit clothing with relaxed shoulders—a departure from his usual tailored suits. He completed the look with understated David Yurman jewellery.
Chalamet wore a custom shiny metal breastplate from Givenchy with a graphic turtleneck. He had also worn a black wool jacket featuring a notch lapel with matching wool trousers. Cartier accessories such as a platinum Cintrée timepieces from the Rééditions collection and a sizeable silver ring.
Butler dressed smart in yet another Louis Vuitton ensemble, which consisted of a sharply tailored black jacket over a crisp white dress shirt, and a striking pair of flared pants reminiscent of the '70s. He kept it easy with a pair of black dress shoes, and a ring for a little hint of jewellery.
Chalamet's fish scale wool sweater was from Bottega Veneta’s women’s collection, reiterating that clothing has no gender. And if his legs looked longer than usual, that's all thanks to the chocolate brown leather pants matched with a set of Ripley Boots by Bottega Veneta as well.
Butler was wearing a custom three-piece double-breasted suit by Louis Vuitton in an offbeat shade of grey. The unusually wide-lapel blazer and waistcoat, once again, blends a sense of timelessness with a contemporary twist that Butler tends to favour.
Chalamet reunited with designer Haider Ackermann, donning on metallic trousers that were difficult to not miss, and paired with an oversized black shirt. For accessories, he wore a custom Cartier necklace featuring invert-set diamonds in orange, yellow, brown, and white hues, designed to mimic the desert landscape in Dune.
Butler's penchant for tailoring saw him taking on a black Sabato de Sarno for Gucci overcoat paired with a white vest. It's perhaps simple in execution but sleek and dramatic all the same.
Chalamet was seen sporting powdery blue overalls from South Korean designer Juun.J's Spring/Summer 2024 collection, in a deliberate move to twin with fellow lead Zendaya. He finished off the look with simple silver necklaces and a pair of Chelsea boots in the same exact shade, sticking true to the runway look.
Butler was also dressed in blue, opting for a Valentino suit with a silk shirt of a lighter shade. But instead of keeping to the monochromatic tones of the clothes, the footwear of choice was a black pair of dress shoes. A silver necklace completed the entire look.
For Seoul's premiere, Chalamet chose a sleek white suit paired with black leather boots, both courtesy of Gucci. Continuing his partnership with Cartier, he wore a single Cartier diamond necklace for a touch of elegance—just one of his many moments with the luxury brand throughout the press tour.
Butler kept it classic with a black pinstriped double-breasted suit layered over a white dress shirt, matching the entire ensemble with a black tie and black dress shoes.
Dune: Part Two will show in cinemas on 29 February 2024.
Everything about Megalopolis, as the name of Francis Ford Coppola’s upcoming movie suggests, is suitably mega. Dubbed “Julius Caesar meets Blade Runner” by Mike Figgis, the director who is filming a behind-the-scenes doc on the project). From the cast (Adam Driver! Dustin Hoffman! Laurence Fishburne! Aubrey Plaza!) to the estimated USD120 million cost (self-funded by Coppola himself), there's a lot riding on the Coppola 23rd feature film.
It's apparently been in development since the ‘80s, but we're nearing showtime. Here’s everything about the production, and what to expect from one of the year’s biggest film releases.
Pretty soon, as revealed by the director himself. In an Indie Wire article, Coppola said: “It’s only going to be a few months and it’ll be out.” He adds: “All I can say is I love the actors in it. It’s unusual, and it’s never boring. Other than that, wait and see.” Update: we’re still waiting and seeing.
The film, which finished shooting back in March 2023, has a cast list of stellar A-listers. This includes Adam Driver (playing Caesar), Forest Whitaker (Frank Cicero), Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Laurence Fishburne, Aubrey Plaza and Shia LaBeouf. On top of that, there’s Chloe Fineman, Kathryn Hunter, DB Sweeney, Talia Shire, Jason Schwartzman, Bailey Ives, Grace Vanderwaal, James Remar, and Giancarlo Esposito.
Ex-Hollyoaks actor Nathalie Emmanuel, who appeared in in Game Of Thrones and will play Megalopolis's lead, Julia Cicero.
It’s a pretty big deal for Driver, too, who poured praise upon the legendary director in an interview with Collider. “It has been one of the best—without hyperbole—best shooting experiences of my life," he said. "Watching him work that crew, that design team, he has such a command over cinematic language and an archive in his mind of shots that are so beautiful. And doing something so ambitious, and on his own terms, that you would think that it would be dictatorial or really controlled, but he is the most warm, open, thoughtful, director who is just…
“He really—and this all sounds like being very general, but he really embodies this thing of like, 'We're making this experiment and we're not interested in how it comes out. We're interested in the process of making it.' And inevitably because of that, the thing that you make, there's no film reference for. I think what he's made is so unique and interesting. I couldn't be more proud to be a part of it.”
As the official synopsis of the sci-fi movie has it: “In New York, a woman, Julia Cicero, is divided between loyalties to her father, Frank, who has a classical view of society, and her architect lover, Caesar, who is more progressive and ready for the future. He wants to rebuild New York City as a utopia following a devastating disaster.”
So, yes, it’s kind of a sci-fi modern retelling of the Caesar story, but Coppola told Deadline that he saw it as more of a love story. “I am grateful to be in the position to be able to make a film that haunts me and that I feel will be wonderful, that will shed light on the subject of what the future might be like and what human beings are really like. I am as happy as I could be.”
Coppola also shrugged off the rumours about unrest on set, following claims by The Hollywood Reporter that there was “chaos” on the production; that it was vastly over-budget and losing key creative talent, including the production designer and supervising art director, in addition to the entire visual effects team departing.
“Well, Apocalypse Now was out there being edited for months and months and months. And because it had been made in the Philippines, it was sort of mysterious. [With Megalopolis] it was much the same thing. A rumour starts out; there was a report about chaos. But the source was no source. From my point of view, I was on schedule, which, on a big, difficult movie, is hard to do,” Coppola said.
“I love my actors, and there is not one of them I would change. The movie has a style that went beyond my expectations. That’s sincerely how I feel. The most important thing is the life the film might have when eventually it cuts together and blossoms.”
Not yet, but keep checking back and we’ll drop it as soon as it happens.
Each step of Dune’s high fashion press tour—Timothée Chalamet (fresh from the chocolatier origins story Wonka), Zendaya, Florence Pugh and Austin Butler (currently tearing up the skies in Masters of the Air) provide enough star wattage to power a suburban town—leads to one place: the sequel.
That was not always inevitable: Dune is not exactly based on dream source material. American author Frank Herbert’s novel of the same name is unwieldy and takes several head-scratching turns (especially in its many, many spin-offs). It has been adapted twice before, with David Lynch’s—shall we call it divisive?—1984 film and an Emmy-winning TV series in 2000. But Villeneuve, the Canadian director behind Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, proved more than capable at turning dense text into a memorable triumph (splitting the novel in two was a good idea). A healthy box office, six Oscar wins and strike-related delays later, that sequel is almost upon us. But, uh, what actually happened in the first instalment of Villeneuve’s Dune? Prepare yourself for some pleasingly silly sci-fi names and plot points.
Dune takes place around 20,000 years in the future. In a world where noble houses are locked in an often-vicious power struggle over resources. The most important of which is “spice”, a substance which puts humans in an elevated state of mind and also allows for space travel. It can only be found on the planet Arrakis. Harvesting, though, is difficult because of the giant, desert-roaming sandworms, which you may recall from that nightmare-inducing popcorn bucket doing the rounds.
We enter the Duniverse when the head of House Atreides, Duke Leto (played by Oscar Isaac), is put in charge of Arrakis, an inhospitable desert planet, taking over from Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård, deliciously creepy). But as Leto takes over, Emperor Shaddam (who will be played by Christopher Walken in Dune: Part Two) and Baron Harkonnen plot to oust Leto. Another problem that will face House Atreides? Arrakis is home to the Fremen, who have adapted to survive in brutal conditions, though they are perceived as savages by the ruling classes.
Leto has a busy family life. His partner Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), is a follower of the Bene Gesserit, a group of women who have mind-reading abilities. The sisterhood had instructed Jessica to have a daughter who could become a clairvoyant saviour to humanity. Unfortunately for everyone involved, she had a son, Paul (Chalamet), who has an enviably sharp wardrobe and a blessed upbringing. His father’s aides, Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) and Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) teach him military combat. While his mum passes on teachings from the Bene Gesserit.
In the film, we watch as Paul develops frightening visions of the future, a recurring headache for the boy. And things do not stop there for Paul. Soon, the Reverend Mother (Charlotte Rampling) stops by to test his instincts. Using a deadly box into which Paul must stick his hand into before he passed out. She tells Baron Harkonnen that whatever his plans for House Atreides, he must not kill Paul and his mother.
Alongside these machinations, we learn about life on Arrakis (anyone familiar with the novel knows that its charm is in Herbert’s world-building). For example, the Fremen are respectful of Paul and Jessica thanks to some advance planning from the Bene Gesserit. Paul also catches sight of a sandworm and starts to have even more vivid premonitions thanks to the abundance of spice.
Villeneuve’s pensive film picks up the pace with a failed assassination attempt on Paul. One of Leto’s aides, Wellington Yueh (Chang Chen), betrays his leader and disables the fortress’s shields. This allows the Harkonnens and ruthless Sardaukar soldiers to invade. Yueh paralyses Leto and inserts a poison gas capsule in his mouth. After Baron Harkonnen kills Yueh, Leto sets off the gas which results in a few Harkonnen deaths but not the Baron himself. The Baron orders Jessica and Paul to be dropped in the desert. But Yueh has left the pair with stillsuits (those breathing apparatus you see on Timmy and Zendaya in the trailer) which make survival a little more likely. The mother and son manage to escape thanks to Jessica’s deployment of a Bene Gesserit technique called the “voice”.
While traipsing through the desert, Paul and Jessica eventually reunite with Duncan and the ecologist Liet Kynes (Sharon Duncan-Brewster). In an excellent action sequence, we witness a Sardaukur ambush. There, Duncan sacrifices himself so Paul and Jessica can escape. Kynes, also seriously injured, calls for a sandworm in her dying moments, which kills the soldiers.
After this near-death sequence, Jessica and Paul bump into a tribe of Fremen. It is here that Paul meets blue-eyed Chani (Zendaya, making the most of her limited screen time). This is the girl about whom he has been dreaming. There is an instant, if mysterious, connection between them. But not everyone in the tribe is jazzed about Paul and one warrior, Jamis, challenges him to a duel. Paul wins (using a knife that Chani has provided) and thereby wins favour with the Fremen.
The stage is set for the second film. It will likely complete the adaptation of Herbert’s first book and deliver some well-earned revenge for Paul. It will also introduce Princess Irulan (Pugh) and Baron Harkonnen’s bald and deadly nephew Feyd-Rautha (Butler). If this film is a success, and God knows it should be, we may be getting an adaptation of Herbert’s follow-up, Dune: Messiah.
You can watch Dune on Netflix now. Dune: Part Two is in cinemas on 29 February.
On 13 October 1972, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed into a glacier in the Andes on its way from Montevideo, Uruguay to Santiago, Chile. Many of the 45 people on board were Uruguayan rugby players. The plane was ripped to pieces, killing passengers and crew immediately. And for the survivors, what happened in the following months was a excruciating descent into human survival: avalanches and hostile winds and most chilling of all, cannibalism. Only 16 people made it out of the mountains alive.
It is a remarkable story, absurdly ripe for retelling and adaptation. Many of the survivors have written books and who can blame them? That experience was likely cathartic and possibly sense-making. And everything about the story, from the hostile environment to the gruesome plot details, makes it ideal for the cinema. The most high-profile attempt was 1993’s Alive. An adaptation of British historian’s Piers Paul Read’s account of the crash, directed by Frank Marshall and starring Ethan Hawke. It has some terrific sequences but the overall thrust was a full-throttle embrace of Hollywood. One that's all hope and heroes and endurance.
There have, of course, been many other documentaries and podcasts and TV movies. And now we have another feature film: Society of the Snow, recently Oscar-nominated for Best International Feature. After its January release on Netflix, the Spanish-language film—surely a dark horse at the Academy Awards—became one of Netflix’s most watched non-English language films ever. It clocked in over 50 million views (and counting).
Thankfully, director J. A. Bayona (whose previous work includes another true-story disaster flick The Impossible and very much not true-story disaster flick Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) is unafraid to go hard on the uglier parts of this story. At times, Bayona’s camera angles presents these beleaguered men—absurdly good-looking actors with enviable ‘70s flares and swooped fringes—as not quite human. Their facial features are distorted into the figures of a Goya painting. Conversely, when time comes for the cannibalism, because of course it must, Bayona eschews gross-out tactics and focuses on the practicalities. How to dismember the dead bodies, how to stomach the flesh (with plenty of ice to dilute the tastes). An unimaginable situation is presented as a how-to survival guide.
Liberties have been taken. For example, the survivors were rescued over two nights not in one fell swoop as the film depicts and you can read about those comparisons elsewhere. But what is more interesting is how Bayona chooses to frame this well-worn story. The film is narrated by law student Numa Turcatti, played by stand-out Enzo Vogrincic, who seems destined for big things. He is a rousing, philosophical addition to the men, whose presence is made doubly tragic by the fact that he was not really supposed to be there. He does not play for the team, and simply could not could not resist the relatively cheap flight to Chile. Turcatti—and perhaps this is a spoiler, so avert your eyes for a 50-year-old news item—does not make it out alive. Killing off the narrator two-thirds of the way through adds a fresh twist to a familiar tale.
With a run time of over two-and-a-half hours, Society of the Snow stretches a viewer’s limits. But the tediousness works, for what is more tedious than hoping? Over and over again, the rugby players head out on walks in an attempt to retrieve the plane’s engine where they hope that batteries stored. Over and over again, they try to make the radio work to make contact with the outside world (crushingly, they instead hear that the search party has moved on). There are some simplistic sentiments about the power of friendship. But mostly the film is an antidote to the real-life awards bait, which often blandly papers over survival stories. It is certainly miles ahead of other Netflix movies based on a true story (of which there are countless).
Towards the end, as the players are washed and cleaned in hospital—a sequence that should feel euphoric, but lands with a thud—we see their starved bodies for the first time without clothing. Throughout, they have been layered in sweaters and coats, the reveal has the effect of a twist ending. You expect to see them as superheroes, but they are skeletal. It neatly evokes the confusing aftermath of traumatic events. In real life, there was indeed public backlash after stories of the men’s cannibalism broke. Bayona’s resistance of a Hollywood ending gives the men the complexity they deserve. And it is also what makes Society of the Snow linger long after the credits. Hope persists, yes, but so does terror.
Society of the Snow is available on Netlix now.
It's time to fire up your Oscars ballots, folks. On Tuesday morning, Zazie Beetz and Jack Quaid announced the nominees for the 2024 Academy Awards.
Surprise, surprise: Oppenheimer led the field with 13 nominations. The film about theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer was recognised for Best Picture, Best Director (Christopher Nolan), Best Actor (Cillian Murphy), Best Supporting Actress (Emily Blunt), Best Supporting Actor (Robert Downey Jr.), Cinematography, Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design, Original Score, Makeup & Hairstyling, Editing, Sound, and Production Design.
Meanwhile, Poor Things exceeded expectations with 11 nominations, while Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon garnered 10 nominations. In what's easily the biggest shocker of the morning, Barbie failed to break double digits at this year's Academy Awards, with just eight nominations in total. Though the film was nominated for Best Picture, director Greta Gerwig and star Margot Robbie were both snubbed from the field. However, Ryan Gosling was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, America Ferrera was tapped for Best Supporting Actress, and Gerwig earned a nod for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Other big winners include American Fiction, Anatomy of a Fall, The Holdovers, Maestro, Past Lives, Poor Things, and The Zone of Interest. They'll compete against Barbie and Oppenheimer for Best Picture. Paul Giamatti and Cillian Murphy will square off in the Best Actor race, alongside Maestro's Bradley Cooper, Rustin's Colman Domingo, and American Fiction's Jeffrey Wright.
Leonardo DiCaprio's exclusion from the Best Supporting Actor list may come as a shock, but the actor has always had a strange relationship with the Academy Awards. Remember, he had to fight a bear in 2015's The Revenant to finally win the coveted award. With Margot Robbie out of the Best Actress race, this year's awards-season mainstays—Flower Moon's Lily Gladstone and Poor Things' Emma Stone—are now joined by Maestro's Carey Mulligan, Nyad's Annette Bening, and Anatomy of a Fall's Sandra Huller.
Elsewhere in the field, Best International Feature Film nominations included Wim Wenders's Perfect Days (Japan), Society of the Snow (Spain), The Zone of Interest (UK), The Teacher's Lounge (Germany), and lo capitano (Italy). Anatomy of a Fall—which is up for Best Picture—and France's other critically acclaimed film of the year, The Taste of Things, both fell short. Many Best Documentary Feature titles came as a surprise, including nominations for Bobi Wine: The People’s President, The Eternal Memory, Four Daughters, To Kill a Tiger, and the timely 20 Days in Mariupol.
In the Best Animated Feature competition, Hayao Miyazaki's The Boy and the Heron, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Pixar's Elemental, Netflix's Nimona, and surprise international contender Robot Dreams will duke it out. As for Best Original Song, Barbie's "I'm Just Ken" and Billie Eilish's "What Was I Made For?" will battle it out for the golden statue. They'll see competition from "Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)" from Killers of the Flower Moon, "It Never Went Away" from American Symphony, and "The Fire Inside" from the Eva Longoria-directed Flamin’ Hot.
Other snubs include the performance of May December, which received praise for Charles Melton, Natalie Portman, and Juliane Moore's turns, only to walk away with one Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The Color Purple also received just one nomination for Best Supporting Actress (Danielle Brooks). Ferrari, Asteroid City, Priscilla, Napoleon, AIR, Bottoms, Origin, and All of Us Strangers were completely excluded from the final list of nominations.
The 96th Academy Awards will air on ABC on March 10, with Jimmy Kimmel hosting for the fourth time.
After the monumental success of Avengers: Endgame, I remember wondering, like many people, what Marvel could possibly do to follow up such a cultural juggernaut. How could they raise the stakes or stage bigger battles? What else was left to explore?
Then, in the trailer for Spiderman: Far From Home, after Tom Holland’s Peter Parker learns from Nick Fury that Quentin Beck is “from Earth, just not ours,” Peter asks with nervous excitement, “You’re saying there’s a multiverse?”
Yes, Peter, there is—well, I’m not sure if there are actually parallel worlds adjacent to ours, but in terms of contemporary storytelling? There are multiverses everywhere. There is, if you will, a multiverse of multiverses.
To name just a few, there’s the Academy Award-sweeping film Everything Everywhere All at Once, the popular sci-fi cartoon Rick & Morty, Amazon’s Philip K. Dick adaptation of The Man in the High Castle, Apple’s space race alternate history For All Mankind, the sprawling DC and Marvel franchises, and even onward to novels like Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, Lauren Beukes’s Bridge, Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library, and Iain Pears’ Arcadia. In recent years, tales of adjacent realms and alternate timelines have become more and more pervasive in popular culture.
Of course, stories involving alternate timelines, what-ifs, and speculative histories are nothing new (in fact, as we’ll see, they long predate the scientific theories that explain them). What, after all, is Dickens’s Ghost of Christmas Future but a glimpse into a multiverse? Because Scrooge heeded the three ghosts’ warnings, the vision shown to him by that ghost wouldn’t come to pass, meaning that this dark timeline is either an illusion conjured by the spirit or an alternate version of Scrooge’s life. The same can be said of It’s a Wonderful Life, the multiple finales to the film adaptation of Clue, the Gwyneth Paltrow romance Sliding Doors (and its precursor, the Polish film Blind Chance), and the ‘90s cult show Sliders.
But the cluster of multiverse narratives of the past decade has not just technically been multiverse stories. They’ve been explicitly multiverse stories—as in, they employ the scientific language that originated with the theory. They are directly inspired by the Many Worlds Interpretation, not merely tapping into the kinds of emotional desires that the multiverse offers.
For God’s sake, Marvel’s recent spate of ten films, eleven shows, and two shorts (and many more on the way) are collectively referred to as the Multiverse Saga. Even more significant, though, is how, much like time travel, the multiverse as a storytelling device began as a nifty concept and eventually deepened into a fruitful (and quickly overused) tool to explore things deeper and closer to home. What began as an esoteric theory and a heady narrative device has become as mainstream and emotionally resonant as any cinematic trope.
But as soon as an idea enters the zeitgeist and then the upper echelons of corporate IP, it gets flattened by the cynical and crass exploitation of pandering and profit hunting. The seven Oscars awarded to Everything Everywhere All at Once probably mark the apex of our current multiverse saga, now that the DC and Marvel films lashed to this subject have become increasingly unsuccessful, bombing at the box office and engendering some heavy animosity from fans. The multiverse has gone from an obscure theory to a sci-fi trope to a popular mainstream conceit to an underwhelming excuse for fan service of the crassest kind.
Paul Halpern’s new book, The Allure of the Multiverse: Extra Dimensions, Other Worlds, and Parallel Universes, regales us with the history of the concept—from Pythagorean cosmology to quantum mechanics—in scientific terms. With his insight and expertise, perhaps we can illuminate the social side of the story. Why has the multiverse emerged so ubiquitously in the past decade? What mode of contemporary life does it capture? Why did it catch on so infectiously? And why does it seem to be crashing just as dramatically?
The multiverse as a theoretical concept fittingly has numerous origins. Science—particularly high-level physics—relies on brilliant thinkers intertwining each other’s ideas into a cosmic braid of impenetrable complexity. As The Allure of the Multiverse makes clear, radical and counterintuitive theories like the multiverse—also called the Many Worlds Interpretation, parallel realities, etc.—arise out of a series of breakthroughs, insights, discoveries, and audacious leaps of logic. It typifies, in many ways, the highest level of human thought.
But the multiverse as a metaphoric concept has been nestled inside our ponderous and rueful psychology for as long as humanity has possessed a psychology. Our unique self-awareness, responsible for our physically fragile species’ global dominance, also causes our unique melancholy: we know that we have only one life. And what a precious life it is. The more exposure a person has to the bewildering and intricate enormity of existence, the more one is keenly attuned to the infinitesimal capriciousness of one’s place in it. As Richard Dawkins elegantly put it in the opening of Unweaving the Rainbow:
We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.
Imagine, then, knowing how much it has taken for us to be born and how easily it may not have happened. The pressure this awareness places on our one precious life! It is miraculous to even draw breath at all—now what are we going to do with this gift?
Mostly, not a whole lot. Remember, it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We can’t all be winners, kid.
And so we’re left, at the end of our days, with regrets and musings about alternative paths, convinced our benighted fate was not inevitable, but rather the result of a misstep, a wrong door, a left instead of a right. Who might we have been? What other choices might we have made? Could we have lived a better, more fulfilling life? Or might our circumstances have been worse? The hypothetical versions of ourselves we invent in our minds may not outnumber the sand grains of Arabia, but maybe, like, Cocoa Beach?
The multiverse, then, in addition to attesting to human ingenuity, also represents the most fundamental aspect of the human condition. The multiverse lives in the depths of our minds and our hearts.
In the preface to the revised edition of his 1969 novel The Eternal Champion, legendary sci-fi author Michael Moorcock claims to have coined the word multiverse in his first novel, The Sundered Worlds (1965). He didn’t. That distinction belongs to William James, the philosopher, psychologist, and brother to novelist Henry James, who invented the term to characterise the ambivalence of existence. “A moral multiverse,” he wrote in his 1895 essay “Is Life Worth Living?”, “and not a moral universe.” What Moorcock did was provide the word with the meaning we’ve become so familiar with: “an infinite number of slightly different versions of reality,” as he puts it.
Before Moorcock’s influential usage, the theory languished in the physics world under many different names. Attempts by sci-fi writers to christen the multiverse were similarly unsuccessful, though not always because their entries were inferior. Take Philip Jose Farmer’s The Maker of Universes (1965), published the same year as Moorcock’s debut, in which a man uses a magic horn to travel between “tiers,” or “world upon world piled upon each other like the landings of a sky-piercing mountain.” The novel’s front cover declares it “the many-levelled cosmos,” which is a lovely phrase I quite enjoy. As wonderful as it is, it’s not quite portable enough. Perhaps in another universe…
The contexts for the two origins of the word “multiverse” are worth a brief detour, as they afford some convenient insights into the heart of the concept itself. The subject of the essay in which William James coined the word multiverse was optimism and pessimism. Optimism here does not refer to a generally positive outlook, as we mean today, but rather a philosophy championed by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in his 1710 work Theodicy and popularised by Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man.
This optimism addresses the problem of evil in theology by arguing that our reality has been chosen by God from a selection of “all possible worlds.” Our reality may contain evil and sin and suffering, but according to Leibniz, realities without the bad stuff are not any better. Ours is, in an infamous phrase, “the best of all possible worlds.” This is an early example of the multiverse, albeit one that exists only in the mind of God. The notion of alternate realms can be found all over philosophical and theological thought.
On the other hand, when Moorcock discusses his use of the multiverse in his novels, he waxes giddy about its storytelling utility. He can narratively “deal in non-linear terms with versions of perception” and create “simplified models of ideal worlds (for which large numbers of people in Western society yearn so nostalgically),” allowing him to consider “by what particular injustices they might be maintained.” Right away, Moorcock saw the treasure trove of metaphoric largesse the multiverse granted a novelist—how the vast expanse of the cosmos could be used to explore the innermost depths of the human soul.
Comic books, those precocious nieces and nephews of genre fiction, similarly grasped the potential of the multiverse. Consider, for instance, the origin of DC’s Barry Allen, a “police scientist” who becomes the second iteration of the Flash (the first being Jay Garrick from the 1940s comics). Barry Allen’s introduction occurred in Showcase #4 from October 1956; in it, Barry is shown reading a comic book featuring his idol, the Jay Garrick Flash (referred to as the Golden Age Flash). So when he’s quite coincidentally struck by lightning and also doused with chemicals, gaining superhuman speed, he names himself after his hero.
DC cleverly incorporated their earlier era into their new one. But in 1961, Garner Fox wrote an issue of The Flash called “Flash of Two Worlds.” In his wonderfully informative book The Physics of Superheroes, James Kakalios explores this story as an introduction to quantum mechanics; he writes, “it was revealed that the Silver Age Flash [Barry] and the Golden Age Flash both existed, but on parallel Earths, separated by a ‘vibrational barrier.’” The explanation is that Barry “accidentally vibrated at superspeed at the exact frequency necessary to cross over” to what they refer to as Earth-2.
“Flash of Two Worlds” was a hit, and as companies are wont to do, DC repeated the formula over and over, increasing the number of Earths each time, now with Earth-3, Earth-S, Earth-X, and Earth-Prime (our reality), culminating finally in 1985’s massive crossover “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” which, like Moorcock, emphasised the utility of the multiverse for the practicalities of narrative.
The major comic event was orchestrated, as Kakalios puts it, to “normalise the multiverse,” a “vast housecleaning of continuity… to weed out poor sellers from many of the less-popular worlds and bring all the heroes from the best-selling titles together on one Earth.” Executive editor Dick Giordano wrote a memo listing the fallen characters (which included Barry Allen), commanding, mafioso-like, “they should never be seen again, nor should they be referred to in story.”
What unites DC’s coldblooded housecleaning and Moorcock’s pragmatism is their sense of testing out the utility of multiversal plots. Each had found a new mode of narrative and were keen to stretch its limitations. But in the scientific community, the theory of the multiverse remained a subject of much derision; it wouldn’t become an accepted mainstream notion until the ‘90s. Thus these stories, which incorporated a version of the actual physics concept rather than merely a hypothetical, had niche audiences.
For all their innovations with the multiverse, from coining the term to crafting it into novels and expanding the world of superheroes, none of these figures fully realised the notion of infinite realities as an avenue to richly scrutinise the pitiful and helpless exercise of wondering what might have been.
If you wanted to explore the emotional possibilities of the multiverse before the 21st century, you did so without mention of any quantum mechanics or general relativity. Instead, you severed the idea from any esoteric mumbo-jumbo that might catapult your novel or film into nerdy territory. Because anything nerdy, for a long time, wasn’t considered emotionally evocative or even representative of typical human experience. Nerds, like the multiverse, existed on the fringes.
The multiverse was born for me when, as an early 20-something reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, I was startled by the famous passage about the fig tree. Esther, the protagonist, a 19-year-old aspiring writer, contemplates the innumerable choices that lay before her by comparing them to figs falling from a tree she’s sitting under, each one representing “a wonderful future [that] beckoned and winked.”
“One fig,” she writes, “was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor.” Other figs are exotic places she could travel, lovers she might take, ambitions she may pursue. And while this seems like a particularly envious position for a young kid to be in (each of her hypotheticals is a good scenario), Esther is instead filled with prophetic fear:
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
As a young adult, I couldn’t have understood the pangs of remorse given off by older people looking back on an imperfect life. But I could absolutely fathom the frightening prospect of future remorse. Plath’s evocation of paralyzing choices and the many lives those choices might lead to struck a chord with me. For the first time, I grasped the insane caprice of the human condition: how every YES inherently implies a NO to everything else. As the priest says in Charlie Kaufman’s film Synecdoche, New York, “There are a million little strings attached to every choice you make; you can destroy your life every time you choose.”
While we’re on the subject of Synecdoche, New York, isn’t the central conceit of that film that the obsessive recreation of life into art leads to a concerning inability to tell the difference between the two? When we make art, don’t we effectively create multiverses in which we make a different decision or kiss a different person or move to a different city or pursue another career?
Art allows us a peek into the multiverse. Take poetry, for example—it abounds with the mournful, melancholic, and mopey among us pondering the possibilities of passed-over paths. A.E. Housman laments “the land of lost content” made up of “blue remembered hills” in a lyric in A Shropshire Lad (1896), which employs landscapes as its metaphorical terrain, as does Robert Frost’s infamous poem “The Road Not Taken,” from Mountain Interval (1916) twenty years later.
Neither Housman’s blue hills nor Frost’s forking roads feature any suppositions about their might-have-beens—only the utterly human tragedy of regret, our tendency to agonise over our decisions and blame the caprice of causality for all of our problems. The multiverse, in its most basic sense, is about our perpetual unhappiness.
The multiverse, in its most basic sense, is about our perpetual unhappiness.
This is why the multiverse is an immensely appealing device in fiction. But it's also why it’s ultimately unsatisfactory as a means of narrative self-exploration. The multiverse is too multi. Human beings can’t accommodate notions like infinity. Moreover, our lives don’t hinge on endless possibilities but rather on starker binaries like Frost’s splitting roads. Our regrets are small, in the grand scheme of things. And any attempt to extend our regrets into cosmic proportions tilts the realm of human meaning somewhere bewilderingly distant from what we understand.
This accounts for why an otherwise uninspired romantic comedy that was a minor hit in 1998 can coin a phrase that’s persisted in culture for much longer than any of the details of the film itself. Sliding Doors articulated and named humanity’s relationship to the multiverse. We obsess over missed connections, either/or scenarios, door #1 or #2, yes or no, stay or go.
Tales of two outcomes of the same moment entice us, but more options added to the menu tend to overwhelm us emotionally, leaving only our intellectual side intact. Ricky & Morty succeeds because it aims at our brains, revelling in cleverness. But a version of Sliding Doors with three, four, 10, Gwyneth Paltrows would undercut the personal stakes for us.
Multiverse stories can, in fact, diminish their own narrative stakes, particularly in franchises. Corporate studios see the multiverse as an opportunity to expand the scope of their IP. They bring in characters from past cinematic universes, as in Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, The Flash, and Spider-Man: No Way Home. In this last example, the Spider-Man films featuring Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield are now MCU canon. As film critic Clarisse Loughrey observed, the multiverse, for major studios, doesn’t lie in its “creative potential,” but “its cameos.”
More significantly: an endless series of universes means that any character’s death is impermanent, that all dire circumstances are reparable, and that all possibilities tend to equate to no possibilities. This last idea can be summarised by a line from a superhero movie: the recurring theme of Brad Bird’s The Incredibles (2004) is if everyone is special, then specialness loses its specialness and thus no one is special. Specialness is defined by contrast to regularity, just as the weight of our life choices is tied to the limited amount of alternatives we perceive.
Of course, it’s true that at any moment, we can radically change our lives. This means that for any given scenario in which we see only two options, there are in truth many paths we could take. Gwyneth Paltrow could have been hit by the train, too. Our minds ignore these possibilities because we aren’t fully aware of them (who, after all, thinks, Well, I could have turned left at that light or I could have done doughnuts in the intersection until the cops showed?). Just as we aren’t conscious of the millions of coincidences that don’t happen, only the rare ones that do.
What we’re less inclined to enjoy are multiverses with many scenarios where we lose our cosmic footing. Ironically, the MCU’s move to the multiverse—which seemed like such an inspired way to up the ante from Thanos’s threat to half of one universe to a vast war involving infinite ones—had the opposite effect: it flattened the stakes, making them more representative of corporate mergers than insightful explorations of personal potential.
In physics, the multiverse is a fascinating concept that lends theoretical support to other unexplained phenomena of existence. But in our daily lives, a multiverse is mostly meaningless. We cannot consider every possibility, or even many of them; indeed, keeping mental tabs on a single branch (which itself branches again and again) is pretty much impossible. If the multiverse were proven to be real, our natural proclivity for minor regrets would render the world more suited to the scope of our tiny, insignificant lives, which are also—to us—the most important in the universe.
Theories explain; metaphors reflect.
The multiverse, as a theory, emerged because of some as-yet-unexplained problems resolving Einstein’s general relativity with the mysteries of quantum mechanics, not because our hearts are filled with longing and regret. It seeks to account for certain aspects of reality. Whatever emotional implications it also evokes are beside the point. Relativity, quantum physics, infinities—these are beyond our capacities.
But the chance to investigate the many ways our lives could have gone by vivisecting seemingly arbitrary decisions? That is as appealing to people as pondering the ability to stop time, to fly, or to make the right choice in the first place. But these multiverse fictions are not legitimate attempts to explain our current state. Instead, they represent our feelings about our current state. When you’re at your most joyful, you don’t waste time relitigating past choices—unless it’s to marvel over how lucky you’ve been.
Rather, you bathe in the present moment, content that in all the infinite possibilities of this vast, eternal, and relentlessly enigmatic universe, that out of the millions of strings attached to every action, that in the teeth of such stupefying odds, you’ve managed to eke out a sliver of life that gives you purpose and pleasure. Those mired in miserable circumstances are much more likely to sift through their timelines to locate potential missteps. The multiverse, then, explains more about our self-regard than it does the vagaries of light and gravity and particles and waves.
People are filled with regret and weighted by creativity. So we can conjure up invented selves with a magician’s ease, but only for so long. Very quickly our ideas run their course, mostly because we aren’t personally invested in worlds where we’re made of paint or have hot dog fingers or are controlled by the Nazis. These are too far-fetched to be anything but thought experiments, emotionally inert and pragmatically irrelevant.
But give us a missed train or an unrequited love or an untaken journey, and we’ll dedicate much of our lives to concocting stories in which we got things right, found our passions, and chased our dreams, as if it were possible for us to say, as E. E. Cummings once wrote, “there’s a hell / of a good universe next door; lets go.”
So we return, for a fifth time, to the strange, dusty dystopia of George Miller. The 78-year old director (who directed the crowd's favourites Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City) once again co-wrote the script, and has reportedly been planning this Furiosa-led prequel for years. To give you a sense of what to expect if the trailer somehow wasn't enough; the latest instalment is helmed by the same production team as Fury Road.
"As the world fell, young Furiosa is snatched from the Green Place of Many Mothers and falls into the hands of a great Biker Horde led by the Warlord Dementus. Sweeping through the Wasteland they come across the Citadel presided over by The Immortan Joe. While the two Tyrants war for dominance, Furiosa must survive many trials as she puts together the means to find her way home."—Warner Bros
We're not too sure who looked at Charlize Theron and thought, "You know who would make a young Furiosa?" and landed on Anya Taylor-Joy. Not that we're complaining. The luminary certainly snatched us and some awards in the unforgettable The Queen's Gambit.
If the first glance wasn't convincing, you'd probably be singing a different tune by the time the trailer ends. Besides her obvious evolution into the character we acquaint with in 2015, it's also fun that we get a glimpse of the early variation of her prosthetic arm.
To refresh your memory, the last time we saws her, Furiosa was busy *spoiler alert?* stealing the war rig from Immortan Joe aaand his five wives. She later joins forces with Max against Joe's army, discovers that her hometown has become a swamp, then eventually emerges victorious in the Citadel. Thereabouts.
Taylor-Joy is most notably joined by Chris Hemsworth as evil warlord Dementus, complete with prosthetic nose, and later, a very Thor-looking red cape. There's no word yet on who plays young Immortan Joe, but Nathan Jones reprises his role as Rictus Erectus (Joe's son) and Angus Sampson as the Organic Mechanic.
Other names listed are Daniel Webber, Tom Burke, Quaden Bayels, Ayla Browne and Lacey Hulme.
Furiosa is set for release on May 24, 2024.
About three years ago, the sketch group Please Don't Destroy—which consists of Martin Herlihy, Ben Marshall, and John Higgins—was backstage at a claustrophobic New York City comedy venue, ready to perform. Covid-19 precautions just lifted, and people were finally going outside to see comedy again. At some point, the trio learns some thrilling, if anxiety-rattling info: Lorne Michaels is in the crowd. Back then, the guys were just NYU comedy graduates and popular TikTok creators. Not only was Lorne Michaels in the audience, but he was about to see them open with a batshit idea they’d never even tried before.
“We had these three 70-year-old men walking out who kind of looked like us, and they were our future selves,” Ben Marshall tells me over Zoom, sitting in the same little room where they write and film their sketches. John Higgins adds, "The guy who played future Ben was maybe 91 years old." After the show, the Saturday Night Live! producer came backstage. “He was wearing an N-95 mask, and he spoke so quietly that I could barely hear him,” Marshall recalls. “You would just laugh after whatever he said because you weren’t sure if it was a joke. Then he said, ‘I’m sure we’ll be seeing you guys soon.’” Michaels then turned around and walked out of the room. “It was scary.”
Of course, "seeing you guys soon" meant "you're hired." Now, Please Don't Destroy is entering its third season working under Michaels, populating Saturday Night Live! with increasingly surreal sketches. But yeah—that night was pretty weird. “If you ask him about it, I’m sure that he wasn’t trying to be weird,” Higgins says. “He was just trying to be nice, like, ‘See you guys soon!’ But for us, it was such a big deal that we were like, ‘What do you mean?!’” The comedians are also releasing their debut film, Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain, exclusively on Peacock. With the SAG-AFTRA strike finally over, they’re thrilled to talk about it. “I feel like the article should just be called, ‘Download Peacock,’” Higgins jokes.
Below, Higgins, Marshall, and Herlihy open up about about making of Foggy Mountain, casting Conan O’Brien as Marshall's dad, and their earliest comedy shows (one of which may or may not have involved a cow costume).
ESQUIRE: Has reaching a certain level of fame set in yet, or do you still leave the stage after talking to Seth Meyers and go, "Boys, this is insane?"
JOHN HIGGINS: It never gets more normal. We were just on Seth Meyers and we’re told, "Oh, Jimmy [Fallon] has an idea for you guys to rush the monologue. So, while we’re doing Seth Myers, in the back of my head I’m like, "We have to go back downstairs to go do Jimmy?!"
MARTIN HERLIHY: What kinda helps is that we’re working all the time. So, there’s very little time to feel insane.
Have you gained any wisdom since you were college freshmen?
HIGGINS: It would be really sad if we hadn’t.
BEN MARSHALL: When you start doing comedy, you have all these weird rules in your head where you decide you can or can’t do certain things because they’re not cool or smart, or funny. But as you become more comfortable with yourself over time, those things just fade away. Like, our first show was just 10-15 minutes of medieval music playing with John on stage in a cow costume and Martin milking him.
HERLIHY: We look back on some of the earlier shows and just think, What the hell were we thinking? We were like, That’s genius. Just make sure right off the top that they get a bad taste in their mouth.
I’ve heard a lot about this show: Please Don’t Destroy My Farm. It’s your origin story as a comedy trio. Martin plays a farmer, Ben is an angry businessman and John is a cow who doesn’t talk. I heard that John once asked you both if he could talk next time.
HIGGINS: Finally, somebody’s asking! I wouldn’t think that it was going to be awkward, but when they were like, ‘I don’t know, man,’ then it got awkward. I was like, "Fuck, what?"
HERLIHY: I barely knew John at the time, and I really liked the bit of John not talking. It was working, but it was so insane. I was like, "I feel like the best thing we got going for us is that John doesn’t talk."
MARSHALL: We all have very different memories of this event. I thought we were at John’s parents’ apartment, and we were also talking about whether or not we wanted to keep doing shows with the title of "Please Don’t Destroy My X," or just do sketches. So, we were talking around it, in my memory, like, "Well, it’s nice that it’s eventised in that way." I will say, we talk about those first shows all the time as if they’re the worst shit in the world, but I do think—for our first shows ever—they’re pretty funny.
How did it come to be that many of your SNL digital shorts see the host coming to your writing room to do a sketch with you?
MARSHALL: When we were brought on as writers, we were told that we might be doing videos, but after a bit, we thought that we just had to do it. Once they see that it works, maybe they would start letting us do it. Let’s just not tell anybody, get a couple of cameras, and just do a short thing. So, we made that "Hard Seltzer" video as our first.
HERLIHY: It was also production constraints. It was easy to just shoot in our office and we knew when people weren’t going to be here. But we had done so many apartment Tik-Toks that we weren’t going in blind. We knew what to do.
MARSHALL: It’s like a little sitcom we do. Every sitcom has a living room, and ours is the office. Sometimes it’ll even start here and then we’ll go somewhere crazy.
HIGGINS: Rami [Malek] was the first host to do it with us. We just pitch them an idea and if they say yes, we’re like "Great." But in the beginning, we didn’t know if anyone would do it. Rami doing it really set it all off.
Who surprised you the most out of the hosts you’ve worked with so far?
HIGGINS: It happens a lot with dramatic actors. So, whenever they’re even slightly funny it’s like, What the hell? Rami was super funny.
MARSHALL: Brendan Gleeson. Hilarious, amazing guy. Loved him so much. Bad Bunny was so funny.
"Our first show was just 10-15 minutes of John on stage in a cow costume and Martin milking him."
You guys make a lot of jokes about each other’s appearances. Are there ever any when you’ve thought, Guys, that one hurt a little bit?
MARSHALL: I remember one time when we were about to start pitching a joke where someone would be making fun of me, and then like 10 people chimed in all at once and I was like "OK, whoa! Maybe I’ll just write it myself."
HERLIHY: Usually, it’s not our mode of writing. When we know that we need something like that and someone else comes up with it instead of us, we’re like, Oh, thank God.
What was the hardest part about making your first film?
MARSHALL: Editing was probably the hardest. We’re so used to having total say in all our edits and being extremely involved. It was hard to relinquish a little control. We were working here in New York, and it was being edited in Los Angeles. We were still involved. It was just logistically pretty crazy. Also, improv was very difficult to edit. So much of the process is just endless piles of unusable improv. Just hours and days.
HERLIHY: So much of the funniest shit was like a minute and a half of improvising that wasn’t usable. Even if there was one killer thing, we would still have to cut it. We were just so obsessed with making every scene as funny as possible.
Did any bits of improv make it into the film?
MARSHALL: X Mayo is one of the funniest improvers I’ve ever seen in my life. So many of her jokes were pitched on set or just done in the moment. The songs in the tent—where John and Meg are earnestly singing at each other—were both improvised.
When the Internet became obsessed with the nepo baby stuff, did you guys ever think, Look, no one even brings this up unless we’re on Jimmy Fallon? [Editor's note: Higgins's father is Steve Higgins, The Tonight Show's announcer, and Herlihy is the son of former SNL writer Tim Herlihy.]
HIGGINS: Yeah. it was weird but we understood it.
HERLIHY: We’re also three white guys who went to NYU, so we’re not out here pretending like we had the hardest time getting our foot in the door. But I think the work speaks for itself.
Was getting Conan O’Brien to play Ben’s father an inside joke just to get Ben a famous SNL dad as well?
HIGGINS: What’s really funny is that I didn’t think about that at all. It wasn’t until I was watching the movie that I thought, Oh yeah, in this one Ben has a dad who is famous.
MARSHALL: Yeah, it’s funny that it wasn’t a larger conversation.
HIGGINS: We were just like, "Who should play Ben’s red-haired father? Conan O’Brien."
MARSHALL: We also think it’s really funny when guys are obsessed with their dad. Just always vying for their approval. That’s where that came from. Not us, though. We all have great relationships with our dads. [Laughs.]
I feel like a lot of people don’t know that this is Conan’s first substantial role, playing a character in a film that isn’t himself.
MARSHALL: His character’s name is Farley, for some reason.
HIGGINS: I don’t think anyone in the movie even says it.
HERLIHY: I was just calling him “Sir,” which worked for both the character and how intimidated I was.
What would it take to become the fourth member of Please Don’t Destroy? Is there some sort of blood oath, or do I need to find a secret treasure?
HIGGINS: Just show up with two and a half million dollars and you’re good.
David Fincher’s new film The Killer stars Michael Fassbender as a ruthless hitman with a penchant for process, a drive for revenge and a high threshold for boredom. It’s a stylish movie, as you’d expect from the director of such gloomy noirs as Fight Club (1999), Zodiac (2007) and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011).
Except maybe when it comes to The Killer’s own wardrobe. As we see our protagonist move from Paris, to the Dominican Republic to New Orleans to Florida and finally New York, his wardrobe is an oddball mix of Hawaiian shirts, sensible slacks, anoraks and bucket hats.
Less John Wick more dad-at-Wickes. That, apparently, was the point.
To tell us more, Cate Adams, costume designer on The Killer, who previously worked with Fincher on the 2017 Netflix series Mindhunter, shared her mood board and inspirations. And helpfully provided actual sources for anyone wanting to ‘Get The Look’—including Fassbender’s bucket hat, shirts and comfy slip-on shoes. Enjoy!
Right from the start he said he wanted him to look like a German tourist in Paris. And he wanted him to look dorky. And not cool. Like he did not want him to look like ‘James Bond/Tom Cruise-in-Collateral’ – he didn’t want anything like that. He was very specific about that. We talked a lot about clothing [The Killer] could take on and off. Everything he has could be purchased from an airport. He doesn’t think a lot about the clothes. But strangely, he has good style.
If you’re in a ‘walking city’ like Paris, there’s a few shops on every block where you could find something [The Killer wears] easily. In the States it’s, like, [mid-range, off-the-peg brand] JoS. A. Bank, Hugo Boss… those brands that have ‘ND’ jackets—nondescript, they don’t have logos on them. JoS. A. Bank is a mens’ store that’s been around forever. They have Oxford shirts. Jackets. Trench coats. My dad actually shops there.
I think that’s open to your interpretation, right? In Paris, when I started doing mood boards, I was, like, ‘Ok, I know David doesn’t want him in black. He doesn’t need to look ‘bad’’. So, I originally had him in the colours that were coming into play for the season—honey colours, tans and browns. I had my crew in every city go around and take pictures of what everyone was wearing. David likes to have mood boards with just one image—instead of using collages, which is what I usually do. And he wanted a chino khaki that was, like, eggshell or cement, so [The Killer] weirdly stands out. So we started with Paris and just played off of that.
My take in Paris is that he is meant to stand out. He’s meant to look weird. ‘What is he wearing? Why is he wearing all these light colours? He’s clearly not from here.’ But no one wants to talk to him.
Yes, it is. I think that’s exactly what we were going for. David had mentioned ‘dad vibes’ early on. Like, dad sneakers. He really wanted Skechers because they’re so universal and the über-dad shoes. We also went to every bucket hat shop that existed in North America. And we finally found one online which is a cotton poly roll-up hat from an army surplus store that comes in packages of 30. The point was it was so nondescript.
Oh, I hadn’t seen that! Isn’t that every costume designer’s dream? If I have people showing up like Michael next Halloween, I will die and go to heaven.
It was not so much the characters, more that I liked the look of them. David had mentioned Le Samouraï to watch, the French film [starring Alain Delon as hitman Jef Costello; 1967]. He wears a trench coat and has a nice hat on. But he didn’t want that [look]. So I went through so many movies. I also watched American Gigolo (1980), because it’s so tonal – that was a big inspiration. I loved Leo in Blood Diamond. If you watch any of David’s movies—and I knew this from Mindhunter—he wants everything to looked lived in and worn and real.
‘Bucket hat’ just played in to the ‘German tourist’. [Fincher] wanted a bucket hat that was waterproof, or water-resistant.
He didn’t want him to have to carry an umbrella. It’s really hard to find a waterproof one that wasn’t black. I found one from a vendor in Thailand that was green. David didn’t want green.
If you Google references for ‘bucket hat’ then Hunter S Thompson is going to be the obvious one. And I found that sketch of the ‘nerdy German tourist’. I thought that was funny.
He’s always wearing bucket hats and oversized windbreakers. It’s, like, ‘Are you kidding?’ You can look at him through the decades and he’s aways wearing something similar.
Um, well, I mean, I think that Oasis is timeless, obviously. I fucking love Liam Gallagher. I figure he’s a douchebag but I thought that documentary [Liam Gallagher: As It Was (2019)] was really well done. I’m sure he’s a complete asshole. But I do love his look. I mean, he was playing Glastonbury and I don’t even think it was raining but he was wearing this, like, ginormous, oversized windbreaker. And I was, like, ‘What is going on? Aren’t you sweating to death?’ But maybe that’s his schtick, you know. He’s trying to burn calories.
‘I don’t give a fuck’, right? Isn’t that Liam? That’s The Killer. There’s nothing in there. He doesn’t care. Couldn’t really care less about what anyone thinks of him. He doesn’t really need anyone to survive. It’s just him. I feel like Liam’s kind of like that, right? He didn’t give a fuck about his brother. He’s, like, ‘I’m the man. I really don’t care about all of you’.
David said at the start that everything had to be functional. So the Barbour jacket is water-resistant. He wears Lululemon. He wears Patagonia as a lightweight knit in Chicago. That had a little bit of cashmere in it—so he can sweat in it. [Fincher] kept saying [technical outwear brand] Ather. Like, Ather was a big thing. We didn’t use it but we definitely shopped it and tried it. So, yeah, everything had to be accessible. Everything had to be ready for any climate. All the layers—you could take them on and off and use them again. A lot of Gap, and then, randomly, Tommy Bahama.
Tommy Bahama is, like, a Key West-Florida-Aloha Hawaiian shirts brand. It’s dad vibes. It’s the almost-retired 55-year-old, upper-middle class man… What he thinks is ‘dressing up’ for vacation. It’s, like, ‘I’m going to get my Hawaiian shirt for vacation and my linen pants, and I’m going to look great at my all-inclusive resort in Mexico or Florida’. That’s what that’s about, basically.
Yes. That’s when we see him pushing a garbage bin into the building. He has a whole rolling rack of ‘disguises’ behind him. So that’s the one time he looks ‘brand new’ and ‘out-of-the-packaging’. And we dyed a belt and a hat to match.
That black look was for the [big set piece] fight scene. So everything is black, techy, zippy—the navy zippies from Lululemon. He’s got different kinds of track pants. He puts on a ski-mask. And it was Michael’s idea to roll it up, fisherman’s-style. So he looks kind of…. trendy? But he’s not meaning to. Really, his whole wardrobe is anything slim-fitting that he could pack in his suitcase. And obviously he didn’t need to iron.
We can't be the only ones not incredibly ecstatic about whatever Marvel is about to put out anymore (literally The Marvels). DC isn't exactly holding up the front with all that's going on with the Jason Momoa-led sequel Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. A reboot of the Hunger Games franchise seemingly appears out of nowhere, a questionable Wonka is in town (what was wrong with the last one?), and Killers Of the Flower Moon is not immune to controversy. Since Argylle is still some time away, these are the upcoming movies of the rest of 2023 we're looking forward to, in no particular order (okay, maybe some particular order called bias).
The biopic of professional wrestlers, the Von Erich brothers, through tragedy and triumph on the biggest stage in sports in the early 1980s.
Why we're looking forward to this
It's between the fact that The Bear's Jeremy Allen White gained approximately 18kg of muscle for the role, and Zac Efron's ridiculous haircut.
The action epic follows the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte (Phoenix), including visionary military and political tactics in some of the most dynamic battle sequences filmed in large scale.
Why we're looking forward to this
If you want anyone to do a cinematic homage to the odyssey of the historic French Emperor, it's definitely Ridley Scott. Apparently, a four hour long director's cut will be released on Apple TV+.
A young woman (Stone) is brought back to life by unorthodox scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Dafoe), but soon runs off with slick lawyer Duncan Wedderburn (Ruffalo) on a whirlwind adventure.
Why we're looking forward to this
Yorgos Lanthimos! Emma Stone! A reunion since The Favourite!
A cold and methodical professional assassin (Fassbender) navigates a world without a moral compass, armed to the teeth and slowly losing his mind.
Why we're looking forward to this
The man behind Fight Club, Se7en, and Gone Girl cites this as graphic novel adaptation as a passion project for almost twenty years.
Awkward Oxford University student Oliver Quick (Keoghan) is invited by the charming and aristocratic Felix Catton (Elordi) to his eccentric family's estate, Saltburn, for one unforgettable summer.
Why we're looking forward to this
Saltburn marks Fennell's return since her Oscar-winning directorial debut Promising Young Woman. Fun fact: Fennell cameo-ed as pregnant Midge in Barbie. So crazy, we know.
Two decades after a notorious tabloid romance, a married couple (Moore, Melton) buckles under pressure when an actress (Portman) arrives for research on a film about their past.
Why we're looking forward to this
Have we ever seen these two great women face off in the same film?
Rock-and-roll legend Elvis Presley (Elordi) through the eyes of his wife Priscilla Beaulieu (Spaeny), from a German army base to his dream-world estate at Graceland, in a detailed portrait of their marriage.
Why we're looking forward to this
A female memoir from Sofia Coppola's POV? Sold.
By now you've likely already watched at least one of the four shorts gleaned from Roald Dahl's literary world, retold through the symmetrical, pastel lens of Wes Anderson. This is not Anderson's first rodeo when it comes to a Roald Dahl adaptation, but it is the first live-action since Fantastic Mr. Fox was an animated take.
“I like the idea, right off the bat, of having a little company play the whole film,” the director told Netflix early this year. The release of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, The Swan, The Rat Catcher and Poison spanned the last week of September, keenly featuring different combinations of six key recurring actors. And perhaps you're wondering where you recognise some of these faces from. Successful thespians in their own right, here are some of their most notable work across film and TV that you may have come across. Or, if you've not had these titles on your watchlist, where to see more of their performances.
Playing the almost fourth wall-breaking narrator across the series as Roald Dahl himself, Fiennes also repeats in minor roles as the policeman (The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar) and rat man (The Rat Catcher). His collaboration with Anderson began from The Grand Budapest Hotel as concierge Gustave.
The Menu, Schindler’s List, Harry Potter franchise, Kingsman franchise, James Bond franchise
The titular Henry Sugar also rotates as makeup artist Max Engelman within the same film, and Harry Pope (Poison).
Doctor Strange, Sherlock, The Imitation Game, The Power of the Dog, Patrick Melrose
Is it me or is it always a delight to see Sir Ben Kingsley appear on screen? He plays the intriguing Imdad Khan, the casino croupier (The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar), as well as Dr. Ganderbai (Poison).
Ghandi, Schindler’s List, Iron Man 3, Sexy Beast, Shutter Island
Rotating between Dr. Chatterjee and financial manager John Winston (The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar), Patel is perhaps the chattiest as Woods (Poison).
The Green Knight, Lion, Slumdog Millionaire, Hotel Mumbai, Chappie
The main narrator in the haunting true story-inspired tale (The Swan) alongside Asa Jennings, and well, Claud (The Rat Catcher).
Asteroid City, Hitman: Agent 47, Homeland, Pride and Prejudice
You first catch Ayoade as Dr. Marshall, but later heavily disguised as the mysterious yogi (The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar), and once again as the reporter (The Rat Catcher).
The IT Crowd, Gadget Man, Travel Man
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, The Swan, The Rat Catcher and Poison are now showing on Netflix.
It's been a second since we've appropriated "star-studded cast" on a movie that doesn't involved superheroes. Not since Oppenheimer, The French Dispatch, and no, we didn't forget—Don't Look Up (we didn't say this was a list of good movies). Starring Henry Cavill (Man of Steel), Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World), and a longer glimpse of John Cena (The Suicide Squad) and Dua Lipa than we got in Barbie, the Universal Pictures/Apple TV+ collab looks almost exciting enough to make us forget a writer's strike was happening for five months.
Anyway. The fiction-to-reality plot where titular agent Argylle comes straight out of the novels of reclusive author Elly Conway inevitably draws parallels to Lost City (ha! Another stacked bill), but at the helm of Matthew Vaughn, we're definitely expecting more of a Kingsman vibe. The director has however, described the film as an ode to '80s action movies Lethal Weapon and Die Hard.
There are other big names adding to the headliner, of course. Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) plays Aidan, the real-life spy who protects Elly, joined by Samuel L Jackson (Secret Invasion)'s character. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) is the film's currently unnamed villain, and we get to see Catherine O'Hara (Schitt's Creek) as Elly's mother.
We can't not talk about it. It's not the first time we've seen Cavill involved in international espionage on the big screen, but it's certainly a first in Bart Simpson-esque glory. A great departure from Geralt of Rivia, the only viable explanation for that ridiculous hairstyle lies in the cover design of the fictional books. And upon further digging, a possible allusion to his name, after the Scottish argyle diamond pattern. Either way, we're not mad about it. The odder the hair, the better the performance.
The adorable cat Alfie is played by Chip, owned by Vaughn's wife Claudia Schiffer.
Argylle is slated to be in theatres 2 February 2024 and later for online streaming on Apple TV+.