Ex Machina’s Stars Talk About Cinematic Robots And “Bro Billionaires”

A new science fiction movie called Ex Machina opens today in limited release — it’s a tense, thought-provoking story, and one that should be particularly interesting to TechCrunch readers for its depiction of artificial intelligence and the way the characters struggle to understand the consciousness of the movie’s robot, Ava.

Earlier this week I interviewed Alicia Vikander, the actress who plays Ava, as well as Oscar Isaac, who plays Ava’s inventor Nathan. Both of them recalled long conversations with Ex Machina‘s writer and director Alex Garland (who I also interviewed) about AI, but Vikander said that what really stuck with her was a book about brain function, which made human brains seem particularly machine-like.

“With great sci-fi, that’s the whole point,” Isaac added. “It’s never really about the robots or the aliens or whtaever it is, it’s always about humans.”

Isaac’s character Nathan is also the founder of a search engine company BlueBook. Asked whether he based his performance on anyone specific from the tech world, Isaac said he relied on the script, which he praised for “capturing the language of these bro billionaires”: “You know, the dude talk and this whole idea of like, ‘I’m going to disarm you, I’m on your level, give me all your privacy, give me all your rights, give me all that — hey dude, we’re cool.'”

For that reason, Isaac said he didn’t feel the need to research someone like Mark Zuckerberg. Instead, he looked at “darker geniuses” outside of tech, for example chess champion Bobby Fischer.

And yes, I also (awkwardly) asked Vikander about that Tinder stunt at South by Southwest, as you can see at the end of the video above.