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Interview: Michael Pitt and Mike Cahill see I to eye for I Origins

Getting stuck in an elevator is bad luck. Getting stuck in an elevator with the director that we’re about to interview is worse luck. Getting stuck in an elevator with a director that has just released a film in which a lead character gets stuck in an elevator and receives a very bad outcome is perhaps the worst luck of all.

Yet this was this luck (or fate) that befell us on our way to interview Mike Cahill, this abovementioned director, and actor Michael Pitt in a luxurious downtown Toronto hotel. Eventually, Cahill and I found our way up to the correct suite. And aren’t we glad that this is where we ended up, because in this interview, Cahill and Pitt were at their most I opening.

The interview begins by feeling like walking into a routine between seasoned professionals. Cahill starts off with ‘The Origins of I Origins’, Pitt adds “was when you hit your head on the sink, right?” I ring in with “and then you invented the flux capacitor”. And immediately, with this Back to the Future point of reference, I was welcomed into their circle with a “Nerd alert!”

Pitt, whose piercing green-blue eyes are a sight to behold up close, continues: “The origin of this project is that I was in Brooklyn, and I had this great idea: I was like ‘wait a minute, I live in Brooklyn’, and I can probably meet the artists and filmmakers that are living here. They are very accessible”.

He goes on to say that: “In California, everyone sort of lives over there; it is an industry town. But in New York I was trying to be active. The first meeting, they said ‘we have this director that’s living in Brooklyn; his name is Mike Cahill, he’s made one film (and) one documentary’. So they sent me Another Earth. I watched Another Earth. And then we had our first meeting. It just was a general meeting, like (Pitt puts on a cool guy voice), ‘Hey man, you live in Brooklyn, I live in Brooklyn, you’re makin’ films, I’m makin’ films’” and (Cahill) pitched me the idea for I Origins”. Cahill chimes in with friendly banter: “Less like a pitch, and more like ‘just talking’”.

Pitt carries on: “Out of all the ideas, that one really stuck out to me, and I said just casually, ‘you should spend some time on that idea, I’m really interested in that idea, and he sent me like a treatment like the next day, and two weeks later he sent the first draft, and for me, it kind of solidified my ‘want’ in working with him, because it was very organic, but then also very ambitious and very efficient”.

Cahill adds that: “The thing that gives the film great depth is the performances, really”. Pitt, reveals a clue as to his method: “The difficult thing when you are performing as an actor is subtlety. What’s amazing is that (Cahill) is seeing everything that you are doing, and you can really see it where and when he decides to cut”.

Cahill emerges to continue on with this idea: “When (Karen) looks through the microscope, we cut to Ian and Sofi in bed, and in a way, that cut, makes it feel like it just goes right into your fuckin’ subconscious, but they are under the microscope, or that will be the big experiment, what takes place in that scene”.

In front of my eyes, Pitt and Cahill begin to connect the whole, not so much as individuals, but as a sort of interconnected unit, almost like, to paraphrase the rapper Nas, All I need is One Mike. Cahill says that “Mike (referring to Pitt) is one of those people that exudes generosity. He is the soul and backbone of this project. You know, he is the spine”.

Pitt rejoinders, in praise of Cahill: “Some of the directors I’ve been really blessed working with, the older directors, one director in particular is Gus Van Sant (with whom Pitt worked on the film Last Days) they have the whole movie in their heads. Even things that aren’t explained in the film are explained. Mike has thought them through. So it’s NEVER just throwing in random shit”.

I Origins is released by Fox Searchlight Friday in Toronto and Vancouver, and the following weeks in major Canadian cities.

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