Published: Thu, February 15, 2018
Entertaiment | By Paul Elliott

Go Behind The Scenes of Natalie Portman's 'Annihilation'

Go Behind The Scenes of Natalie Portman's 'Annihilation'

Leigh added, "It's probably a valid criticism".

Just as Paramount/Skydance's sci-fi adventure Annihilation was heating up in its word of mouth before its February 23 release, two advocacy groups this week - MANAA (Media Action Network for Asian Americans) and American Indians in Film and Television - took aim at the film for whitewashing its two leading characters, played by Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Though the novel constitutes the first entry in "The Southern Research Trilogy", Garland always intended for Annihilation to be a standalone film and not the beginning of a franchise.

In the first book, none of the characters are named but are identified by their fields of expertise (biology, linguistics, anthropology, etc.).

"I took a really weird approach to the adaptation".

"It makes me want to name-check Rian [Johnson] and Ram [Bergman], the producer on Star Wars". I cast the film reacting only to the actors I met in the casting process, or actors I had worked with before. "But there was nothing cynical or conspiratorial about the way I cast this movie".

He continued, "As a middle-aged white man, I can believe I might at times be guilty of unconscious racism, in the way that potentially we all are". I think because they come from an indie film background, here they are making like the biggest movie of all time, and they were unbelievably helpful and accommodating to us.

First, off it's directed by Alex Garland, who directed Ex-Machina, which was kind of a surprise hit for me.

The cast at Annihilation's LA premiere. Image Source Getty  Emma McIntyre
The cast at Annihilation's LA premiere. Image Source Getty Emma McIntyre

Back in December, Garland said it's not his "nature to whitewash anything". "I thought. I'm going to adapt it like a dream of the book", admitted Garland. That just wouldn't be like me. "So that was it". However, the character's race is not mentioned until the second book, and Garland notes he only wrote and cast the movie based on VanderMeer's first novel.

During an interview with Yahoo!

"We need more representation of Asians on film, of Hispanics on film, of blacks on film, women, and particularly women of color, Native Americans - I mean, we just don't have enough representation". "I hope that begins to change because I think everyone is becoming more conscious of it". "I actually didn't know that", she said. In addition to crafting stories that specifically relate to different demographics, there needs to be more due diligence on the part of creatives in the film industry to consider how their internalized biases inform practices of casting more generally in order to really be inclusive.

On the other side of the equation, both Thor: Ragnarok's Tessa Thompson and Jane the Virgin's Gina Rodriguez also portray members of the exploration party seen in the film.

Natalie Portman plays a biologist and former soldier who joins the expedition to find out what happened to her husband, a special forces operative mortally wounded while investigating the phenomenon.

But Garland also admits to what is essentially willful ignorance, which makes his explanation frustrating and unsatisfying: "I didn't read books two and three because I was anxious about them, but other people filled me in on the elements".

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