When we sat down with Hall to chat about the flick, we naturally had to find out how she and Depp found the closeness necessary to play a madly in love couple, one half of which resides mostly behind a computer screen. Their easy rapport certainly helped. "We made each other laugh a lot," the actress, known for her roles in Iron Man 3, The Town, and The Prestige, added. "So, it was very easy and fun."
Though Depp and co-star Morgan Freeman make for quite the boldface billing, make no mistake: Transcendence is truly Hall's movie. In fact, when she first read the script, she was surprised to learn that her character, Evelyn, was at the center of the story. "Sci-fi action thrillers usually have a man driving the narrative, but this one had a woman," she said. Another revelation? The movie's futuristic ideas — advanced artificial intelligence and uploading human consciousness onto computers — may not be all that far-fetched. "It's a possibility of the very near future," she told us. "So, when I realized all those things, I was like, 'Okay, this is a completely original and very relevant and pressing film.'"
Read on to hear about her next leading role (opposite Jason Sudeikis), and how on-set downtime turned into Transcendence: The Band.
What did you personally see as the movie's message or warning about society?
"I think the film’s essential question that it poses is: How far can we, as a race of humans, become integrated with machines before we lose what essentially makes us human? Or, equally, is that just the next step of evolution? There’s no right or wrong, and there’s no way of answering that question. But, it is something we do have to think about because, as we become more and more integrated [into] our iPhones and checking email, how do we maintain what makes us human?"
Can you describe how filming worked with Depp being on a computer screen? Was it hard to get used to?
"No. It probably took up some time technically, but we had this brilliant team of people working to make this rather original conceit work. So, I never acted with a blank TV screen, ever. I only ever acted with Johnny live. They had him in an adjacent room to wherever we were filming, they’d shoot him, and they’d beam it live onto the set next door. We both had ear pieces in, so we could talk to each other all the time. So, everything that you see of us talking to each other when he’s in a monitor is live, is real. And, it was shot conventionally, and I think it shows, because I look like I’m reacting to something."
The movie is very serious, did you ever feel the need to break it up with some humor between takes?
"All the time. I think there’s a correlation: The more serious the subject matter, the more silly the behavior becomes between takes. So, yeah, there was a lot of laughter."
What is your relationship with technology? Are you glued to your phone all the time or do you make sure to set time away from it?
"I’m probably much more plugged in than I think I am — I think we all are. If I actually ran a test on how many times I check my phone, it would probably surprise me. But, I still read books, actual books, and I play the piano. My downtime activities don’t always involve computers or TV."
How do you unwind after filming?
"I usually play music on speakers or play it myself on the piano. This company was fun for that, because everyone on this cast, including Wally [Pfister, director], obviously Johnny, and Paul Bettany — everybody played an instrument. There were a couple times we’d get together and just play music."
This film definitely has some scary undertones — are there any movies that are guaranteed to scare you?
"Yes, there are a couple of films that are guaranteed to scare me. Rosemary’s Baby always scares me, but it’s one of my favorite films. I love it — I think it’s a great film. Also, Dead Ringers, with Jeremy Irons."
What can you tell us about Tumbledown, the new movie you're filming with Jason Sudeikis?
"I can tell you that it’s a lot of fun right now! I’m two weeks in, and deliriously tired, because we did a night shoot the night before last, which sent me into gaga land. But, I’m having a great time on it. It’s really nice for me, because I’ve done a lot of heavy thrillers just recently, and I just did a stint on Broadway in a play about a woman in an electric chair, which wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs, either. So, I am over the moon to get to be flexing my comedy muscle a bit."