‘Predestination’ Directors Avoid Soapbox in Transgender Tale

No voices rose up to suggest directors Michael and Peter Spierig dumb down the story.

“Because we made the film independently, no one was really telling us what to do,” Michael Spierig tells

“We sought and embraced the complexity of it … a lot of cinema is over simplified, perhaps for easy consumption,” Michael Spierig says. “Those early sci-fi films were about ideas, and this is certainly one of them.”

“Predestination” starts with a simple time travel premise but expands into a thornier, more introspective yarn. Ethan Hawke stars as a time cop who bounces through decades to prevent crooks like the “Fizzle Bomber” from committing crimes.

Predestination International TRAILER 1 (2014) - Ethan Hawke Sci-Fi Thriller HD

Hawke’s character runs into a troubled soul (Sarah Snook) at a bar who spins a tale so surreal it shakes his mission and maybe something more.

“Predestination” features a prominent transgender character, something the Spierigs couldn’t have predicted would be so topical at the dawn of 2015 given breakout performers like Laverne Cox of “Orange is the New Black” fame.

The brothers credit Robert A. Heinlein’s “—All You Zombies—,” the short story which inspired the film. Heinlein’s tale, written in the late 1950s, was decades ahead of its time, they say.

Just don’t think “Predestination” is a soapbox affair.

“It’s not an ‘issue’ film. It’s just part of the character,” Michael Spierig says of its transgender themes.

Casting an actor capable of rendering the film’s transgender soul proved the project’s biggest decision, says Peter Spierig, adding they considered hiring two actors to play the complicated part. “We were very nervous about it. We wanted to find somebody new … and we were very fortunate to find Sarah.”

To make the character credible, the production team applied a bevy of makeup techniques to Snook over a period of months to “find the right balance in the makeup” before cameras rolled.

“Less is what really worked for the character,” Michael Spierig says. Adding prosthetics would have “taken away from her performance.”

One might think brothers making movies together would lead to sibling skirmishes. Not so, according to the Spierigs.

“We prepare very carefully, trying to define everything we can, so any disagreements are sorted out in pre-production,” Michael Spierig says. “The great thing about having a filmmaking partner … it’s nice to have this second opinion. ‘Yes, we got it, let’s move on.’”

The Spierigs, whose next film covers the true story of Sarah Winchester and the expansive home she built to ward off ghosts, had another voice of reason on the “Predestination” set.

“Ethan is definitely a collaborator, not an actor who shows up, reads his lines and goes back to his hotel,” Michael Spierig says. And the “Boyhood” star didn’t flinch when the brothers cast the unknown Snook in a critical role.

“He loves the idea of discovering new talent … some actors would be nervous about casting a newcomer like Sarah. He embraced it, he loved it.”

DID YOU KNOW: To prepare for her “Predestination” role, Sarah Snook quizzed her male friends to get into the masculine psyche.

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