With the Internet, Netflix, grocery-delivery services and all the rest, it's a wonder why anybody ever leaves the house anymore. Now, fast-rising Hollywood actress Elizabeth Banks is taking a most unusual career departure, getting hands-on with a trippy sci-fi flick about people who'd prefer to not put their hands on anything.
"It seemed like a natural progression," the "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" star said of her upcoming producing debut, "The Surrogates." "I'm in L.A., I'm in this business, I'm not going anywhere."
The film reunites Bruce Willis with his "Pulp Fiction" co-star Ving Rhames, rounding out the cast with solid actors such as Rosamund Pike ("Die Another Day") and Radha Mitchell ("Feast of Love"). Based on a hit comic book series about murders in a futuristic society where robots stand in for their human bosses, it's directed by "Terminator 3" filmmaker Jonathan Mostow.
"It's a very cool world that's been created by Robert Vendetti — who created the comic books that it's based on — in which it's sort of an extension of the world we live in right now, but there's less and less of human contact," explained Banks, saying the film is very timely when you consider where the world is headed. "We're constantly on the cell phone. When you go to the bank, you go to the machine now — you never see a teller. You can check out of the grocery store without ever seeing somebody. So it's an extension of that world, where essentially going out becomes something you do through a surrogate."
"I'm a surrogate and I'm a human," said Mitchell, who plays the wife of Willis' police detective in the film. "People take over my surrogate, so I get to be different people. It's a pretty interesting concept.
"It's a movie set in the future, but not that far in the future," Mitchell continued. "People don't actually live their lives, but they send surrogate robots to go do everything for them — their work, their relationships, everything. They just sit at home and experience it in a chair. So, you have all the sensation of a life, but you don't physically live it. It's interesting, because men can be women, women can be men, and ugly people can be beautiful."
Which brings us back to the novelty of Banks' involvement, since one of Hollywood's most beautiful women decided early on that she'd better serve "Surrogates" by staying behind the camera this time.
"I like the art of the deal, and I really love the storytelling and the development of ideas and stories and seeing them from the seed, blossoming into the actual movie and sharing it with audiences," Banks said of the flick, which she's co-producing with her husband, Max Handleman. "It's the first movie that my company, Brownstone Productions, has gotten produced. It was made very quickly; we feel very lucky. It's this big Disney movie that will be out in fall of 2009."
Judging by comments on MTV's Splash Page blog — such as user UncleMike's declaration that "this trilogy is going to be the biggest thing since 'The Lord of the Rings'!" — it seems like a film fans will want to keep on their radar.
"It's cool and sort of 'Blade Runner'-ish," Banks said of the flick, which is filming in the Boston area. "[It's intriguing to imagine a world where] you get to stay in the comfort of your own home, in the safety of your own home, in a home where global warming isn't affecting you, where you're still breathing filtered air. You don't have to actually go outside; these surrogates go out and live your life for you, and it's a world where there's no fear anymore. Your surrogate can go and jump off the top of a building; the only thing that's going to happen is you're going to have to buy a new surrogate.
"But you don't die," Banks grinned. "You get to feel the sensation of flying without leaving a chair, in your room, so it's all virtual-reality-based experiences. It's very trippy."
And if "The Surrogates" is indeed a hit, Vendetti is ready for more. Having envisioned the comic as a movie-ready franchise, he is hard at work on a prequel called "Flesh and Bone" and hopes to write a sequel after that. "There is only a prequel to 'The Surrogates,' as of right now, that hasn't even come out yet," Banks explained. "But we would love to make that into a movie [as well]."
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