We asked Surrogates director Jonathan Mostow all the really important stuff about our robot-filled future. Such as: how do we go to the bathroom while attached to a robot? And what kind of drugs are there for my robot half?
In Surrogates, people stay at home all the time, and jack their brains into glamorous, super-strong robot bodies, so you don't have to risk getting hurt or let people see your bad skin. Mostow explains to us how it all works.
So explain to me how this stem chair works, how does it save people from bed sores if they sit in it all day?
If you literally were in a chair all day long, you would have to worry about things like bed sores. But in the movie, they have these fantastic chairs that are constantly stimulating your body parts so you never have to suffer from those problems.
But how do they eat and go to the bathroom?
Well you have to get up occasionally, things like that technology can't do for you. There are a couple moments in the movie where the surrogate is completely immobilized and you find out that their operator was in the bathroom or getting a snack or something. Basically your Surrogate freezes in the action of whatever it's doing, and you can go into action and go and do whatever it is you need to do — then go back online. It's no different [than] if you were in a chat room, and you got up and and had a salad in the refrigerator and then come back. Everybody who was talking to you would just see a blinking cursor for a moment.
I've seen in the trailers that you can customize your Surrogates and I believe I saw one Surrogate with eyes on the side of its head. What else can you do?
Actually that's one of the few scenes that's not in the movie anymore. We have a scene in a bar where the bartender had put eyes in the side of his head so he can be helping out one customer, yet seeing what the patrons at the other end of the bar wanted. That's actually no longer in the movie, but there are other customized Surrogates in the movie. Most people chose to have an idealized version of themselves, but some people chose to completely change their identity. Some people chose to change their gender.
You see a girl who has literally put spikes coming out of her skull — metal spikes. She's gone a bit punk with their Surrogate. And there are Surrogates who have completely changed their skin color. We don't spend a whole lot of time on that because it's not germane to the central plot of the movie. But it was an idea that we wanted to pay some lip service to.
My personal favorite things about movies in the "not so distant future" are the little things that the crew and writers come up with, the things that set it apart as the future.
We have a lot of blink-and-you-may-miss-it details like that. I made the decision, early in preproduction, to do what the graphic novel did: even though it's set in the future, he made the world look like it does today, just with Surrogates in it. I didn't want this to be a movie where the question was, "hey do you think cars are really going to look like that in the future, will they be flying around?" These are the question marks that can distract you, when you watch a movie that is set in the future. So I said, let's just make this movie in the near future, and this technology will have come a long way very quickly. So it looks like the world we live in but it's just populated with all these robots.
What was that thing in the trailer that the Surrogates were stabbing themselves with, it looked like a drug or electricity or something like that?
There's a scene in the movie with something called "the jacker," and it's at a party. There's this glass tube that's sending this blue energy. There's a party scene where Bruce's wife is home with some friends and she's a Surrogate and they are all Surrogates too. And they are engaged in this sort of communal thing... that is, sort of... it's unclear if it's a drug-like thing, is it sort of a sexual thing, is it a combination of the two? And it basically is giving these people back in their stem chairs at home a rush by applying this energy field to their Surrogates.
Well how well policed is this Surrogates program? It seems to be owned by a private company, and yet the police use them as well?
Think of it like Microsoft, where Microsoft is a private company but everyone from law enforcement to criminals use their software. This company is the leading manufacturer of Surrogate robots and it spread like wildfire...There's no formal relationship between the government and the Surrogates.
What did Bruce Willis think about the idealized version of himself?
Bruce was an active participant in all that. We explored a lot of different looks and settled on this look as the best choice. The best thing about Bruce is he's in such good shape and a good looking guy we were able to make him look younger with a variety of old fashioned techniques and some CGI. And for his real self, we were able to make him look like he had more milage on him, with a series of old fashioned film techniques, and with his own performance. As opposed to getting a guy who's 25-years-old and [trying to] make him look 50, Bruce was the perfect guy for this film.
Was it his decision to make his ideal robot self blond? That's some beautiful robot hair there.
We wanted something where you look at it and say I've never seen Bruce Willis look like that before. We wanted something to catch your attention. And that's the whole point, people don't look like themselves. And in Bruce's character's mind he'd like to look as if he was 20 years younger.