Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson talk about Ex Machina

Actors Oscar Issac and Domhnall Gleeson discuss their roles in the smart-thinking new sci-fi film Ex Machina.

Oscar Isaac, left, and Domhnall Gleeson in Ex Machina. Courtesy Pinewood Studios
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"It's a sci-fi film about a reclusive billionaire genius programmer who invents a robot with AI and he has one of his employees come and test it to see if it has consciousness," says a breathless Oscar Isaac, who plays said genius in Alex Garland's smart-thinking new sci-fi Ex Machina.

The character also enjoys a more physical relationship with his creations, the actor reveals, so when the chance to play the role came up, he says his reaction was: “Count me in. Count me in.”

You can understand Isaac’s excitement about being a part of a film with such a weird and warped take on the dangers of artificial intelligence.

The actor and singer, whose big movie break came with his acclaimed starring role in the Coen brothers' film Inside Llewyn Davis, plays Nathan, the brains behind Ava (Alicia Vikander), an alluring, extremely lifelike robot. Joining him in judging whether she can pass for human is one of his employees, Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson (True Grit, Unbroken).

"Ex Machina was one of those films I'd always wanted to be in," says the Irish actor. "I read it and thought: 'I can't believe I'm going to be in this.'"

Gleeson had acted in two other films scripted by Garland – Never Let Me Go (which dealt with cloning) and the 2000AD comic-book adaptation Dredd.

"He's one of my favourites – I think he had a lot to say," he says of first-time director Garland, whose previous film work as a scriptwriter also includes the Danny Boyle films 28 Days Later and Sunshine. "I bought the screenplay for Sunshine last week, to read it again. I love that movie."

He immediately fell for Ex Machina too, which sets up a tense three-way dynamic between Ava, Caleb and Nathan.

“It’s the sort of sci-fi I like, which is character and high personal stakes, as opposed to some idea of what would be cool to have in a movie,” he says.

“It’s really psychologically taut.”

Isaac agrees, saying that the film addresses pertinent questions – not least about whether mankind can or will ever create true artificial consciousness.

“I definitely think we’re on our way there,” he says. “We are so dependent on our machines ­already.”

In a bizarre twist, Isaac and Gleeson were reunited for a slightly larger-scale sci-fi movie – the hugely anticipated Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, which was partly filmed in Abu Dhabi last year, amid a huge shroud of secrecy, and will be released in ­December.

"I didn't know until he walked in to do the first reading of Star Wars that Domhnall and I were both in it," says Isaac with a laugh. "Pretty crazy."

Ex Machina is out now at cinemas across the UAE

artslife@thenational.ae