To hear writer/directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods tell it, 65 is the movie they’ve been working towards since they were 10-year-olds in Iowa making stop-motion home movies with their Jurassic Park action figures. Starring Adam Driver and Ariana Greenblatt, 65 is their long gestating, original sci-fi epic featuring rampaging dinosaurs and two humans forced to connect with one another despite their personal losses.
While 65 could have just been about pitting dinos against almost defenseless humans, Woods exclusively tells SFX/GamesRadar+ that as thematic writers they couldn’t just take the action path. "So we started thinking, 'We're writing a dinosaur movie. The dinosaurs went extinct. That's really sad. There's no dinosaurs, but then out of death grew something special, which is eventually that Earth kept going and civilization started.' This idea of rebirth, oddly, started filtering its way into the movie and the characters."
From that premise came the story of commercial pilot Commander Mills (Driver) and young Koa (Greenblatt), the only two survivors when their ship is hit by an asteroid and crashes onto an uncharted planet. Vulnerable and with few resources – along with a language barrier – the two have to work together to survive despite their uncertainty about one another.
"We just loved this idea of having what is on the surface this high concept, pulpy, B-movie premise. And then the whole movie stops for like a Terrence Malick scene," Woods says about the intimate story that’s at the heart of the film. "We love doing that ebb and flow. There are the layers of the fun of the premise, but also the almost nonverbal silent film, intimate character moments as well. And that for us was a lot of fun."
The Driver effect
In order to pull off a dialogue light script between an adult and a child, casting became key. For Mills, Beck and Woods set their sights on Adam Driver. They passionately pitched him during the pandemic lockdown and the actor was convinced.
"Adam has been such an incredible collaborator from the very start, because we would break down the script together," Beck says enthusiastically about Driver’s early input. "He'd present 10 thoughts, and we'd want to sit down, listen, break down, and figure out a way to do all 10 of those. And then in the editing process, it's him reacting to what the movie is. We would be on set, and we would love to do take after take and get nuance and differences. We were always like, 'We want one more!' and Adam is like, 'Well, I want one more than that.'
"We would be able to build these versions of the scenes, and sit back and evaluate them as a team. Adam is so intelligent in terms of behavioral science, but also what is just instinctually the right note to hit. It's something that we love, because there's two of us and we are always indulging each other in conversation. To have Adam inside the little circle of trust was an incredible experience."
Before going on location in Louisiana and Oregon, which double for the planet’s prehistoric surface, Beck and Woods invested in a healthy rehearsal period with Driver and Greenblatt. "And even though there's not much dialogue, there's a lot to break down in just the interactions," Beck says of what they focused on.
A prehistoric world
Outside of the actors, there was also the delight of getting to stock their film with dinosaurs and creatures from the late Cretaceous period. Asked how they narrowed it down to the ones featured in the finished film, Beck says, "In the cinematic landscape, everyone's living beneath the shadow of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, so I think there's an expectation that you have to have a T. rex, as John Hammond once said.
"And then we were thinking, not about the age of dinosaurs, but the age of now with scientists that dive into the Mariana Trench. And how on every single dive, there's a new form of creature that they find. Some similar to what we've seen, and some that expand beyond even what we know in the modern day." The result is a mix of known dinos, crocodilians, and even their own bespoke mega predator.
They also built some practical creatures, and brought in Cirque de Soleil performers to get inside big dinosaur suits to play the film’s version of raptors. "They would move in these various ways that felt terrifying, but very real given their experience," Beck details. "We put them on set so that Adam and Ariana could react to something physical, because in other cases they were reacting to the typical green screen person in a suit. But when we had the puppets, so to speak, on hand, it was immediate in terms of their performance of feeling that fear and that anxiety that percolated in every single frame."
65 is in cinemas from March 10. Check back for our spoiler-filled follow-up with Beck & Woods and for more exclusive post-release intel from Beck & Woods on 65, grab a copy of SFX Magazine Issue #364 on stands March 22.