Wednesday 20 June 2018

Interview with writer-director Royce Gorsuch

The idea for the new sci-fi movie Mad Genius (out July 3) came from writer-director Royce Gorsuch’s fascination with the human brain.

What inspired this rather unique – and very fun - particular story, Royce?

The idea for Mad Genius was inspired from a series of articles and books I had been reading around 2012, concerning the real-life efforts of scientists to digitally map the human brain…
I’ve always had a fixation with the power of technology and it’s implications on the human condition. The main trait separating humankind from the animal kingdom is our ability to create tools. And in a very short time span, since the dawn of the computer, our tools have become exponentially powerful, and soon, self-enhancing, and self-evolving.

As I read the articles, I immediately started thinking, “What if you could rewrite the human brain like computer code, and fix all of the human problems happening around the world…” Then, being a storyteller, I thought… “What if that power was in the hands of a mad man?”

My goal with the film was to make an entertaining commentary on “playing god,” and the moral dilemmas of being a creator of any kind.

Did you sit down and watch similar movies before shooting? If so, which ones?

Certainly. I had a cadre of films in the back of my mind during the entire process of creating Mad Genius. Most notably of course, Fight Club, The Matrix, and psychological thrillers of all kinds, but the one that might surprise you most is reverence to the fantastic banter and buddy story of Swingers.
I’d say the biggest influence on Mad Genius was the ground-breaking cyberpunk novel by William Gibson, Neuromancer.

(NOTE: Ironically, Mr. Robot came out during our pre-production, solidifying my thesis that this type of story was missing from the marketplace. And I’m a fan.)

In terms of directing choices, anyone you emulated here?

Emulation is a funny subject, because, as I think about it, I’d say, “Yes, I want to be like this filmmaker or that one,” but at the end of the day, the film is an amalgamation of  all films I’ve seen through the Mad Genius team’s lens.

Do you write with certain actors in mind?

Instead of casting a particular person in my mind’s eye during the scripting of Mad Genius, I rather saw original “personas.” I always imagined Mad Genius as a sort of cult graphic novel, coming to life from the bottom of the shelf. The characters were more caricatures or archetypes than based on anything real I’ve seen. Each character represents a different aspect of the human psyche in a grungy cyberpunk uniform.

Anyone you wanted to get for the movie that didn’t

No. The cast I had the chance to work with was incredible.

Where did you discover Chris Mason?

Chris Mason came from our fantastic casting director Tineka Becker, who sat me down before a live audition series, and showed me a self-tape from this British guy who had these “burning eyes.” He immediately struck me. He had that “movie star presence”  and that internal intensity that you can’t quite define, but you know it when you see it. He’s actually a quite a bit more handsome than I initially envisioned for the character, but it was his internal presence that locked the choice for me. I could see it through the self-tape. Chris had already accomplished quite a bit in his career, but I knew he would be a star.  Not only that, but Chris is also a disciplined actor, who is literally word perfect on the script when he shows up to set. Now, he’s a lead in two different major television series. I think it’s just the beginning for him.

Do you consider the film a success only when it hits a certain monetary figure?

Hah! Great question. I do in a way, because that means a certain amount of people were inspired to buy or rent the film, which in turn means, we got a nice amount of people to see it. Ultimately, that is any artist’s desire. To have their work seen and experienced. And it is the industry’s need to be profitable, so if I can achieve that, it grants me another selling point on my next project.

Has the movie opened doors for you?

Mad Genius has opened many new doors for me, as well as rekindled or “proved my pudding” to old contacts. Thanks to my fantastic manager Matthew Shichtman at The Gotham Group, I have a half-inch thick stack of business cards from major Hollywood producers who wanted to meet after he showed them the director’s cut. Now it’s up to me to deliver a new script that they can’t say no to.


For more Mad Genius movie details and upcoming informational essays by the filmmakers check out: