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Q&A – Jude Law and Forest Whitaker of Repo Men on Who’s the Public Geek

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“You owe it to your family. You owe it to yourself.” So goes the motto of the Union, a credit union that helps people finance the purchase of all kinds of artificial organs, from hearts and livers to upgraded eyes and ears. If you can’t make your payments, after a generous 90-day grace period, repo men such as Remy (played by Jude Law) and Jake (Forest Whitaker) will come to reclaim the company’s property. Based on the book The Repossession Mambo, Repo Men has a lot to say about modern society, as Law and Whitaker explain.

Q: Jude, I would assume from your filmography that you’re a big sci-fi fan. But, Forest, do you have a secret geek side?

JL: So I’ve just got a public geek side? [Laughs]

FW: He knows all about sci-fi. I’ve read some, like Aldous Huxley, and I love Walter Mosley’s Futureland. It used to be the only thing I’d watch on TV would be the Syfy channel. Which sounds kind of odd, but I love it. I like thinking about the future, the possibilities of what’s going to happen, what might be already flourishing today that’s going to be happening more tomorrow.

JL: People grow up watching that stuff and think, “Oh, that would be good, I’ve always wanted a phone in my watch.” Now they just want flying cars.

FW: They have that now.

JL: Flying cars?

FW: It’s like a helicopter plane. It’s a one-seater, and it’s expensive. But I like that concept, of how technology evolves. And not just the technology, but the social movements, too.

Q: From Gattaca to eXistenZ to even Artificial Intelligence: AI, a lot of your films, Jude, deal more with the social aspects. Are you drawn to films that are cyberpunk or bio-punk?

JL: Now that you say that, yes. I think it kind of appeals to me, but not in any way that I’ve sort of obsessed over, but you’re right: that’s been the theme of a lot of my work in sci-fi. I think technology ultimately affects the way we live, and so the idea of technology affecting the way we are as creatures is equally fascinating, if not more so.

FW: We are on the cusp right now in medical technology where we’re about to shift our life spans significantly, where we are going to be able to live 120 years. Not tomorrow, but in the next ten years. Nanotechnology. We’ve got blockers now that go inside certain cells and stop diseases from happening. That’s going to be here, and this is the future, and this movie is dealing with some parts of that.

Q: But having a longer life span isn’t necessarily a good thing, if you consider the impact on society.

JL: There are great warning signs, if you like, in the themes of the piece. It’s saying we’re kind of already suffering under this industry.

Q: You mean credit and debt, the health-care crisis, that sort of thing?

JL: That, and how we have these highly trained ex-military, which we have more of now than ever before. We have all these governments around the world who train men to kill, and, when they go home, how are they going to be normal citizens? They’re desensitized to killing, so how do they fit back into society? We give them a place in this film, which is why it has this theme of violence, and the graphic nature of that violence has to be very real. And then it becomes unreal, this grotesque use of the body, and I hope that it’s shocking, because it should be. Violence is shocking. A Clockwork Orange was a big influence.

FW: And then there’s the emotional question of the violence. When someone takes everything — you lose your car, you lose your job, you lose your home — what’s left? This takes it further.

JL: The idea that they can own you, too, and they’re coming to take it. It’s ours! Your body, our parts.

Q: Obviously, in some cases, transplants save lives. But it seems like the people in this world are using them more as upgrades.

JL: That’s why Remy and Jake kind of look down on the people that rely on these fake organs. It’s seen as something distasteful.

FW: And irresponsible. They didn’t take care of their real organs.

JL: So it’s a strange sense of snobbery, and there’s a sense of shame and disgust when Remy needs one. He’s kind of ashamed that his body has let him down. So, yeah, they kind of look their noses down at these punks who have to go fit themselves up with this stuff.

Q: And yet, you’d think that the company that supplies them would have retrofitted their repo men with artificial organs, limbs, whatnot to make them better fighters — at least at a discount.

JL: That’s the sequel! [Laughs] Do you want to write the sequel with us?

Q: Well, [director] Miguel [Sapochnik] and [author] Eric [Garcia] said that you gave them such great notes about the script as it was in progress — perhaps you could write it yourself!

JL: Maybe I will. But only if you help me!

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