When Tessa Thompson Realized She Was Destined To Work With Annihilation’s Alex Garland

Annihilation Jennifer Jason Leigh Natalie Portman Tuva Nuvotny Tessa Thompson Gina Rodriguez

Tessa Thompson has established herself as one of the film industry's great rising stars, and in the last few years has had the opportunity to work with some of the best young filmmakers around. In fact, this weekend sees her do it again, as she is featured in Alex Garland's Annihilation... but there's a bit of a funny story behind that relationship. As it happens, their collaboration is destiny of sorts, as Thompson actually promised herself she would work with Garland immediately after she saw 2013's Ex Machina for the first time:

I was really familiar with Alex Garland without knowing how familiar I was. I had seen Ex Machina, and I swear to you I saw that movie and said, 'I will work with him.' Not because I knew I would, just because I knew I wanted to really badly.

I learned about this funny "origin story" earlier this month when I had the pleasure of sitting down with Tessa Thompson for a one-on-one interview during the Los Angeles press day for Annihilation. Being personally a fan of Alex Garland's past work -- including his scripts for films like 28 Days Later and Sunshine -- I asked about her familiarity with the filmmaker prior to signing on to work with him. It was in response to this question that the actress told me the above story about putting a message into the universe after first seeing Garland's directorial debut. It seems that she was really blown away by Ex Machina, and immediately knew that she wanted to have the filmmaker as a collaborator.

Tessa Thompson's research didn't stop there, however. After realizing just how much she wanted to work with the filmmaker behind Ex Machina, she began digging into his filmography, and discovered not only that she was familiar with him, but actually a big fan going back to The Beach: the Danny Boyle-directed film starring Leonardo DiCaprio that was based on Garland's first novel. Said the actress,

So and then in learning more about Alex after that I realized, 'Oh, Alex with The Beach!' That book and then subsequent movie made a whole generation of young people want to go to Thailand! He created that thing like, 'Go to Thailand!' That was funny and interesting, and then I realized all of the films that Alex has written over time, and so realized that I was far more familiar with his work than I originally thought. And that, of course, solidified really, really wanting to work with him.

Fortunately, Tessa Thompson didn't have to wait long to work with Alex Garland. She is not only a key player in the filmmaker's sophomore effort, Annihilation, but she puts on a performance much different than roles we've seen from her in the past. It's quite something to see -- and you can actually see it for yourself now. The new movie is now in theaters everywhere in the United States, and after you check it out be sure to return here to CinemaBlend for more from my interviews with the director and stars.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.