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‘The Tomorrow War’ Cast and Crew Share Their Thoughts on Making a Film With Heavy Themes

Amazon Studios recently hosted a two-part press conference with the cast and crew of The Tomorrow War, hosted by Vanity Fair writer Anthony Breznican. The first part of the conference reunited the actors in the “present” timeline, Chris Pratt, J.K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Edwin Hodge, and Sam Richardson, alongside screenwriter Zach Dean. In contrast, the second part teamed up the actors in the “future” timeline, composed of Yvonne Strahovski, Jasmine Matthews, and Keith Powers, with director Chris McKay joining them. Since Chris Pratt is the film’s main character and travels through both timelines, he joined both parts of the press conference.

During the first part of the press conference, it was mostly focused on making a sci-fi film with heavy-handed themes, such as family, and crafting its biggest action sequences. For instance, when asked about the backstory behind the movie’s first leap into the future, screenwriter Zach Dean explained that “it was always that sort of horrific idea of you leap into the future and you end up in an environment that you didn’t expect at all. This submersive idea that suddenly you’re struggling through your life, the second—you’re already taking this leap into whether or not I’ll even know what I am in the future, and then you land in the space that’s high jeopardy.”

Then, when asked about how the movie deals with the theme of family, and how the film explores with the notion of what one generation owes to the next by preventing a future war, Dean explained that he wanted to do “something with the idea of conscription […] for a long time. The idea of not having it be about necessarily an ideology or patriotism or loyalty to produce your country but being about literally your desire to save your own kids. Who doesn’t sign up for that? It’s a different thing. We’re not asking for an abstract idea. It’s about parenting.”

Through that theme, Chris Pratt explained that the film deals with “with people who are making life decisions based not on the life that they could lead, but rather the world that they’re leaving for their children. My character, Dan is doing this because if he doesn’t go, they’re going to take his wife in his place. This is something he has to do to protect his family and to protect his daughter and leave her with a home life of having her mother there.”

On the father-son relationship Pratt’s character shares with J.K. Simmons, the Guardians of the Galaxy star described that his character “has more similarities with his father than he’s even realized, and in coming to grips with that, gets to a place of grace and of acceptance and forgiveness for his father because he sees that it wasn’t easy for his father either.”

On bringing comedy in a film with a rather grim setting, actor Sam Richardson, who plays the comic relief character in The Tomorrow war, said that he “wasn’t trying to play very broad wackadoo comedy”, but more of a release valve that’s grounded with emotion. “With Charlie, Richardson says, he’s a bunch of emotions and emotions that people typically would hide. Like he’s very fearful, he’s afraid. I think the emotion of fear is what I was playing with.”

During the second part of the press conference, director Chris McKay complemented Zach Dean’s thoughts on constructing a movie with heavy-handed themes, by finding the right balance between a human story and drama: “I want any movie that I do—to have an original sci-fi movie that can have as a big epic scope of this and amazing performances with a beautiful cast, but also can have a little bit of heart and a little bit of something to think about, that was why I wanted to do this since it was real. The script in this cast and crew was a real gift.”

Actor Keith Powers had lots to share on the film’s parallels to the current pandemic we are living in: “The funny thing, when I first read it, a lot of that stuff didn’t even hit me and as I kept reading the script and as we were shooting, I was like, “Whoa, that whole environmental aspect and then just—” I mean, after the crazy year we had, just the parallels between the pandemic and us fighting a war tomorrow in the present, all of it just hit me like, “Oh, wow, it’s crazy. God’s timing is crazy, the timing of this coming out and where we are in the world”; and it’s much needed. It’s definitely needed.”

On working with Chris McKay, and his transition from animation to live-action, Pratt noted that “He’s the kind of guy that is open to collaboration but also has a very clear vision. This is 100% his baby. I’ve worked with people who have transitioned from a writer into a director. […] I think the best directors come from that side because you know what you need to give yourself in the room. He gave himself a lot of amazing options for the edit. He’s got this thing, this personality, a great knowledge of film, but also just a really vibrant personality, an exciting aura about him when he’s on set. It’s really contagious.”

On making a big-budget action film for the first time, Chris McKay explained that he wanted the actors to feel “feel like they could own that space, wherever, whatever scene it was, and just build stuff together.That’s more interesting to me. At the end of the day, […] I have a solid foundation and know what you need to do and all this stuff that comes from good filmmaking practices, good animation building practices, but also be really open to what everyone’s going to provide because we had such a really beautiful, unique cast, people who brought a lot of their own stuff to the table, and it was important to me to have that texture in the movie.”

The Tomorrow War will be available to stream July 2nd on Amazon Prime Video.


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Written by Maxance Vincent

Maxance Vincent is a freelance film and TV critic, and a recent graduate of a BFA in Film Studies at the Université de Montréal. He is currently finishing a specialization in Video Game Studies, focusing on the psychological effects regarding the critical discourse on violent video games.

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