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Alex Garland on the ‘Mistake’ That Led to Oscar Isaac’s Robot Dance in ‘Ex Machina’

The "Annihilation" writer-director parsed the Internet's favorite scene from his career.

Ex Machina

“Ex Machina”

A24

As Alex Garland’s well-reviewed “Annihilation” steers into its second weekend at the U.S. box office, TIFF Originals just debuted a clip in which the writer-director details his motives for a beloved scene from his previous Oscar Isaac collaboration. Midway through “Ex Machina,” Bluebook CEO Nathan Bateman (Isaac) jolts his junior employee (Domhnall Gleeson) — and audiences — by joining one of his laboratory robots for a ludicrous, choreographed, much-memed dance sequence.

After adapting Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel “Never Let Me Go” into the 2010 film of the same name, Garland realized he made a “mistake,” even though he remains pleased with the final result, directed by Mark Romanek and starring Carey Mulligan. “I felt I hadn’t been bold enough with gear changes,” he said. “It found a tone, and it hit the tone really nicely, but then it kept that tone.”

Thus he included the red-lit shimmying in “Ex Machina” “to do something that just busts up the tone and woke people up.” The digression definitely helped people pay attention to the film, which won the Best Visual Effect Oscar in 2015 (Garland was also nominated for his script).

Paramount released Garland’s sophomore directorial effort, “Annihilation,” in American, Canadian, and Chinese theaters. International distribution rights belong to Netflix, which will begin streaming the film elsewhere on March 12. That announcement rankled some, as did claims that casting Natalie Portman in the lead was whitewashing (author Jeff VanderMeer, who wrote the corresponding novel, alluded to her character’s “strong Asian heritage on one side of her family” in the book’s sequel).

Watch the TIFF Originals clip below.

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