Home Film In Time – Director Andrew Niccol and the obsession with youth

In Time – Director Andrew Niccol and the obsession with youth

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In Time - Director Andrew Niccol with Justin Timberlake
Writer-producer-director Andrew Niccol reviews a scene with Justin Timberlake, on the set © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox

Andrew Niccol wrote and directed commercials in London before coming to Los Angeles to make films, in his words, ‘longer than 60 seconds.’ His first movie as writer/director was the popular sci fi flick Gattaca. He went on to pen the critically acclaimed and Academy Award nominated, The Truman Show which starred Jim Carrey.

His new movie In Time takes him back to his sci-fi roots. Set in the future, it stars Justin Timberlake as Will Salas, who lives in the poor section of Dayton, where everyone is fighting to stay alive for another day … because life ends at the age of 25 unless you can earn, steal or inherit more time. When he’s handed the gift of time that gives him access to the world of the wealthy, he teams up with an heiress named Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), to change the corrupt system.


Do you feel that this type of situation, a Big Brother society, is where we’re moving towards?

In Time - Director Andrew Niccol
Visionary filmmaker Andrew Niccol produced, wrote and directed the film © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox

I understand that there’s a Big Brother element, but for me it’s more about the obsession with youth and it’s great we shot the movie in Los Angeles, which is the capital of staying young forever. It seemed appropriate in a way.

The world of In Time looks very familiar because when we conceived the film’s look, we posited that the invention of the body clock was essentially the death of all other inventions; the poor have no time to create anything new and the rich have no incentive. Why do something today, when you can do it 100 years from now?

Can you talk a little about the setting for the movie?

Everything, including the production design and cinematography, is related to time. We decided that there would be no graffiti in the ghetto because no one has time to waste scrawling on a wall.

In Dayton, where everyone’s running, the camera was constantly moving, and when we got to the wealthy zone of New Greenwich, we would slow down the camera. We wanted to give you the feeling that time has somehow slowed down for these rich people. Similarly, the music is up-tempo in the poor zone and it would slow down for scenes in the rich zone.

The movie seems timely with the ‘occupy Wall Street’ – you made this well before this was happening. How does it feel right now for this to be going on and have this movie seem so timely because of it?

In Time - Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried
Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) and Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried) are on the run, and almost out of time © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox

I’m a prophet! No, it wasn’t a leaping off point for me for the movie, I wanted to write a thriller and I thought it was a great metaphor for living in the present. But as soon as you make the decision that time is going to be currency then it should be a reflection of what’s happening today, and obviously it is.

In Time is an action thriller. I think people can enjoy it on that level. They’ll go for the stunts, action, car chases and to see Amanda Seyfried wielding a gun, which she does brilliantly!

But I think audiences will appreciate some of the ideas and themes we explore, because In Time does say something about our desire to stay young forever. While we can’t turn off the aging gene, as we’re able to do in the film, we do go to a lot of extremes to stay young.

Why did you decide that the end age was 25?

In Time - Internal clock
In this world everyone has an internal clock, which measures how much time they have to live © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox

I didn’t decide that, biology decided that because that is the age when you stop fully developing. That’s when your frontal lobe finally fully develops, that’s why a rental car company in America won’t rent you a car until you’re 25, because this lobe controls reckless behavior and impulse and they don’t want to give you a car if you’re reckless.

That’s why you wouldn’t switch off the aging gene until you were fully developed.

Can you talk about casting the movie?

All the actors had to look around age 25. There are characters in the film who are chronologically 100 years old, so I had to search for ‘old souls.’ Only certain young actors have the ability to play a senior citizen in a 25-year-old body.

What was it like working with Justin Timberlake?

In Time - Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried
Will (Justin Timberlake) and Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) pause to consider the next move in their relentless drive to change their world © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox

I love Justin’s work ethic, which is one of the important traits he shares with his character, Will Salas. It was actually very fitting that Justin played Will.

Will has to wake up every day and go to work or die, and I don’t think Justin himself has taken a day off since he was 12 years old. There is no reason he won’t be a successful action hero [as Will] because he’s great at anything he turns his hand to.

I found myself drawing parallels to Gattaca. There was a similarity in the production design in the future view. Was there a connection for you?

When I was making Gattaca, I knew that the holy grail of genetic engineering was to switch off the aging gene, but I knew the implications of that would be so great that that would have to be another movie, so that’s why it’s another movie.

What do you hope audiences will take away from this movie?

My hope is that audiences will enjoy In Time on a lot of different levels. Some will see it for the big action scenes, or for the love story between Will and Sylvia. It’s a thrilling ride, but there are ideas there as well.

Every second really does count – in the world of In Time and in ours.