Johnny Depp’s new sci-fi thriller Transcendence tells the intriguing story of Dr Will Caster, an expert in Artificial Intelligence who is working to create a machine, PINN (Physically Independent Neural Network), that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known, with the full range of human emotions. When anti-technology extremists murder Caster, the doctor ends up becoming the catalyst for his own experiment, with his quest for power making him unstoppable.
Johnny talked to the press last week about the movie, which opens nationwide on April 18th.
What was it about this project that interested you?
What I really found intriguing about this story was the idea that one man with a brilliant mind, a simple guy who adores his wife and does the crossword puzzle every morning, is able to take his expertise to the point where ego, power and passion could ultimately evolve him into something of a mechanical god.
Do you consider Will to be a good or bad guy?
Will’s a good guy who has the world’s best interests at heart in trying to achieve transcendence. But because he becomes so powerful, has access to basically all the information on the internet and believes in his own methods, it becomes very hard to stop him.
Anyone with that much control, even with what may be the best of intentions, well, there will always be those who see things differently. In Will’s case, it seems like it may be too late to stop him.
When Will becomes an image on the computer screen, did you feel a little bit like Max Headroom?
I did feel a little bit like Max Headroom. I guess the worst part is I liked it, I liked being in my little dark room and never on the other side. It was always done through videotape and sound.
Your character seems to age backwards once he’s in the computer.
I was in (Benjamin Button) too as Brad Pitt!
What was the thinking behind that?
Once he’s inside PINN, he could become anything. I think that one of the things hopefully that came across is he got a little bit brighter and a younger version of Will.
He became the version of Will that Evelyn (he wife) wants to see, as opposed to the Will who can’t button his shirt correctly.
Profound questions are asked in this about technology. What’s your take on it?
People have been fighting wars over ‘my god is better than your god’ for thousands of years. In the 21st century, I think it’s appropriate to look at the way human beings worship technology and what that could mean for our future.
Whether you’re on the side of technology or ecology, a pacifist or an extremist, most people have very definite opinions, and the question of how far we should allow our dependence on computers to go is a question that needs to be asked.
Dr Will Caster has been compared to Frankenstein, and Johnny was asked if he based him on that character – click here for his amusing answer.