We don’t often think of clean-cut American teenagers in Terry Gilliam films. He mostly uses extremely accomplished European actors who can really inhabit his signature quirky characters instead of just read lines and look pretty.
But XX year old Lucas Hedges isn’t like any other American teenager. You won’t find him in the hottest new YA adaptation steaming up the screen with pecs showing and a babe on his arm. Instead, the XX native is computer genius Bob, sent by the all-powerful company to assist data cruncher Qoren (Christoph Waltz) in his search for the mathematical principle of the title.
Having appeared in Wes Anderson films (”The Grand Budapest Hotel” and ”Moonrise Kingdom”) and Jason Reitman’s ”Labor Day”, there’s not a single fratboy comedy in his entire back catalogue. Next up is Jeremy Renner’s crusading investigative journalist fable ”Kill The Messenger”, but first Hedges plays the only character who can navigate the technology-gone-mad world of Gilliam’s latest mind-bender, ”The Zero Theorem”.
Introduce the character of Bob and tell us what you liked about him.
Bob is not your everyday teenager. He’s a computer genius who’s neglected by his father and doesn’t really have many friends. He spends all his time programming and in many ways is a prodigy of computer programming. He’s an absolute genius but doesn’t really have many genuine connections with people.
One of the things that drew me to Bob originally was that he had a ponytail – and I thought that that was cool. That was eventually cut, but I liked how crazy he was and the energy he had. I felt like I could relate to the energy. I couldn’t really relate to the character, but felt I could bring the energy of Bob and have fun.
Gilliam’s films are famous for not being as accessible as some. Did you understand it fully or get a good sense of what he was trying to say?
Well because Terry didn’t write the script I don’t think his goal for the film was necessarily to give the audience a message. I think it was to create a world and have the audience fall into it. He wanted to captivate us with a story that’s important right now – about being disconnected from humanity and getting lost in technology.
A modern teen is a bit of a fish out of water in a Terry Gilliam movie. How did you approach it?
I was a very inexperienced actor and approached it by memorising my lines and showing up. I was sort of thrown into it – I wasn’t ready and I was very nervous. It wasn’t the best way to approach it but it worked out in the end.
The IMDB plot synopsis says Management [Matt Damon] sends Bob to Qoren to distract him from the Zero Theorem project, but that wasn’t altogeher clear in the film. Do you agree and how did their relationship evolve?
There are many possibilities. Management might have sent Bob to get him out of his hair so he could have some free time. He could have sent Bob because he genuinely wanted Bob to tackle this theorem – maybe he thought it was a good experience for him to have.
But I don’t think he sent him to distract Qohen – that doesn’t make sense. I think both of them are very out of touch with a human connection. Their relationship evolved in that they developed a connection. They have a great love for each other and respect for each other. Bob starts to understand Qohen a little more and Qohen starts to love Bob.
You’ve made some eclectic career choices for a guy your age with Wes Anderson movies and now The Zero Theorem. Obviously you’re interested in left of centre material.
Yes, I certainly am. I love Wes Anderson and I love Terry Gilliam. I auditioned for them and they let me work for them. There are plenty of other directors I’d love to work for, but I just happen to get picked by left of center filmmakers.
What can you tell us about Kill The Messenger?
It’s a movie I did in Atlanta last year with Jeremy Renner and Michael Cuesta. It was fun to do that movie because I played someone who was a lot more like myself. I played a normal teenager so that was a nice juxtaposition. It was fun and I got to wear clothing from the 90s, so that was cool.