Hollywood Movies

Are We About To Lose One of Hollywood’s Most Successful Sci-Fi Directors?

April 3, 20246 Mins Read

Alicia Vikander as Ava in Ex Machina

One of the most inventive minds in modern-day filmmaking might be getting ready to take his final bow from the director’s chair, citing concerns with the state of Hollywood ahead of the release of his next A24 collaboration, Civil War.

Believe it or not, Oscar-nominated writer-director Alex Garland wasn’t always in the business of making movies. In fact, he first came onto the scene in 1996 as an author with his novel The Beach, which would later be adapted into a feature-length film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. More importantly, however, the success of Garland’s first book led him to meet someone who would take his career to new heights: famed director Danny Boyle.

2002’s 28 Days Later marked Boyle and Garland’s first official collaboration, with Sunshine following five years later, in 2007. Both films were well-received by critics and audiences, kickstarting Garland’s career as a screenwriter as well as making him one of the most promising up-and-comers in Hollywood.

Since then, Garland has gone on to direct movies like Annihilation and Ex Machina, the latter of which is widely credited with kickstarting the distribution company A24. Although Garland has generally stayed within the realm of science-fiction, he did make his first foray into horror with 2022’s Men starring Jessie Buckley, which … well, its Rotten Tomatoes score speaks for itself.

Today, Garland has amassed some seriously impressive accolades for both writing and directing. The fan-favorite Ex Machina just recently received the IMAX rerelease treatment as A24 looks to promote his next film, a political thriller titled Civil War. But believe it or not, the upcoming movie might be the last time we’ll see the sci-fi auteur behind the camera.

Speaking with The Guardian while doing press for Civil War, Garland revealed that he’s done directing “for the foreseeable future,” reaffirming that he’s indeed planning to step back from the camera following the premiere of his Kirsten Dunst-fronted war epic.

“Nothing’s changed. I’m in a very similar state,” he told the publication after he was asked about a 2022 interview in which he hinted that he would be retiring from directing. Garland added, “I’m not planning to direct again in the foreseeable future,” making sure to clarify, “I do actually love film” but that “filmmaking doesn’t exist in a vacuum.”

Kirsten Dunst standing in a red dust in Alex Garland

Although it seems like Garland has, by no means, lost his passion or creative spark, he did admit that the “pressure” he feels on a near-constant basis outweighed any pros of directing, claiming that he will instead shift his focus to screenwriting.

“The pressure doesn’t come from the money,” Garland explained. “It comes from the fact that you’re asking people to trust something that, on the face of it, doesn’t look very trustworthy.” To further drive home his point, he referenced his cautionary AI tale Ex Machina, saying, “Alicia [Vikander] and Sonoya [Mizuno] are trusting that nudity is going to be dealt with thoughtfully and respectfully … [when] cinema leans towards not doing that.”

Although his comments are, admittedly, somewhat of a head-scratcher, Garland’s qualms with the entertainment industry seem to stem from concerns about the use of VFX, with blue screens becoming the norm with major Hollywood productions. As it’s difficult to predict how well a movie will go over with audiences, Garland appears to be less confident with assuring his cast and crew that things will turn out according to plan, despite not actually having any assurances himself.

With blockbuster budgets only getting bigger and the threat of AI technology looming nearer, Garland’s recent remarks should be ringing warning bells for the entertainment industry—especially in the wake of the now-resolved WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.

Ultimately, for those heartbroken at the prospect of yet another sci-fi legend hanging up his hat, fear not: Garland is still set to co-direct Warfare, which, according to Film Stories, will take place in 2007 during the Iraq War. A-listers including Joseph Quinn, Cosmo Jarvis, Will Poulter, and Charles Melton have been tapped to lead the cast, it and will see Garland teaming up again with Civil War co-author Ray Mendoza.

Although much of the details surrounding Warfare remain shrouded in mystery—including its release date—it does sound like the film could very well be Garland’s final directing credit. There’s always the chance that Civil War could convince him otherwise if audiences rave about it as much as critics have, but things aren’t exactly looking good for his future behind the camera.

Alex Garland clears up retirement claims

Since his initial interview with The Guardian, Garland has clarified his statements about “retiring” from the industry in a recent profile for IndieWire, saying that his remarks have become “extrapolated” in the press. He also explained that his comments had nothing to do with his feelings towards Civil War.

“What I said is I’m going to take a break from directing for the foreseeable future. How that could get extrapolated as what pride I do or do not feel in this movie. I just don’t see the connecting thread,” he said. “I said I’m going to stop directing for the foreseeable future. Why would a statement like that be taken and picked over or interpreted to that degree? There’s something weird happening there. There’s something strange about that … it’s a general strangeness that exists to do with what form public statements take, how they are used, and how words are interpreted or read.”

Surprisingly, Garland only has five directing credits to his name, not including the upcoming Warfare. With this in mind, it’s important to recognize that Garland is, in many ways, best known for his screenplays, making it somewhat less of a surprise that he would want to return to solely writing. However, from the sounds of it, people are clearly misinterpreting his previous statement, with Garland adding, “Filmmaking is not the preserve solely of directors.”

A hiatus of sorts could, potentially, salvage his relationship with filmmaking, though there’s no denying that the future of Hollywood does seem pretty bleak. At the end of the day, Alex Garland is well within his rights to take a pause from directing if he so chooses, and all we can do is hope that his fellow sci-fi auteurs don’t follow suit—otherwise stories like Ex Machina might become a harrowing reality.

(featured image: A24)

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Amanda Landwehr

Amanda is a Los Angeles-based entertainment writer who lives and breathes Star Wars, Marvel, and all things pop culture. When she’s not rotting away behind her laptop screen, you can typically catch Amanda maxing out her AMC Stubs membership.

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