You get the sense that John Malkovich is messing with you. Something about the way he speaks, his eyes wandering the room, long pauses between meandering thoughts, his voice quiet, trailing off and rising again like waves against the shore. The things he says don’t do anything to dissuade this either. Sure, you expect him to be weird, but you’ve got to wonder if he’s playing up his Malkovich-ness just for shits.
Considering this, there was perhaps no better candidate than Malko himself to write and star in 100 Years, a film directed by Robert Rodriguez that neither you nor anyone you know will ever see. A combination of genius marketing and cheeky practical jokery, the movie was commissioned by the makers of Louis XIII cognac, a $3,100-per-handblown-crystal-bottle blend of eaux de vie that takes a full century to craft and mature. The film was sealed in a specially designed safe, where it’ll remain until November of 2115, at which point it will be screened for a select group of VIPs. Following this announcement, Malkovich immediately remarked that it was not the first film he’s made that none of us will ever see (at which we all had a good laugh), then, dressed in a boxy tweed suit of his own design, slumped in an armchair to hold forth on the diminishing power of movies, the nature of art and the future of sex robots.
Do you have a favourite sci-fi movie?
I’ve never been that much of a cinephile, really — oddly enough. I read science fiction as a fairly young boy. I don’t remember all of it but I remember liking it at the time. Films never so much had that much influence over me, it was more books.
Were there any guidelines you had in your mind with respect to the script for 100 Years?
It gave me an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been the last 100 years and where we might be headed. This isn’t any kind of prognostication or attempted foretelling of something — it’s just a reflection about what might be. Obviously the guiding idea was this idea that Louis XIII takes 100 years to come to fruition and what they’re building is sort of the direct opposite of what culture is right now — which is, if it takes more than a couple of seconds it’s intolerable. We have a house in the south of France, and just a couple of kilometres down the bike path there’s a Roman bridge from 4 BC. Everything isn’t right now.
Did you find it creatively liberating because no one you know will see it?
No, not really because of that. When I, say, act in a play or an opera I never see it. And even if I did I’m not sure how much it would interest me — because the stage is a living, ephemeral experience that is actually not capturable, really. I often don’t see films I’m in because what difference does it make? I mean, I can’t do anything about it, I can’t redo it, I can’t change or impact it — which of course you can do in theatre or opera or some other fields. So it wasn’t so much part of the appeal except conceptually, in that every gratification is actually not an immediate one.
How do you foresee the experience of watching a film in 100 years’ time?
100 years ago that was a highly futuristic, almost scientific endeavour. When F.W. Murnau shot Nosferatu they wore lab coats like astrophysicists or chemists. Who would ever imagine that it would become what it is now? Let alone what it’s morphing — some may even say descending — into. When I went to see The Exorcist there were people coming out profoundly shaken, with vomit on them, absolutely horrified. That’s kind of unimaginable now. I don’t say it’s better or worse — it doesn’t really matter — but it’s different.
Are we still asking the same questions of art as we were 100 years ago?
The question I would have thought great art always asks is, “How do we live?” If we end up having sex just with robots, which apparently some people are rather impatient for if my sources are accurate, I just assume we’ll adapt to it. I can’t wait. Humanity is just so adaptable — and thank god! I think we wouldn’t have survived otherwise. And there’s a lot that’s worthy of surviving. Maybe not everything, let’s face it, but at least some stuff.