16 April 2024

Director Michael Pearce and how the “movie gods” were good to him on Encounter

It’s four years since psychological drama Beast put director Michael Pearce on the map – and helped launch the careers of Johnny Flynn and Jessie Buckley. And, as his latest film, Encounter, reaches Amazon Prime by way of screenings at Toronto and the London Film Festival, he admits that what he calls the “movie gods” have been good to him.

The film stars Oscar nominee Riz Ahmed as a decorated ex-Marine who, having been discharged from the services, is obsessed by a potential alien attack on Earth, continually seeing evidence that it could happen at any moment. Seeing an upsurge in extra-terrestrial activity and insect plagues in the desert, he’s determined to save his two young sons and whisks them away on what the boys initially believe is a road trip with dad. They soon learn that there’s an invasion on the way, but that it might not be quite what they’d imagined.

In the exclusive interview below, Pearce talks about how Ahmed, who won the Richard Harris Award at this week’s BIFAs and was also a Best Actor nominee for his performance in the film, had already seen the script when they met and essentially pitched himself for the role. He also recalls the nationwide search he undertook to cast the roles of Ahmed’s sons.

A multi-genre film, including sci fi, family drama and road movie, it was filmed in the desert in the USA in 2020 during the pandemic. The location immediately gave it an apocalyptic, lawless feel which Pearce describes as being “on the edge of civilisation.” It’s also a film the director feels was unexpectedly pertinent at the time of the shoot and still has the same relevance today. America was divided over the presidential election, conspiracy theories abounded, there were extreme weather conditions and forest fires and that, added to COVID, made it feel like the production was taking place “on the precipice of an apocalypse.”

Encounter is on Amazon Prime from Friday, 10 December 2021. | Read our review of the film.

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