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I’m Your Man, directed by German multi-hyphenate Maria Schrader, is a sci-fi romance that explores what it really means to have the perfect partner. As Germany’s entry for best international feature, the film has since been shortlisted as one of the 15 films that will vie for a best international feature nomination at the 94th Academy Awards. Based on Emma Braslavsky’s short story, Ich bin dein Mensch, the film chronicles Maren Egger’s Alma, a lonely scientist who agrees to a three-week experiment that pairs her with a humanoid robot named Tom (Dan Stevens). For Schrader, the chance to turn the rom-com formula on its head was quite appealing.
“It’s like boy meets girl, but then the other way around,” Schrader told THR Presents, powered by Vision Media. “I was very attracted by the fact that the object for once is not the woman … We are on the way already, but you can have your perfect partner designed for you. So what does it do with humans to meet your wishes and have them completely fulfilled? Can we take it?”
It’s fair to wonder why a British actor like Stevens is leading a German-speaking film, but this isn’t his first go-round with the German language or Germany’s film industry.
“I did a movie [Hilde] in Germany about 13 years ago,” Stevens recalled. “I was delighted that Maria was looking for a foreign actor for this role. Even though it is very complicated German, there’s something very funny about the otherness of Tom. My German certainly wasn’t as good as Tom’s when we came into this project, but I quickly improved it. I started to think and dream in German by the end of shooting.”
Schrader added: “As Dan said, we were seeking for some kind of otherness. It serves the character … a robot, and it would serve that idea if we found a fantastic actor who is not necessarily very known in the German prime-time world.”
Longtime fans of Stevens know that a robot is well within the actor’s skill set. After all, he played a programmed killer in Adam Wingard’s 2014 thriller, The Guest, which caught Schrader’s eye.
“This kind of precision I saw in a movie like The Guest,” Schrader explained. “Sometimes, in The Guest, it seemed like his character would be on tracks; it was so precise. I saw glimpses and pieces of Tom, and I thought that might be the perfect fit.”
The success of most love stories hinges on the chemistry between the two leads, but Schrader also strived for the inverse of that genre convention.
“We talked about disconnecting, and that was very hard for Maren and Dan in the beginning,” Schrader admitted. “Whenever they started to have this very easy back-and-forth, ping-pong, I thought, ‘No, no! This is not working … It’s about disconnecting.'”
Stevens added: “The usual things that you lean on, certainly for me, weren’t there, and the things that Maren might expect from her scene partner weren’t there either.”
This THR Presents is brought to you by Bleecker Street.
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