John Malkovich on Filming His Vision of 2115, Then Locking It Away in a Time Capsule

John Malkovich

Actor and director Robert Rodriguez was recruited by Louis XIII champagne cognac to imagine what life will be like in 100 years.

What if you were asked to make a movie that no one — in this century at least — would get to see?

This is precisely the task the makers of the ultra luxe Louis XIII champagne cognac assigned to what at first would seem the unlikely pairing of John Malkovich and Robert Rodriguez. A bottle, it turns out, takes 100 years to make — and the actor and director were charged with developing a film project that would convey that gravity of the remarkably patient techniques of their cellar masters.

“For us, it was important to do something that has real meaning,” says Remy Cointreau CEO Eric Vallat. “And we went to John with the idea because he is not only a great talent, but he is also very French minded, he understands the French art de vivre.”

Malkovich insisted on taking on the script, and the result is 100 Years — the Movie You Will Never See, which was locked in a safe Wednesday night, timed to open automatically on Nov. 18, 2115. A limited number of invitations were passed out to a screening of the film on that very date.

A trailer was also created from three filmed teasers, starring Malkovich and Shuya Chang, each of which imagines what life will be like in 2115 (most likely scenario: Nature will have taken over humanity). But the actual content of the feature film will be a very tight-lipped and fervently guarded secret until the opening of the safe.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Malkovich about this studiously conceptual but actually quite thought provoking project.

Why would you choose to be involved in a brand project like this?
Well, I’ve done a number of them — including a Nespresso campaign, also with Robert Rodriguez. With this one, I first met Ludovic [du Plessis, global executive director of Louis XIII] and heard the story about what goes into the product. When they explained the concept to me, I thought it was very clever; but I also understood that it would need to be something quite personal — and it would probably be best if I wrote it.

You found a bit of yourself in the project?
Definitely. It was interesting to me to research it and interesting to write about and to reflect on.

You and Robert Rodriguez share more of an artistic kinship than might be immediately obvious — both of you have a way of coolly stylizing what are sometimes the most horrifying and violent scenarios. Did you have a good working chemistry?
I’m very fond of Robert, I love the way he works, the calmness and ease with the way he does things. And also the confidence and security he has in the choices he makes; he projects great excitement when he feels he has something good.

How strange is it, conceptually, to be working on something that the public isn’t going to see?
It’s odd, but I thought the idea was so good. I’m not at all bothered even that I won’t see it. For me, it was a strange experience, as they often are, and unexpected, as they often are. We had no interference, we had no particular supervision. We could just say, "I was thinking about this, and what about that?"

In the on-demand, “I want it now” world, is the concept of 100 Years almost as important as actually seeing it?
Yes, I think it is.

So the discussions around this film and project were as important as the actual creation?
Well, we found ourselves discussing various scenarios about what would be the visual representation of what life would be like in a hundred years — and then we chose three of them to create the teasers.

We are simultaneously in an embrace and also kind of at war with both technology and nature. Natural disasters are said to be up by 400 percent in the last two decades; and technology is altering our lives at a sometimes harrowing pace. Which scenario do you think most likely: nature taking over our lives, or technology taking over our lives?
It’s funny, some scientists say that in a hundred years, we’ll be able to control the weather — and others say that we’ll disappear because of catastrophic climate extremes. I would say it remains to be seen.

As it always does.
What I would say, however, is that humanity is infinitely adaptable. Maybe it’s terrifying to think that in 20 to 30 years we’ll all be replaced by robots who do everything better than us, and that we’ll be having sex with robots …

That could be fun.
Right, could be fun. But I don’t have much of a judgment about all that — because I generally accept that the world is the way it is. Like how everyone is now looking down at their screens, nobody looks up. You could point to that and say, "Oh, how pitiful, they should be fishing, they should be learning needlepoint, or they should be farming." But humans are doing what they’ve always done: adapting.

We likely couldn’t have done anything but what we’ve actually done.
Exactly. And when you force our hand, we will adapt — and that may even mean creating something opposed to that forced adaptation, something totally else. You know, we won’t outlive the cockroaches … but we’ll be the second to last.

How much of the film itself is a sort of gift to a future generation, a window back into this time? And how much is it your projection of the future?
I am actually allowed to say that it ends with the line, "My name was John." But I would also say that it’s somewhere between a 'Get well soon' card, and a greeting from another time.

Imagine someone a hundred years ago seeing the world of today.
It would have been a fascinating thing in 1915 to see someone reflecting on what it would be like in 2015. Sadly, I think this is the first work I’ve done where I’m really reflecting on other people’s lives and how they will experience them.

So it’s a bit of a eureka moment for you then?
Yes. I guess the idea had just never come to me.

Things happen in their time.
They do. And you just do what you do — and then you go on to the next thing.