Behind the John Malkovich Film You'll Never Live to See

Courtesy of Louis XIII

The veteran actor envisions the future long after he’s gone in a cinematic leap of faith, sponsored by Louis XIII cognac. Here, an exclusive interview with the auteur. 

Scientists say that the first child to live to 150 has already been born. By almost any metric, thousands of today’s tweens will be around to ring in 2116. “Whether that’s a good thing or not, I have no opinion,” says actor, writer, director, fashion designer, muse, and futurist John Malkovich. “But it’s certainly an interesting subject to consider.”

 The future was precisely what the artist was pondering when he began thinking about the film, 100 Years: The Movie You Will Never See, directed by Robert Rodriguez and funded by luxury cognac house Louis XIII, whose digestifs take 100 years to create. The company’s new global executive director, Ludovic du Plessis, approached Malkovich last fall to co-create a picture that none of us will ever see (hashtag #notcomingsoon), and the Being John Malkovich star agreed to be cast in the feature film, but also to write the screenplay, as well. Three teasers have just been released, but the actual movie will be seen by no one until a bespoke safe stored in Cognac, France, automatically opens its bullet-proof doors on November 18, 2115. Silver tickets to 1,000 global influencers have already been delivered, addressed to their descendants and filed with the French government. “Mine will be framed above my bed,” jokes Remy Martin CEO Eric Vallat.

The actor and visionary won’t need an invite—he’ll be long gone. But his kids might be there; their grandchildren certainly will. In an exclusive interview, Malkovich spoke to DEPARTURES about loving robots, subsistence farming, and why being a part of someone else’s dream isn’t such a bad gig.

To you, what is the future? I would define the future as what we can’t imagine. The future is a series of hypotheses. So when I started to think about this film, I looked at two watermarks—what prognosticators of 1915 thought 2015 would look like and what we can’t imagine. I realized that I’d actually have to say something quite personal, so it would probably be best if I wrote the screenplay myself.

So, will we all be replaced by robots? Filmmakers, like Spike Lee with his film, Her, have already gone well down this path. If the metaphor is, Are we more engaged with our virtual life than our actual life?, then there is a way of looking at that and saying how sad, how pathetic, how dehumanizing. And there is another way of looking at it and that is saying, how extraordinarily adaptable, how amazing that a person can live a virtual life in his imagination and require very little from the physical world. I wouldn’t be so insistent on saying that’s a terrible thing. Humankind is pretty adaptable.

You're saying we won't all be subsistence farmers, then? When we look at the staggering rapidity of the changes in our existence—in the last, say, 30 years—the world is certainly moving faster than it ever was, and, on a certain level, it’s probably moving faster every day. It seems inconceivable that we can keep accelerating, but humans are very well equipped to keep at it. Maybe there will be a backlash, and we will all be subsistence farmers. That doesn’t bother me, I like farms. I have a farm in France.

How did you approach a project that no one will see? It was pretty daunting, but it’s also like a good luck card or a get well soon card to future generations. I found it very interesting to be forced to think about when I won’t be here, which is maybe this afternoon, maybe in five years. I don’t know, but to have the freedom to focus on something that I haven’t thought of very much was enticing. And the teasers aren’t related to the film. The film… I can’t reveal much. 

Don’t you feel disappointed that no one you know will see your masterpiece? No. I don’t feel frustrated that no one will see it. If I directed a play, which I often do, people aren’t seeing what I’m seeing in my mind anyway. As a theater director, we live in the hypothetical ideal always. And as an actor, you’re just a figure in someone else’s dream, you’re not the author of that dream. Which can be very satisfying, though some of us do want to be the author sometimes. 

Now that 100 Years is locked in the safe and out of your life, are you an optimist about the future, or a cynic? The cognitive scientist Steven Pinker often talks about how much better we are now than we were 100 or 200 years ago, and I think for the vast majority of the world that is in fact the case. And if the best indication of the future is the past, then one could easily be optimistic.

Image courtesy of Louis XIII.