Natalie Portman in Talks for EX MACHINA Director’s Enviro-Horror Thriller ANNIHILATION

     May 7, 2015


As a screenwriter, Alex Garland has been doing impressive work for years on films like 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Never Let Me Go. He recently made his directorial debut on a character-driven sci-fi film called Ex Machina which, if you haven’t heard already, is the best movie of 2015 so far. As a result, many have been curious to see what Garland will do next, and it appears that his adaptation of the excellent Jeff VanderMeer novel Annihilation is shaping up to be the winning candidate, with an Oscar winner circling the lead role.

Per Variety, Natalie Portman is in early talks to star in the Paramount Pictures film, which is best described as a chilling enviro-horror thriller. The story follows the expedition of four women who are sent into the mysterious “Area X”, a portion of land in the United States that has been secretly quarantined due to abnormal activity. They are the twelfth expedition sent into Area X on behalf of the mysterious Southern Reach organization. The second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third in a hail of gunfire as the members turned on one another, and the eleventh expedition returned as shells of their former selves, all dying of cancer shortly after coming back.


Image via Marvel

If she signs on, Portman would play the lead character, a biologist (the characters are only referred to by their professions), and Variety notes that the role of the actress’ co-star (likely the psychologist) is being chased by folks like Julianne Moore and Tilda Swinton; though that role won’t be filled until a deal with Portman is closed. Portman’s deal is apparently dependent upon production starting no earlier than the beginning of 2016, but both sides are said to be nearing an agreement.

As a big fan of both Ex Machina and Annihilation, which is the first book in VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy (read it ASAP if you haven’t), word of Portman’s involvement comes as very welcome news, as does the prospect of seeing an actress like Moore or Swinton come onboard alongside her. Garland proved to be a more than capable director with Ex Machina, showing a strong handle on character, theme, and visual storytelling, and I’m eager to see his talents stretched into the terrifying landscape of Area X.


Image via BN

Read the synopsis for Annihilation below.

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer.


In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.
The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one anotioner, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything. []


Image via A24

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