IFC Films has released the Tesla trailer, which gives you a first look at the Michael Almereyda-directed film opening in theaters and on VOD August 21st. Today is also the birthday of Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-American inventor who lived from 1856 to 1943. You can watch the Tesla trailer using the player below!
In the film, brilliant, visionary Nikola Tesla (Ethan Hawke) fights an uphill battle to bring his revolutionary electrical system to fruition, then faces thornier challenges with his new system for worldwide wireless energy. The film tracks Tesla’s uneasy interactions with his fellow inventor Thomas Edison (Kyle MacLachlan) and his patron George Westinghouse (Jim Gaffigan).
Another thread traces Tesla’s sidewinding courtship of financial titan J.P. Morgan (Donnie Keshawarz), whose daughter Anne (Eve Hewson) takes a more than casual interest in the inventor. Anne analyzes and presents the story as it unfolds, offering a distinctly modern voice to this scientific period drama which, like its subject, defies convention.
Written, directed and produced by Almereyda, Tesla received the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
Hawke believed in Almereyda as a filmmaker, trusting his intelligence and unique voice. “Part of the actor’s job is to help facilitate films being made, and I want Michael to be able to make movies, so that was really the appeal.
“And then there’s something about Nikola Tesla that needs to be discussed right now. More and more it seems like the event of our age is the internet and the massive impact it’s having changing borders and the way we think. It all goes back to this age of invention and Nikola Tesla, so it seems like it’s a great time to revisit this period when wireless energy came onto the scene.”
“This story spoke to me,” added Hawke. “When Michael first told me about Nikola Tesla, I thought, ‘I want to know about this, I wish I knew more. It seems relevant to my life and I have no idea where wireless energy came from.’ People think someone like Steve Jobs created wireless energy and they don’t understand the legacy of invention and the Industrial Age. So, telling that story excited me.”
“Michael first approached me about playing Thomas Edison a year and a half… maybe more, (probably more!) before filming began,” said MacLachlan. “Since we had worked together in 2000 on Hamlet, I was immediately interested when Michael came to me about Edison. He obviously saw something in me playing Edison that intrigued him and he always sees things slightly different. I’d recently let my hair go gray for the role of Franklin Roosevelt and when I looked at photos of Edison, I saw a strong resemblance.”
“Edison came alive for me as I played him in this film,” MacLachlan continued. “Michael sent me a copy of the book, ‘The Diary of Thomas A. Edison,’ written in 1885. It’s the only time he kept a diary, and it was full of flights of fancy and observations about the most mundane things that he saw with a very particular eye.
“Everything around him was alive, imbued with a life force that alternated between science and fantasy. He had a tremendous imagination. Edison became much more ‘human’ I think to all of us after reading this. The ruthless business man is certainly there, but in our story, it’s tempered a bit by his humanity.”
George Westinghouse would come to life through comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan. “Jim has terrific dramatic instincts, and a natural quickness and warmth,” said Almereyda. “By all accounts, George Westinghouse was an uncommonly decent captain of industry, and Jim delivers the perfect mix of authority and humanity, with a layer of caginess shining through. Jim’s Westinghouse is a jolly fellow, a bit like Santa Claus, though a version of Santa who might keep some presents for himself.”
Anne Morgan, who narrates the film, is played by Eve Hewson. “Anne Morgan is well-educated, very well off, and was exposed to many different characters and different parts of the world,” explained Hewson. “She understands the world in a unique way, in a way that even some of the men in the story don’t. When she meets Tesla, she sees something very special in him and understands who he is and what he’s trying to do. I think in a way, she falls in love with the idea of him and the idea of who she could be if she attaches herself to him.”
Let us know what you think about the Tesla trailer in the comments below!