THE PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA
HACKERS - 20th Anniversary Screening + Director Ian Softley Q&A
SATURDAY 20th SEPTEMBER 18:00
This year sees the 20th Anniversary of the cyberpunk crime caper HACKERS, and not only will the Prince Charles cinema (who else?) be screening the film, but also they'll be bringing in Director Ian Softley afterwards for a post-film Q&A discussion. The director submitted an essay about his thoughts on the film, reposted below.
"20 years! The internet and technology that underpins it has changed so much since Hackers’ release in 1995 that sometimes it feels longer than that. When I first read the script for Hackers my debut film Backbeat was about to be released. Backbeat was the story of a love triangle set in Hamburg at a time when pop culture was taking a significant leap forward. It was the birth of the world that I was to grow up in. What I saw in the Hackers script was the potential not to look back, but to look ahead and to try to anticipate what the next cultural leap forward would be. What was the next generation’s rock n’roll? Just as in Backbeat, where I assembled a dynamic group to play the Beatles and their art school friends Stuart Sutcliffe and Astrid Kirchherr, so I wanted a similarly exciting group to be our central ensemble of Hackers. Casting was fun. Most of the cast was about 18, and many future movie stars came through our doors. But, as in my experience subsequently, the right cast always seems to pick itself: Angelina Jolie, Jonny Lee Miller, Matthew Lillard, Fisher Stevens, Lorraine Bracco, Wendell Pierce and Jessie Bradford to name but a few.
Even at the time, I realised that most technology was becoming outdated as soon as it appeared. For me, the film was never about the technology, it was about the popular culture that it generated. I was convinced that what many people considered at the time to be the obsession of a geeky minority would become mainstream popular culture. The more we consulted with collaborators, such as graphic designer Neville Brody, and cutting edge computer designers, the more we realised that cyber culture’s move to the mainstream was already underway. I felt liberated creatively . So I conceived a futuristic Sci Fi database, the fantasy cyber café Cyberdelia, spinning phone boxes on Grand Central station. I just generally let my hair down. Costume designer Roger Burton jumped at the opportunity to reflect this emerging obsession with cyber culture in the eclectic street wear that he assembled. The design department of John Beard and Joanne Woollard customized the laptops, giving them guitar straps and club night stickers and brought Cyberdelia to life in a disused swimming pool.
For me, the central challenge was to find a gripping way to tell a simple story, outlaws beings chased by cops, when the main action takes place in an unseen digital world. I wanted to visualise what they were seeing as they moved through this parallel reality. The characters all lived in Manhattan so I conceived a virtual Manhattan that mirrored the database of the computer they were entering. As they were having this exciting journey through the streets of this virtual world, I wanted it to feel as vibrant and beautiful as possible. The idea was to believe that for the characters, but also for the audience, this world of the imagination is a real place, as real as the physical world that we live in. To make this as tangible and exciting as possible I decided to build a real set, so ambitious in scale that it filled a film studio. Designer John Beard and Visual FX supervisor Peter Chaing (who went on to work with Christopher Nolan) collaborated to create a beautiful world of luminous towers which we shot frame by frame with a motion control camera.
Music has always been an essential part of film storytelling for me, so, as well as Simon Boswell’s score, we put together a dance music soundtrack from relatively unknown bands such as Underworld, Massive Attack, Prodigy, Orbital and Radiohead. Grunge was still pre eminent in the US so this exciting, dynamic score fell on deaf ears at the US record companies. We had to wait for the UK release before we could put out a soundtrack. Such was its success that Hackers 2 and 3 quickly followed.
Hackers was never intended to be high art. It was meant to be fun, a cyber fairytale that was irreverent, bold, provocative and energetic. The music, the intense, rich hued 35mm photography of Andre Sekula, fresh off Pulp Fiction, and most of all, the talented ensemble cast were all pulling in that direction.
It is incredibly exciting that Hackers is screening here at the iconic Prince Charles cinema, I’m really looking forward to seeing it again. It should be a fun night."