Kim Nguyen’s newest project like its characters sets out to create an amazing story – and it does not disappoint.
The Hummingbird Project tells the story of two cousins: Anton and Vincent (Alexander Skarsgård and Jesse Eisenberg). They attempt to do the impossible, build a straight, uninterrupted line between the Kansas and New York stock exchange. The idea of getting the information in milliseconds is enough for our characters to do whatever it takes to beat out the competition. On Monday night at Metrograph in New York, we attended the premiere and got the chance to speak to the cast!
The Knockturnal: Something that I found really interesting about this film was that the relationship between the two main characters is not that of brothers or best friends, but cousins. Do you think that the narrative would have shifted if their relationship were different?
Kim Nguyen: Yeah! Most likely! I think with cousins, there’s that mixture of tension and competition between brothers but there’s also that friendliness. It’s an ambiguous relationship in that way because it can be so many things. I just felt that cousins, from a second generation of immigrants, is so New York. There’s that kinship, and also that yearning for something better. A connection to your parents and to your heritage, I feel as though rags very typical “New York”.
Jesse Eisenberg: Yes exactly! Especially because it’s good that we don’t really get along so perfectly. It’s about people that are kind of thrust together through circumstances other than their own love for each other but as the movie unfolds they come to realize the value the other person has. Alexander plays a really aloof, goofy guy and I’m kind of dragging him along into these situations. Yeah, I think if we were best friends it would change the dynamic, yes.
Michael Mando: I think that more important than the connotation of the relationship was how important that they were. I think that that could be played by brothers or sisters but the most important thing was that they were blood-related and that doesn’t necessarily mean biological because it could also be a relationship – people who are not brothers could act like brothers. I think that was crucial to the relationship because it’s about how far are you willing to go on a journey with somebody that you love?
The Knockturnal: What was your experience like reading the script?
Michael Mando: It was unbelievable! You know when I had the offer from the director I read it and thought it was a great character – Mark Vega who is the engineer who builds the fiber optic line. I was just impressed at how open Kim was to the actor having ownership over the character. I thought it was a great collaborative experience and I learned a lot as a person, and about a world, I wasn’t aware of.
The Knockturnal: Can you elaborate on what you feel you learned from this experience?
Michael Mando: I just realized that our stock market and our financial system moves, not on seconds, but on milliseconds. Almost billions of dollars can be traded on 0.015 or 0.05 seconds. I mean think about that in terms of our heartbeat, we can’t process information that fast. But, that’s how fast the world we move in, moves.
The Knockturnal: Did you feel that you related to your character?
Jesse Eisenberg: Yes I mean the character in this movie was just so obsessed with building this line that it starts to ruin his life. When I’m working on something, it takes everything out of me and I notice sometimes I’ll even – you know, you won’t call somebody back for a week or you won’t sleep for two weeks. Something that’s quite harmful to yourself in the name of some project. I can understand that.
Michael Mando: I was definitely inspired about how he was like a rock. He was somebody who was unmovable, you know? His integrity was unmoveable. He was unshakeable from the beginning to the end and he really went in, wanting to do something better than himself. At the end of the movie, he realized that saving another soul is more important than a lot of money. I admire that about the character a lot.
The Knockturnal: There are so many messages in this movie. What do you hope the audience takes away from it?
Kim Nguyen: On a deeper level, there’s a reflection about what our American dream is and how it has been twisted and very much related to financial success. I think we should reinvent the American dream because eventually, it’s all going to fail if we base it on financial success.
Michael Mando: I hope the audience is entertained. I think it’s funny and I think it moves at a great pace. I hope that the audience loves how unexpected of a movie it is – you never know what you are going to get from this film. And, I hope that somewhere deep down, it’ll be a reminder to slow down a little bit and enjoy the people around you.
The Knockturnal: What was your experience like as a writer/director on this film?
Kim Nguyen: I mean this is such a complex theme and story. Obviously, the film changed as I went along. I write the script without knowing a lot of details about the technology and how these cousins would achieve that one thousand mile long tunnel between Kansas and the New York City stock exchange. When we finished the script, we brought in the experts. We would ask them, “Okay so these guys are doing this, what would they do in real life?” and then we just changed the script around. I had never done this before because the stock market technology changes so fast. We just needed it to go fast, to make sure we were still pertinent. That was one thing. The one thing that transformed a lot is that I wanted it to be a story about these two cousins who are on a journey and try to discover things about what they’re going to do, but also about themselves. And very early on when we had that reading, I remember seeing – and this is something that I had not envisioned, the relationship between the cousins is something akin to ‘Of Mice and Men’. We have Alexander who’s very tall, next to Jesse and he’s kind of humping over him.
The Knockturnal: How did you go about writing the script with that missing information in mind?
Kim Nguyen: I was more vague in the script. I would say,”There’s a machine that starts digging through a tunnel”. I imagined how it could be but no idea as to what it actually was. When we had the experts come in they were a lot more specific and would say, ”Okay, that’s a horizontal drilling machine. It weighs 20 tons and order to bring it you would have to tear down trees”. So we fixed up the script that way!
The Knockturnal: What was your experience reading this and what made you want to jump onboard?
Jesse Eisenberg: I thought it was a really interesting movie because it’s written by a guy who is French, Canadian, and Vietnamese. And yet, it’s a very American story, it’s about the American dream. It’s about two guys trying to be successful on their own, outside of the system. When I first read it, I thought,”God, this is such a brilliant take on American life from someone who’s not American”. So I just loved it. To me it kinda mirrored, I’m from a Jewish immigrant family, so to me it resonated with my family story and trying to make it in America. Sometimes out of the system and sometimes having to rely on it. Sometimes you have to be creative to make a living.
The Hummingbird Project is in theaters now!