‘The Current War’: Cumberbatch/Shannon Drama Is in the Vein of ‘The Social Network’, ‘Steve Jobs’

     February 2, 2017

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One film that’s been in the works for many years, and gone through many different permutations, is The Current War. The script by Michael Mitnick landed on the Black List way back in 2011, and it’s seen filmmakers like Ben Stiller and Timur Bekmambetov eye it as a high-profile directorial vehicle. The Weinstein Company project finally materialized last year with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl filmmaker Alfonso Gomez-Rejon directing and the stellar lineup of Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison, Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse, and Nicholas Hoult as Nikola Tesla, and filming is currently underway in London.

The story of The Current War revolves around the race to own light in the late 1800s. Edison and Westinghouse were embroiled in an intense rivalry to invent the defining mode of producing electric power and light, and if that sounds a little Steve Jobs/Bill Gates-esque to you, you’re not alone. Collider’s own Steve Weintraub recently spoke with producer Basil Iwanyk in anticipation of the release of John Wick: Chapter 2, and Iwanyk brought up The Current War as one of his most exciting projects, drawing parallels to two stellar Aaron Sorkin films:

“It’s the story of the race to kind of light up the eastern seaboard, specifically Manhattan, between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. The movie isn’t played like a stodgy period drama, it feels like The Social Network or Steve Jobs. It’s the idea of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs went toe-to-toe to create the lightbulb, and that’s what these characters were. They’re larger than life, and they’re aggressive and tough and funny and geniuses, and that’s the vibe of the movie.”

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Image via Fox Searchlight

The cast of this thing is insane, with Katherine Waterston, Tom Holland, Matthew Macfadyen, and Tuppence Middleton rounding out the ensemble, but given that it was such a high-profile project for directors, Steve asked what made Gomez-Rejon the right choice to take the helm:

“I have to say it was the Weinsteins. They’re the ones that really pushed Alfonso, and they were right. For a movie about light and about lighting the world, you want a director who is a visualist, you want a director who is playful with the medium, and that’s Alfonso. You look at Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, it could’ve been a very straightforward YA movie but there’s a real style to it. He was Scorsese’s assistant for a long time, and Scorsese just plays with the medium and filmmaking—that’s what Alfonso does, and it just makes it an event to watch it.”

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