The next feature from Ex Machina writer/director Alex Garland is shaping up to be a real doozy. We learned earlier this year that the Sunshine and 28 Days Later scribe was tackling an adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s brilliantly terrifying enviro-horror novel Annihilation for his second directorial effort, with Natalie Portman starring to boot. Now Garland is beginning to fill out his cast, and the second actress in what is an all-female ensemble is a swell addition.
Per The Wrap, Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez is in negotiations to co-star opposite Portman in Annihilation. 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. Portman plays the principal character, a biologist, but it’s unclear which role Rodriguez is eyeing.
If that wasn’t enough, The Wrap adds that Frances McDormand is in the running for one of the other leads, most likely the psychologist (all of the characters are nameless and are only referred to by their professions). Annihilation is the first in a trilogy of books by VanderMeer (known as “The Southern Reach Trilogy”), but it’s a unique series in that each book feels entirely different from the others, and in fact each follows a different set of characters—although there is some overlap that brings it all together in the end.
Filming is set to begin in the spring, during Rodriguez’s Jane the Virgin hiatus. She was recently up for a lead role in Star Wars: Episode VIII, but Annihilation is no slouch in comparison. The actress just wrapped the female lead in the disaster drama Deepwater Horizon opposite Mark Wahlberg.