Exclusive: ‘God Particle’ Writer Oren Uziel on How the Film Became a Cloverfield Movie
Last January, Paramount Pictures and Bad Robot pulled a pretty terrific surprise on audiences by dropping a trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane and announcing the film would hit theaters just a few months later. Producer J.J. Abrams clarified that the movie wasn’t a direct sequel to Cloverfield per se, but it would have some sort of connection to that 2009 monster movie. Moreover, as it was originally written and conceived, 10 Cloverfield Lane was just a contained thriller called Valencia starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, and John Gallagher Jr.—it morphed into a Cloverfield movie at some point during the development and production process.
Having seen 10 Cloverfield Lane we know the film takes place in the same universe as Cloverfield but doesn’t involve any of the same characters, and recently Paramount Pictures confirmed that the next “Cloververse” movie is actually the sci-fi thriller God Particle, now referred to as “Untitled Cloverfield Movie” and set for release this October. Directed by Julius Onah, the film stars David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Brühl, Chris O’Dowd, Ziyi Zhang, and Elizabeth Debicki as a crew of astronauts who must fight for survival on a space station.
Recently I got the chance to speak with God Particle screenwriter Oren Uziel in anticipation of the release of his directorial debut, the Netflix crime thriller Shimmer Lake (which hits the streaming service on June 9th). During the course of our conversation I brought up God Particle and asked Uziel when it actually became a Cloverfield movie:
“It was written before 10 Cloverfield Lane and the expanded Cloverfield universe even existed as a thing. It was a spec that I wrote probably a year or so after Shimmer Lake, so it definitely existed as its own science-fiction. And then after years of, you know how scripts kind of hang around—people like them but for whatever reason they decided to make it and then suddenly everything fell into place with J.J. [Abrams], Bad Robot, and Paramount. I don’t know exactly when it became a Cloverfield movie, but I suspect in this current market where it’s just harder and harder to market an original movie of any kind, a science-fiction movie in particular, but I think everyone just knew if it fits—and it does—into that Cloverfield world, it should, and it can only help.”
Uziel says that once it became a Cloverfield movie, the film required some rewriting during production, but he stresses it really didn’t change the content of the film all that much:
“We rewrote during production, but I’m not sure what it means to be part of the expanded Cloverfield universe, other than knowing what kind of quality and feel you’re gonna get from something that’s coming out of Bad Robot and J.J. It just sort of helps to give an understanding of like, ‘Okay I understand what type of movie this is gonna be.’ As far as specifics, I don’t think there is one specific thread that makes it a Cloverfield movie, I guess.”
Indeed, what seems to be happening with this Cloververse series of movies is a Twilight Zone-esque anthology of sorts. The Cloverfield banner tells audiences to trust the brand, but each film will be a new story set in a similar universe, and the brand-recognition can only be a positive for those hoping to tell original sci-fi stories:
“I think if you can get that off the ground, which they are close, it’s very smart and also great for makers of science-fiction because it relieves you of that burden of like, ‘How are we gonna get people to get off their asses and into the movie theater to see something they’re not sure?’ It’s not a guarantee; the cast is different, we don’t know exactly what we’re getting, but if that stamp of approval of being part of the Cloverfield universe is enough, that’s a huge win. So I’m all for it. When you turn on The Twilight Zone, that’s sort of the way I think about it. I don’t know what this story is going to be, but I know it’s going to be a Twilight Zone story… It’s like an anthology for those kinds of movies, and I think if J.J., if what he’s doing is positioning himself a little bit to be the Rod Serling of J.J.-type science-fiction movies, more power to him.”
In terms of story, we don’t really know much about the plot of this Cloverfield movie beyond the fact that it’s a contained sci-fi film revolving around astronauts in space, so I asked Uziel what sets his script apart from other similarly plotted sci-fi films:
“I guess for me sometimes those movies tend to be more concerned with whatever the obstacle is, and I’m more concerned with the characters’ relationships to each other and that obstacle I guess. So to me, when you say it’s a contained astronaut movie, I’m just curious what those astronauts are going through and what they’re experiencing and what the character story is, and what specifically the threat is is often less of a concern to me.”
That’s certainly the way to go. Look for more from my interview with Uziel on Collider soon. Shimmer Lake is available on Netflix starting June 9th and the Untitled Cloverfield Movie opens in theaters on October 27th.