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MB: For a movie that's been in development ten years, it's very much on the cutting edge of science we're talking about right now; what with designer genes, Chimeric Animals - y'know, pigs with human hearts, etc. What I like is, there's no "This is wrong! They tampered in God's domain!" Was it a conscious thing to avoid that?
VN: Absolutely. I think the film treads along a moral gray. I think Clive and Elsa are quite admirable in certain ways. When we started writing this they had just legalized creating animal/human hybrids in the UK to help find cures to the same diseases Clive and Elsa are trying to cure ... this is good work. In a sense, they ought to be lauded for putting everything on the line for this experiment.
(Note: I have been waiting, literally, my entire life to hear this kind of pragmatic, matter-of-fact humanism out of a science fiction filmmaker.)
Y'know, Mary Shelly's brilliant novel [Frankenstein] was subtitled The Modern Prometheus, so clearly the theme of that was "Man should not steal fire from the gods." Our film starts from the premise of "Well, we already stole the fire, so now what do you do with it? How do you handle it without getting burned?"
MB: How much of "adult Dren" is Delphine [Chaneac] and how much is an effect?
VN: Essentially, Delphine's face has been altered digitally, the legs and her tail are CG, and we [digitally] removed one finger. That was pretty much it. I was operating under the assumption that small changes to the human form would be more disturbing than big changes.
We tried a device [for the legs] like these crazy elevator shoes, but we found it was better to just have her in high-heels which, being French, was natural for her [laughs].
MB: Was it conscious that she was never precisely "horrifying"?
VN: It's all thanks to Delphine that it works, but I was always concerned about how creature-like Dren should look. Obviously, since Adrien Brody's character is going to have relations with her, she can't look grotesque, but on the other hand you don't just want to do Species where of course you're going to sleep with Natasha Henstridge - no moral line being crossed there. And Delphine is not only beautiful but also such a compelling presence, you kind of fall in love with her onscreen.
MB: We talked earlier about the moral gray of the film. How do you feel about, in real life, actual scientists doing this sort of work and saying, "Y'know, let's throw some human in there"?
VN: I'm surprisingly open-minded about it, on a case by case basis. Let me put it this way: We're going to do it, no matter what. Humans have defined themselves by altering their environment, and now that we have the technology it's only a matter of time before we're altering ourselves. So we'll need to do it in the most responsible way. What I find frightening is when I hear about genes or parts of the human genome are patented - that's like someone sticking a flag in your eyeball: "This belongs to Johnson & Johnson!"
But from my experience with real geneticists, I find them to be admirable, extraordinary people whose work should fundamentally be supported. I'm absolutely in favor of stem cell research. It all just needs to be handled cautiously, and I'm always wary of when a big corporation is involved.
MB: If you had to say one thing to someone who's on the fence about seeing Splice, what would it be?
VN: Bring a date!