Domhnall Gleeson’s sci-fi resume keeps on growing

Patrick Dunn
Special to the Detroit News

Actor Domhnall Gleeson says his new movie, the artificial-intelligence drama “Ex Machina,” is science fiction on an uncommonly small scale.

“It was a very intense shoot because ... there’s really only two other people I talk to in the film and those scenes are quite long,” says the Irish actor, son of acting legend Brendan Gleeson. “They’re very wordy, even though the plot’s always being pushed forward and everything is changing under you as it goes.”

In the film, Gleeson portrays Caleb, an unassuming employee of a major tech company who wins the chance to spend a week with his employer, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Traveling to Nathan’s ultra-secluded home, Caleb learns that he’ll be testing the human qualities of an android (Alicia Vikander) Nathan has developed.

Gleeson says he jumped at the chance to work with “Ex Machina” writer and first-time director Alex Garland again. Although Gleeson had previously acted in the Garland-written “Dredd” and “Never Let Me Go,” he says he still would have been “working (his) ass off” for a part in “Ex Machina” no matter who had written it.

“I read it twice the night I got it, even though I was up early for work the next morning,” he says. “It was so psychologically intense and kind of thrilling. I never knew what was happening next. It’s a real page-turner.”

Despite the heavy-source material, Gleeson says “Ex Machina” was a friendly and jovial set to work on. Although Caleb in the movie develops an increasingly contentious relationship with Nathan as his boss’ more callous intentions come to light, Gleeson and Isaac had a particularly chummy relationship off camera.

“He’s a very, very funny guy,” Gleeson says. “There was actually a lot of laughing in between takes. It’s such an intense movie, but there was a lot of laughing.”

“Ex Machina” isn’t Gleeson’s only sci-fi role this year. He’ll also be appearing in December’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in a role he says he’s still not allowed to discuss. Although “Star Wars” is practically the polar opposite of “Ex Machina” in terms of budget and scale, Gleeson says he enjoyed working on both productions for different reasons.

“My two favorite sci-fi movies might be like ‘Moon’ and (either) ‘Blade Runner’ or ‘2001,’ ” Gleeson says. “It goes from very big-budget to very small-budget, so it doesn’t really matter the size of it. As long as it’s entertaining, I’m there.”

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer