Minority Report : Star of the week

In this interview with the producer of Minority Report (2002), Douglas Coupland talks about the future in which the film takes place.

In a nutshell, how would you describe the vision of the future that you guys brought to Steven? What was the direction that you went?

What we wanted more than anything was to have a future that was plausible and believable. Of course anything can happen - we all know that. One of the strange things about the future, and one of the hardest things to believe about it, is that it's going to be a lot like right now, and I think there's a tendency in art departments to do these like "Whoo, whoo" Metropolis kinds of buildings, but people are still going to be living in houses that, you know, ranch houses still in a hundred years, fifty years.

As the author of a lot of interesting fiction, how does your thought process work about the future?

One of the easiest ways to approach the future is to look around you in the room you're in, right now, wherever you are, and ask yourself "What about this room would be really amazing to someone from a hundred years from now? Would it be cigarette smoke? Would it be leather? Would it be the weather outside the windows? The thing about the future is what changes the most are the things you would expect the least change from. For example, what will people in the future put on their living room walls? Well, they're probably going to take cardboard boxes from right now and flatten them out and put them behind glass, because there probably won't be cardboard in the future, and cardboard will become something the way the fruit crates have become in California - they'll be exotic in the future. And the things, you know…. the most exotic things in the future are the things we think are the most boring things around today, for example ceiling panels in everyone's office in North America. In a hundred years if you had a big box of unused ceiling panels there would be people from the Smithsonian just sort of clawing at your door to get onto that-- to get a hold of them. So that's one way to look at the future.

When you think of technology, and the setting in MINORITY REPORT, how do you envision daily life?

An enormous factor in daily life in the future is going to be that information is everywhere. There's nothing you can touch, look at, smell, whatever, that isn't just rich with applied information. The information can be used for surveillance or for selling to you. Your swizzle stick you put in your drink - you lift it out and you can tell like are you aroused, you know. Um, what viruses do you have in your bloodstream? You'll have… well… everything will be mood-oriented …people can tell what mood you're in. They, they can tell… everything about you. But you can tell everything about them at the same time, so that again cancels each other out. I think… if someone from the year 1952 was to come to the year two thousand and two, oh good Lord, they'd just be swamped, I think, at the amount of information. It would just send them into a coma it's so dense now, but we're used to it, and that density is going to increase and increase.

We've seen a lot of virtuality things… There are also entertainment applications of that. How close are we to that?

I think we're a lot closer to the year 2054 than we think we are. I think that if anything the movie underestimates the pace of change that's going on in the culture right now. You have to remember Moore's Law: chip processing capacity doubles every eighteen months and it continues to do so. And the more you can do that, the faster the pace of acceleration. I remember back in the mid-nineties, that movie, Wim Wenders, "Until the End of the World," and it was set in the year 1999 and this woman was e-mailing or e-sending a small video from Russia to the States and I thought to myself (GASPS) "That's so impossible. Good Lord. That'll never happen, that's too complex," and of course now we do it all the time. (SIGHS) Yeah. No, I, I think… The, the pace of change is just something that we cannot imagine in the next fifty years, you know.

What role do futurists legitimately hold in shaping our future through a means of storytelling and scenario planning? How can we shape people's vision?

I think the way that creative people who make films or write books or whatever art form, their job, our job is to plant seeds, and that's all you can do. And for example the US Space Program, the Apollo Program, it was operated mainly by these guys who had grown up with amazing stories and rocket ships to Mars, and so what they went on-- that, that was the seed that was planted in them. They created the Apollo mission. And then you had the next generation that grew up with, you know, more ambivalent and ambiguous, uh, murkier visions of the future, and so we ended up with people creating technology that was murky and, and not quite so, you know, universal, like "Get to the Moon. " And with I think THE MINORITY REPORT you're planting a seed in people that maybe twenty or thirty years down the road is going to bear a fruit that tastes like or tells you that everything comes with a price and, uh, there's no such thing as a utopia, and even still, with all that, things can just work out.

What's the trade-off that we all face in going to a world like this where we're willing to arrest people before a crime actually occurs?

I think when it comes to Precrime I think what we're seeing in action is the inversion in the most extreme form of innocent until proven guilty. You completely turn that around and suddenly you are guilty and not only…. Well, you're guilty, and we're not even going to allow you to prove that you're innocent, and that, that's a very political statement, and to apply that to American culture, where for the large part you are innocent until proven guilty, that's going to cause a bit of a meltdown in the minds of a few viewers because it's just so the opposite of what we've been trained to believe all our lives. It's a good, it's a good exercise. It's a good little mental trampoline.

There are some references in the movie to where the Pre-Cogs live, their tank being "a Temple," and the people who attend them being like priests or clergy. Is ascribing values that are outside law enforcement and crime . . is that just a neat trick to mitigate locking up innocent people, or is it that we might accept that more readily?

In a modern society there's complete separation of state and church, and to try and integrate not quite church, but what is it? Science? Is it ESP? Into, you know, the American Bill of Rights….

What do you find interesting in visualizing and predicting the future?

When it comes to the future I'm not really interested in seeing great big tall wow buildings, or anything like that. I want to look inside someone's house. I want to see what their living room looks like, I want to see what their kitchen looks like, I just want to see their pet. I want to see that kind of thing. I want to see what trash looks like in the future. What are people going to throw out and what are they going to consider valuable? Um… will it be noisy? Will it be quiet? That to me is very important in creating a plausible future, and again I have to stress that this whole exercise is about creating a plausible future, which is something we don't do very much anymore. I think the future kind of "ooh, scary. " But it's a wonderful exercise.

© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Company Ltd and Dreamworks Pictures LLC. All rights reserved.

Author : © 2002 Twentieth Century Fox