“I’m Your Man,” the sci-fi romance that has been selected as Germany’s contender in the Best International Film category at the Academy Awards, is the latest film playing with the idea of falling in love with androids that feel way too human. For its star, “Downton Abbey” alum Dan Stevens, that “becoming human” evolution of his character was one tiny step at a time.
Stevens and director Maria Schrader spoke with TheWrap awards editor Steve Pond about their film, which follows Stevens as Tom, an android who spends three weeks with Alma (Maren Eggert), an archeologist who agrees to evaluate how well Tom replicates human behavior in exchange for funding for her project. But along the way, the emotional distance that Alma tries to put between her and Tom begins to fade away.
Tom’s process of becoming more human was built by Schrader and Stevens over the course of filming, as they had an idea of the AI’s arc. But when it came to the finer details, they left those to be filled in as the cameras rolled.
“We were always asking ourselves: Is it good for the movie to always remind the audience that he is not human or make it easy to forget it?” Schrader said. “We provided ourselves with all possibilities. With every scene and every take, we were adding or reducing the robotic feel of the character. We worked on separating language and physical action or delaying action to show the algorithm making its choice.”
This meant that Stevens had to break down each scene moment by moment, figuring out which points to deviate from that would normally be typical in a romantic film. Though Tom becomes a selfless, compassionate being that is exactly the kind of person Alma wants to spend the rest of her life with, his behavior never manages to escape the uncanny valley.
“Every scene starts on one track and you think ‘This is a recognizable scenario,’ but because Tom is involved, it takes a left turn,” Stevens said. “And for me, that’s where a lot of the fun and the delight of playing him came from.”
“Every scene became an exercise for Tom, asking, ‘What does Alma want? And how can I provide that for her?'” he added. “He’s trying to read every scene…and break down exactly what she would want him to be performing in each situation. So it was fun to come into each scene and ask, ‘OK, what are we doing today?'”
Watch the full interview with Maria Schrader and Dan Stevens in the video above.