Superintelligence stars on celebrity fan clubs, A.I. and Elon Musk, the end of the world, and more
That's what happens in the new HBO Max comedy Superintelligence (out on Thanksgiving Day), when James Corden starts communicating with Carol Peters, played by Melissa McCarthy. It's not by accident, though: Carol has previously professed her love of The Late Late Show host on social media and is the self-proclaimed president of his fan club. So when she — a very average person — is singled out to be a gauge of the collective state of humanity by a potentially destructive superintelligence (an all-knowing, all-powerful form of A.I.), it speaks to her with his voice.
"Genuinely, it was the first time I've ever felt remotely well-known in my life," Corden recalls of first reading the script in EW's Around the Table video series. "I was like, this is ridiculous. This is absurd that script exists and it's me being me in a film with Melissa and Bobby [Cannavale] and Brian [Tyree Henry] and Sam [Richardson]. I was like, this is too much for my brain to take."
But McCarthy and Falcone reached out to Corden for a very specific reason. "If somebody's going to deliver terrifying news but you're like, 'That seems kinda pleasant...' it should be James Corden," McCarthy says of offering the role to the Emmy- and Tony-winner, a role which was originally written with her in mind. But once she read the script, McCarthy's interest was piqued by the lead, which was originally written as a male character. "I liked it so much and I just loved the thought of someone that is average — which, on the surface, people think that means plain and uninteresting," the Oscar nominee says, "but...I like to think — and I do believe — that the average person is good and the average person leads with kindness."
Thus begins Carol's quest to prove humans are more caring, more giving, more empathetic beings than it might seem. And she has just three days to do so, otherwise this superintelligence could end all of humanity, or at the least, enslave it.
"I do everything, first, not comedically, just as a story," explains director (and McCarthy's longtime husband and frequent collaborator) Ben Falcone of the movies he's directed (Tammy, The Boss, Life of the Party). "I thought the story was just so interesting. And then when I read it, it was also really funny, and you have such freedom because if a superintelligence can technically impersonate someone's favorite celebrity, then they could do anything else too. So we had some fun with that." Like confusing her as she tries to leave a building by changing all of the signs to Exit, or buying and auto-piloting a new Tesla (which can also dance!), or dumping billions of dollars into a bank account.
But it also required a deeper understanding of how artificial intelligence works, research McCarthy calls "terrifying and interesting." Enter SpaceX founder and industrial designer/engineer Elon Musk, who had lunch with Falcone and McCarthy to help enlighten them. "We said, 'Does this seem plausible?' and he said, 'It will happen. It's a matter of when, not if,' " McCarthy recalls. Adds Falcone: "We basically told him the brief outline of what the script was and said 'Are we on the right path?' and he said, 'Well, the only thing I'd say is, why do you think there will only be one?' "
Rather than a "network of computers" to contend with, as Musk told them will someday exist, Carol has just the one. But still, with the clock ticking to prove people are good, she makes it a priority to smooth things over with her ex, George, played by McCarthy's Spy costar Bobby Cannavale.
"I really got to know Melissa when we were shooting Spy. We had one really intense day on Spy when we had to shoot this fight scene in a helicopter — in a flying helicopter. It was very painful, physically, but we laughed so hard," Cannavale says of his great working relationship with the actress. "From that day forward we just get on really well. I just show up and know we're going to have a good time."
Even when he has to kiss her, the leading lady, in front of the director, her husband. "I just did it. It wasn't even in the script," Cannavale jokes. "I looked at him first. [Points his fingers at Falcone's eyes] I really look at him and then I take it and I go deep."
The conversation with McCarthy, Cannavale, Corden, and Falcone continues Around the Table in the video above, where they talk about the fan clubs they belonged to, what they'd do if they knew we only had three days until the end of the world, incorporating Carpool Karaoke into the movie, and the "fight" Cannavale got in with a certain former Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds player.
Superintelligence debuts Thursday on HBO Max.
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