Exclusive Interview: Benedict Wong And Writer/Director Edson Oda Talk Nine Days

Benedict Wong Nine Days

Edson Oda turned his back on a flourishing advertising career, which included campaigns for massive companies like Philips, Johnson & Johnson, Honda and Nokia to try his hand at becoming a full-time feature filmmaker. Having premiered at last year’s Sundance, where he picked up the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, his debut Nine Days is coming to theaters next week after being delayed by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Black Panther star Winston Duke headlines the ensemble as Will, who determines which unborn souls are worthy of being chosen for life, and his entire viewpoint is upended following the death of one of his former charges, before the latest batch of candidates affect him on a profoundly emotional level.

Fellow Marvel Cinematic Universe alum Benedict Wong co-stars as Kyo, a world-weary friend to Will that’s never experienced the living world, in what marks a different kind of role for the English actor, best known for lending support in broad projects like his MCU efforts, Kick-Ass 2, The Martian and Will Smith’s Gemini Man.

In an exclusive chat with We Got This Covered, Oda and Wong spoke to us about how they approached the material, putting their own stamp on it and how they’d react in the same situation as the characters.

Nine Days is a bold and completely unique film for a first-time feature director. Was it a case of ‘my first movie needs to reflect who I am as a person and a talent’?

Edson Oda: Yeah. I think it’s just like, you always as a filmmaker when you think ‘this is my first feature’, you imagine that this is going to be your last movie, you know? This is it. You have just one shot to make a movie, so why not make a movie that really represents what I want, you know? To make a movie that represents me as a person, and if I don’t have the chance to make a movie again, I don’t regret anything. So, I think it came from that. ‘Okay, let’s just put everything in this movie’. And there’s not one single thing that I didn’t do, so that’s the result of that.

Benedict, this is a different type of role than what general audiences are typically used to seeing from you, and you get to keep your genuine accent for a change! Was that part of what drew you to the project?

Benedict Wong: Yeah. You know, as you say, I tend to play a lot of different characters who are either East Asian or some kind of American and you know, when I first spoke to Edson in terms of what kind of direction he wanted to go with he said, ‘I just want you to be you’. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted, you know, is to play myself. And it was really difficult trying to get gigs in Manchester back in the day, so I had to be other people, kind of play different roles until called upon. And now, it’s sort of, it’s happening in sort of sporadically tiny amounts, but not as extensive as this. And it kind of felt quite vulnerable, to be honest, because I’ve never really had a chance to do that. But here I am.

Edson, Nine Days is obviously a very personal film for you [the story was partly inspired by his uncle’s death], but it deals with universal themes we can all relate to. Was it difficult to maintain the balance to avoid leaning too far in either direction in terms of going too personal or too broad?

Edson Oda: I don’t think there’s such a thing as too personal. I think there’s a… you need to go personal. I think there are different ways. Some people just write about their lives, literally, you know? And you can have great movies that come from that, but some people can make it personal. Just having those feelings, and using that as inspiration to create something new. I don’t think that there’s such a thing as too personal, but I do think for sure there’s something that doesn’t make sense to the other person. So when people were reading the script, it was more important for me that people would understand what was on the page an the screen. So, it wasn’t just something that was just me, that I would understand. So that came from sharing the script with other people.

If you had the chance to live out any moment with [Winston Duke’s] Will before the end, what would you choose?

Benedict Wong: Feel the love, you know? Every person who I’ve ever loved. Just to kind of have them there, and feel that love. To kind of go out with a huge bang. Yeah, all you need is love!

Edson Oda: I’m thinking now, maybe I’d dance salsa. I’d dance salsa with all the people I love. I’d dance with everyone that I love.

Benedict Wong: What about you? What’s your moment?

I didn’t think I’d be the one getting asked the questions!

Benedict Wong: No, but I love it.

I feel the pressure now. [Existential panic sets in]. I would imagine myself in outer space, further away from planet Earth than anybody’s ever managed to get before. I didn’t expect to get put on the spot like that.

Benedict Wong: The blue dot? You took the photo of the blue dot! I love it!

Edson Oda: That’s really good. That’s a great image, man, thank you for sharing that.

Benedict Wong: That was great.

That concludes our interview with Edson Oda and Benedict Wong. Nine Days is coming to theaters on July 30 in a limited release, before rolling out nationwide on August 6.