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JUPITER ASCENDING

Heirs to the House of Abrasax
Titus: "Lies are a necessity. They are the source of meaning. Of belief and hope. Honestly, lies are sometimes the only reason I get out of bed."

Though human, the Abrasax have a culture far more ancient than mankind's brief tenure on Earth and consider themselves so evolutionarily superior that they retain only the merest echo of their common ancestry.

Lana Wachowski introduces the ruling dynasty by explaining, "Every single person in the world experiences and wrestles with the idea of status. It's a very human concept to see society as a pyramid, where some lives matter more than others. A lot of terrible things in the real world have been justified by that kind of thinking."

When Seraphi Abrasax died, following a nearly 100,000-year reign as the family's ageless sovereign, her vast planetary holdings and industrial concerns, including the Earth, passed to her estranged and competitive progeny: Balem, the eldest; Kalique, his sister; and Titus, their younger brother. But whatever previously fueled the siblings' rivalry is nothing compared to the discovery of Jupiter Jones-a woman whose genome makes her essentially the legal proxy of Seraphi herself, superseding all other claims.

They know what Jupiter's very existence means to them and their future, and each has his or her own strategy for dealing with her.

Eddie Redmayne stars as the ruthless Balem, current head of Abrasax Industries, who has only just begun to savor the expansion of wealth and power that his mother's passing provided when he gets the bitter news. Having the most to lose, his response is swift and absolute. He wants Jupiter dead.

"He's a damaged, really evil person who seems completely unstable at the beginning of the film and only gets worse," says Redmayne, whose characterization of Balem reveals a personality so tightly wound that he speaks in a controlled, ominous whisper…until those moments when he bursts into a rage.

Citing the way "Jupiter Ascending" weaves so many storytelling elements together, he says, "It's such an extraordinary combination of something completely contemporary and modern, science-fiction and original, but with echoes of almost Shakespearean and Greek drama in the relationships between the siblings and their mother and the complexity of family. You don't hear much of Balem's back-story but clearly a lot of things have happened to bring him to the extremity and isolation that is his life and that's what makes him so compelling."

Additionally, the actor observes, "Balem's obsession is profit, and the idea that profiting financially is the only way to move forward in life. It's interesting to see that cold and mercenary point of view juxtaposed against Jupiter's, which is of love and learning to love."

Contrary to Balem's blatant display, Kalique prefers advising and befriending this newfound member of the family. Or maybe she's just reluctant to reveal her hand so soon. Tuppence Middleton, who stars as the middle Abrasax heir, believes "Kalique is very much intrigued by Jupiter, who bears such a resemblance to her mother. I think she wants to find out as much as she can about her and how much of a threat she might be to their power, so that she'll know how to play her game right."

Diverting Balem's bounty hunters with the offer of a better deal, Kalique warmly welcomes Jupiter to the tranquil, water-themed surroundings of her home planet. There, the eternally youthful Kalique-who is, in fact, 14,000 years old-provides more of the missing pieces of the puzzle for Jupiter, who is still struggling to comprehend the enormity of her circumstances.

"It's important that they're from different worlds," says Middleton. "There's a great contrast between them, Kalique being wise, older, and a bit world-weary, and having a very calm pace, compared to Jupiter's energy, strength, and spunk. There's almost a sisterly feeling to their encounter."

However it's Titus, played by Douglas Booth, who takes the most inventive approach. While giving the impression of a charming and spoiled playboy with an admittedly cavalier relationship to the truth, Titus' devotion to his own comfort and hedonistic pursuits belie a fierce ambition and a mind every bit as calculating as Balem's.

"It's interesting to see or guess at everyone's motives," says Booth. "My character doesn't want his brother or sister to have the Earth, which, among their other planetary holdings, is kind of the jewel in the crown and has a big market value. Balem currently holds the title, but, if Jupiter is who they think she is, it would be rightfully hers. That would impact Balem's position in the market and reduce his yield, and that's good for Titus."

Neither as direct as Balem, nor as subtle as Kalique, Titus plots his own coup to eliminate this new challenge to his inheritance while simultaneously outmaneuvering his siblings for a bigger stake of the family fortune. The key for him is to keep Jupiter alive, at least for the moment.

Among the actors in key supporting roles, James D'Arcy strikes a poignant but inspirational figure as Jupiter's doomed father, Maximillian Jones. An idealistic astrophysicist who died before her birth, he bestowed upon his child a distinctive name and the potential for seeing the beauty of the cosmos.

"Cloud Atlas" alumna Doona Bae tears into her first action role as Razo, a fierce off-world hybrid and bounty hunter. Razo pilots an anti-gravity sled called The Bullet-which the Wachowskis describe as a cross between a motorcycle and a torpedo-in a fight where she and her crew attempt to hijack Jupiter from Caine's protection.

Actor, writer and director Terry Gilliam meanwhile takes a wickedly humorous turn as the Seal and Signet Minsiter, a malcontented civil servant in a labyrinth of bureaus comprising the Commonwealth Ministry, where Jupiter must secure her royal credentials. Film fans will recognize the homage to Gilliam's masterwork, "Brazil." "Playing a cranky old fart is quite easy," says Gilliam. "Just bend over, hunch up and start talking in weird voices and off you go. It's the first time in a very long time that I've done anything in front of the camera, but the Wachowskis asked if I could be this ancient clerk in this Brazil-like world, and how could I say no to them? I've always been a fan. They're smart and they do great work."

Jupiter's terrestrial family includes Maria Doyle Kennedy as her mother, Aleksa; Frog Stone as Aunt Nino; Jeremy Swift as overbearing uncle Vassily; and Kick Gurry as her cousin Vladie, a guy with more big ideas than the sense to see them through.

Among those portraying the alien, hybrid and robotic entities that Jupiter and Caine encounter on their trek through the galaxy are Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Titus' advisor, Famulus; Tim Pigott-Smith as Kalique's owl-eyed vizier, Malidictes; and Edward Hogg as Balem's aptly named legal counsel, Chicanery Night. David Ajala is Ibis, Razo's bounty hunter partner; Nikki Amuka-Bird is Diomika Tsing, the captain of an Aegis escort ship who puts herself and her crew in jeopardy to help Caine; and Ariyon Bakare delivers a motion-capture performance as the fearsome Saurisapian Greeghan, a winged goliath in Balem's royal guard who is eager-and able-to take Caine apart.

"The entire cast we assembled is fantastic," says Hill. "The film is populated by so many wonderfully talented actors who inhabit a range of really fascinating and complex characters."

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