Joseph Kosinski & Eric Newman Interview: Spiderhead

Spiderhead director Joseph Kosinski and producer Eric Newman share why Miles Teller and Chris Hemsworth were so perfect for their roles.

Director Joseph Kosinski has spent two fantastic months between spider head launching today on Netflix and its recent Top Gun: Maverick officially becoming the highest-grossing Tom Cruise film of all time. Another achievement he can add to his long list is presenting a very different side to Miles Teller and Chris Hemsworth, who play very much against type in this sci-fi thriller.

Based on the George Saunders short story “Escape from Spiderhead”, which was published in the New Yorker in 2010, spider head takes the audience to a state-of-the-art prison, where Abnesti of Hemsworth conducts scientific experiments with mystery drugs on his inmates. Teller plays one such prisoner, Jeff, who feels compelled to obey his charming supervisor until his feelings for Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett) become stronger than his impulse to obey.

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Related: Hemsworth & Teller Elevate Intriguing Thriller in Spiderhead

screen speech spoke with Kosinski and producer Eric Newman about what drew them to the project in the first place, as well as why Hemsworth and Teller were perfect for their roles.


Chris Hemsworth as Steve in Spider Head

Screen bleed: Eric, how did you meet spider head? Did you read George Saunders’ short story first or heard of it as a screenplay first? What made you want to make your mark on him?

Eric Newman: I read the story. In fact, I don’t even know if Joe knows this, but I was just telling our agent – we share an agent, coincidentally – about this tale. And he said, “I hear they’re trying to adapt it as a movie.” I knew the writers who were writing about specs, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, who wrote Deadpool [and] zombieland. I called them and I doubted anyone’s ability to adapt George Saunders and preserve George Saunders from all this.

I called them and asked if I could read it, and after I read it, I call them and ask, “Can I produce this? Because I think you’ve nailed it.” While it took a while from that point on, starting with Joe, we’ve put together this amazing team that just doesn’t have a weak link. And went and made this movie really special, cool, amazing, true to the George Saunders movie. It’s been a great experience.

Speaking of an amazing team, Joe, it sounds like you love working with Miles Teller. In this movie, I was taking what you’re putting in; I was seeing the vision. Can you talk to me about that vision and what you like about him as an actor?

Joseph Kosinski: I think what makes Miles so interesting is that he’s unpredictable. When he’s on the screen, you lean forward because you’re not sure how he’s going to play the next beat. And that’s a very special thing that few people have.

Miles, I think, is kind of a natural talent. He has incredible range. He’s a deeply emotional actor, and just one of those people you can connect with on screen. It’s my third movie with him, and what I liked about it is that it’s a different character from the other two roles I’ve done with him — and I think everything he’s done before.

Jeff is a very vulnerable and malleable character; kind of smitten with the charismatic Steve Abnesti for the first two-thirds of the movie. Only when he finds out what’s going on does he take control of the narrative. This was something new for Miles, and I thought it would be a big challenge for him.

I feel like it’s not a role I would normally think of for Chris, because I think of him as a god – or at least a really nice man. Do you think that’s what makes it so easy for characters to follow instructions that you’d expect in real life they wouldn’t want to?

Joseph Kosinski: Yeah, I think Chris’ natural charisma is one of his superpowers. And what we like about casting an actor who hasn’t played a role like this before is that the viewer is also falling in love with Abnesti’s sales pitch for the first half of the film. That was something we really liked about casting someone who hadn’t done it before.

And obviously putting Chris in the movie was amazing. I think even for us, he surpassed our expectations for the role; he really threw everything he had and made something really special.

spider head Synopsis


Jurnee Smollett and Miles Teller in Spiderhead

Two inmates form a connection as they grapple with their pasts in a state-of-the-art penitentiary run by a brilliant visionary who experiments on his subjects with mind-altering drugs.

Check out our interview with spider head stars Miles Teller and Jurnee Smollett, as well as composer Joseph Trapanese.

More: 10 best movies like Spiderhead

spider head is currently available to stream on Netflix.

  • Spider’s Head (2022)Release date: June 17, 2022

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