Dustin Hoffman’s college graduate Ben Braddock struggled with his future prospects in the 1967 classic The Graduate.
Fifty years later, it’s Emma Watson as new grad Mae Holland who grapples with her destiny in The Circle (in theaters April 28), seen here in an exclusive trailer and sneak-peek photos.
“Mae asks many of the same questions. She’s struggling, living with her parents, looking for meaning and frustrated,” says Circle director James Ponsoldt. “She lands her dream job. Then things start to get weird.”
Adapted from Dave Eggers’ 2013 best-selling sci-fi novel of the same name, Mae finds work in Silicon Valley with a tech company called The Circle and run by visionary leader Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks).
“Bailey’s notion is that knowing is good, and knowing everything is better,” says Ponsoldt. “He believes all experiences should be available to everyone, not only the privileged or people who can afford to them. He’s deeply interested in technology that can make people share all human experiences with everyone. He’s a boundary pusher, even boundary destroyer.”
The Circle‘s game changer: SeeChange cameras, glass eyeballs that fit anywhere and transmit real-time footage wirelessly. Mae steps into the SeeChange world and instantly explodes from entry-level employee to being famous worldwide for sharing her life, fears and ambitions with millions of strangers.
“She becomes a pseudo-celebrity with her superpower, that she’s natural, relatable and willing to speak freely about everything in her life,” says Ponsoldt. “But it gets to the point where it’s almost a religion and then a glass prison of celebrity.”
The Circle features Hanks’ Bailey, John Boyega (as a disillusioned programmer who developed the technology) and Patton Oswalt (The Circle‘s business minder) as the “three wise men” leading the emerging company. “America’s Dad” Hanks and Harry Potter‘s Watson carry career currency to their characters, says Ponsoldt.
“Audiences bring so much much experience as filmgoers with these actors from other roles, Tom instantly brings a level of humanity and sincerity,” he says. “Their scenes together are pretty great.”
Despite Hanks’ Apple-style presentations and the reverence of the crowds, Ponsoldt says the tech company depicted onscreen isn’t based on any one in particular.
“The Circle is probably like many tech companies, pushing the ethical boundaries over how much autonomy and freedom we should have and how much privacy we should have,” says Ponsoldt.
The director has been a fan of Eggers’ work since his groundbreaking 2000 novel A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and jumped at the chance to work on The Circle after shooting the 2015 David Foster Wallace road-trip film The End of the Tour.
“When Dave’s book came out, it felt like speculative fiction, the future around the corner. But shooting it, we thought of it as an alternaverse: slightly skewed, but essentially our world,” says Ponsoldt. “It’s a fun ride. We live through Mae. She is us. You will walk out of the theater and have a serious look at yourself and how you’re living your life.”