You and your smartphone are probably on close terms, but that’s nothing compared to iBoy, the new movie starring Bill Milner and Maisie Williams, which is currently on Netflix. Based on the young adult novel by Kevin Brooks, it tells the tale of Tom (Milner), a London schoolboy who is shot after he finds attackers sexually assaulting his friend Lucy (Williams). Pieces of a shattered iPhone – no shit – get lodged in his brain and give him a sort-of Apple upgrade, allowing him to intercept messages and phone calls. We chatted to Bill about iBoy, superheroes and, of course, the legend that is Maisie Williams.
So, the concept for iBoy is fairly out there…
There are some quite crazy and ridiculous elements to the story, but then it is grounded in reality. I think that’s what the audience will like; they might see their own stories. What I love about it isn’t necessary the sci-fi, it’s the characters and how they relate.
iBoy is aimed at teenagers, and there’s a violent shooting in the first 10 minutes. Do you think a younger audience might find that scene troubling?
I read some reviews of the book and there were quite a few parents saying, “If I knew that this book dealt with drugs, rape and gang culture, I wouldn’t have bought it for my 16-year-old child”. But a lot of them said, “I’m very glad I did, because I was able to have this conversation with my son or daughter”. I think that’s important. These are topics that we need to talk about. So maybe it is a bit dark and graphic, but actually it is about reality, despite the fact we’re looking at it through the eyes of a boy with superpowers.
Bill, do you reckon the world really needs another superhero film?
Well, there aren’t many British superhero movies. iBoy is kind of a British Spiderman: Tom is a normal teenager who goes to high school, and it’s only because of some freak and somewhat unbelievable accident that he gains these powers.
We heard you were involved with writing the script…
Yeah, [director Adam Randall] was really interested in the cast’s opinions. He wanted younger voices in there. It felt really special for someone to sit down with us and ask what we wanted. Maisie spoke a lot about our approach to the sexual assault scene – if we wanted to make the film in a real and gritty way, we needed to use the word “rape”, rather than step around it. There were a few drafts of the script that said “attack”, which does a disservice to people that have been through that. It’s something people should be able to talk about openly, and not be ashamed.
Maisie Williams is, notoriously, cool as fuck. Was she a right laugh during filming?
She’s one of my best mates now! I was staying with my brother in Hackney and she was in an Airbnb round the corner. Living and filming in Hackney was so fun – there are great pubs everywhere. Maisie got recognised quite a lot when we went out, but she just takes it in her stride.
Do you see iBoy as a Black Mirror-style comment on our relationship with technology, or as more of a straight-up sci-fi thriller?
People have compared it to Black Mirror, but they’re cautionary tales, whereas our film embraces technology and sees it in a positive light. If there’s a cautionary tale in iBoy, it’s that if you have power, you have to go after what you want, but you shouldn’t jeopardise your friendships.