Karen Gillan plays a woman and her clone in "Dual." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
LOS ANGELES Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Karen Gillan said her work as a woman and her clone in the movie Dual, which premiered virtually at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday, reminded her of her work in Marvel movies. Her director, Riley Stearns, was surprised by the comparison.
"There was even one time when I said to Riley, 'Oh, this is like being on Avengers,'" Gillan, 34, told UPI in a Zoom interview. "Which he seemed to laugh at because they were just very different movies."
Gillan's Marvel character, Nebula, encountered her past self in Avengers: Endgame. Gillan said she also played two versions of herself in episodes of Doctor Who.
"I met myself from another timeline and then started flirting with myself," Gillan said.
In Dual, Gillan plays Sarah, a woman diagnosed with a rare, terminal disease. In this near future, terminal patients can buy a clone to replace them after they're gone.
Gillan would film each of her scenes against a double. Then they would switch places so Gillan could play the other role and Stearns could combine the footage into one scene.
"I'm probably more comfortable playing the real Sarah who's slightly more anxious and doesn't want to take up space," Gillan said. "This clone is someone without all of the neuroses almost. So I had to bury all of the natural neuroses."
Gillan said she also distinguished Sarah and the clone physically.
"Sarah begins as someone who doesn't want to take up space, is more hunched and just isn't holding herself very well," Gillan said. "The double comes along and doesn't have that so she's got her shoulders down."
Stearns, 35, said Gillan would also differentiate Sarah and the clone's expressions. Stearns felt the clone was judgmental towards humans.
"Sarah, even though she's unsure of herself, she still has this earnestness about her and positivity still that Sarah's double doesn't have," Stearns said. "I feel like she thinks she's better than everyone else."
Gillan said she also approached the clone as a machine who was still processing input.
"There's also an element of her computing everything," Gillan said. "She studies behavior in order to take over Sarah's life so I feel like she's watching and computing so there's an element of that too."
Cloning is not an instantaneous process in Dual. Once the clone is made, they must spend time with the original to develop their personality.
The cloning company promises an exact copy, but Stearns said human nature makes that impossible. Sarah and the clone become unique people the moment the clone is created.
"That's not how people work and how our brains work," Stearns said. "They're always going to be going in different directions."
The clone complicates Sarah's relationships before she dies. Sarah's husband (Beulah Koale) falls for the clone.
Koale, 29, said the clone represents the Sarah he met at the beginning of their relationship.
"He gets a second chance at the lovey dove stage with the same woman but not really," Koale said.
Further problems arise when Sarah goes into remission early in the film. Her husband has already chosen the clone, so Sarah is alone when she faces another issue.
It is illegal for a clone and original to both live, but there are protocols in place to deal with those occasional conflicts. Both Sarah and her clone have one year to train for a duel to the death.
Sarah trains with a combat expert (Aaron Paul) in his studio to be able to eliminate her clone. Paul, 42, said these clone duels are common enough that his character has lost some clients.
"He lives and breathes that world," Paul said. "He most likely lives in that space, rarely goes out. He takes a great pride and responsibility in the task at hand."
A second screening of Dual is available virtually Sunday.