'Tesla' Trailer: Ethan Hawke Gives Electric Spin on Biopic Genre (Video)

Film from Michael Almereyda opens in theaters and on demand August 21

Though we’ve seen Nikola Tesla portrayed in film by David Bowie and Nicholas Hoult in recent years as the inventor’s legacy has continued to grow, Ethan Hawke’s turn in the new film “Tesla” flips the biopic format on its head.

The first trailer for Michael Almereyda’s (“Marjorie Prime,” “Experimenter”) latest film “Tesla,” which dropped its first look Friday on Nikola Tesla’s 164th birthday, paints Tesla as everything from a mysterious historical icon, a philosophizer and even a rock star. Mixed in with Hawke sparring with Thomas Edison and wooing the daughter of J.P. Morgan, we see a modern day woman conducting a Google search of the roughly four images that exist of Tesla and Hawke taking a stage and grabbing a microphone while in character.

“The world we are living in is a dream that Tesla dreamed first,” Eve Hewson’s character says in the first trailer for the film.

“Tesla” started off as a spec script written by Jerzy Skolimowski in his early 20s and has since evolved over time, drawing on references as diverse as the films of Derek Jarman, the novels of Henry James and even certain episodes of “Drunk History.” It’s described as a “deconstructed biopic” for how it breaks with the traditions and restraints of the genre. Here’s the full synopsis:

Brilliant, visionary Nikola Tesla (Ethan Hawke) fights an uphill battle to bring his revolutionary electrical system to fruition, then faces thornier challenges with his new system for worldwide wireless energy. The film tracks Tesla’s uneasy interactions with his fellow inventor Thomas Edison (Kyle MacLachlan) and his patron George Westinghouse (Jim Gaffigan).  Another thread traces Tesla’s sidewinding courtship of financial titan J.P. Morgan (Donnie Keshawarz), whose daughter Anne (Eve Hewson) takes a more than casual interest in the inventor. Anne analyzes and presents the story as it unfolds, offering a distinctly modern voice to this scientific period drama which, like its subject, defies convention.

“Tesla” also stars Kyle MacLachlan as Edison, Eve Hewson, Jim Gaffigan and Donnie Keshawarz. The film premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and won the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize.

IFC Films will release “Tesla” both in theaters and on demand on Friday, August 21. Check out the first trailer above.

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