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Tetris: Star Taron Egerton and Director Jon S. Baird Talk the Stranger Than Fiction Biopic at SXSW

Tetris Interview

The new Apple TV+ film Tetris has its world premiere at SXSW prior to its March 31 release on the streaming platform, and the red carpet was attended by the film’s cast, crew, and subjects. Telling the story of businessman Henk Rogers, who played a pivotal role in bringing the ubiquitous video game to the masses, Tetris was one of the most hotly anticipated films of the festival — and it surely delivered.

Tetris Interview

One of the biggest highlights of Tetris is the leading performance by Taron Egerton. Egerton has made a career out of playing larger-than-life personalities — including Elton John in Rocketman and Eddie Edwards in Eddie the Eagle — but his role as video game designer and entrepreneur Henk Rogers is maybe his most impressive yet. When asked why Egerton was the perfect fit for the role, this is what director Jon S. Baird had to say:

“He’s just a very smart guy. He’s convincing, like Henk is,” he explains.” And I think you always look for in a big part like this — he’s in nearly every scene — you need a very strong and solid, intelligent actor. And I think he’s proved himself on this one, that he can do a lot more. I think that’s his best performance.”

Tetris
Nikita Efremov and Taron Egerton in “Tetris,” premiering March 31, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Also Read: Tetris SXSW Review: An Entertaining Stranger Than Fiction Biopic

However, audiences will soon catch on to the fact that there is much more happening in Tetris than just the creation and marketing of a video game. In a way, the film feels like a Cold War spy thriller, set against the backdrop of the fall of the Soviet Union as the Soviet government and a Western businessman have a high-stakes duel over intellectual property.

Although there are, of course, some liberties taken with the storytelling due to dramatic license, this is the story of how Tetris escaped the Soviet Union and became the global phenomenon that it is today. For Baird, it was important to tell this story in such a cinematic way, because there would have been no other way to do the story of Henk Rogers justice.

“​​It would be very dull if it was just new people talking about the rights for the video game,” Baird asserts. “The story itself — there’s a lot of jeopardy involved. There’s a lot of high stakes. So it’s naturally going to lend itself to that because Henk puts himself in a very sort of compromising position. However, it’s still about the rates for computer games. So it needs to be jazzed up, right?”

Tetris
Nikita Efremov in “Tetris,” premiering March 31, 2023 on Apple TV+.

However, it was also important to have a director that could keep an eye on the human aspect of this story, and Baird stepped up to that challenge brilliantly. Having directed the Laurel and Hardy biopic Stan & Ollie a few years back, Baird is no stranger to biopics that balance fun and a genuine heart.

“I think it’s a great buddy movie. Like Stan & Ollie was a great buddy movie, but this also has a wider appeal. Because it could appeal to people who were around back in the day and who recall those times, but to gamers as well and to people who really understand that and are interested in the history of it, and how one of the world’s favorite and most famous games came to be. So I think it’s got a wide appeal across demographics.”

Still, Taron Egerton thinks that audiences will be blown away by this incredible true story told in an explosively cinematic way. When asked what he hopes audiences are excited to see about Tetris:

“I think it’s very slick and kinetic and it’s got a great soundtrack,” he concludes. “And I just think it’s really fun to watch. I hope people just have a good time because it’s a fun popcorn movie.”

Tetris screened at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival, which ran March 10-18 in Austin, TX.

Also Read: “That’s very easy for me to say”: Taron Egerton Addresses Straight Actors Stealing Gay Roles in Hollywood Controversy After Confirming He’s Done With MCU

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Written by Sean Boelman

Film Critic and member of the CACF.