Alex Garland "Very Lucky" Jesse Plemons Joined 'Civil War' Cast

Alex Garland’s bold new political thriller “Civil War” won the box office this weekend, grossing $25 million, the highest opening for an A24 movie ever. Captivating the public with its visceral violence, shocking images, and frightening cautionary tale politics that mirror today’s division, the movie is also earning much acclaim for a brief but chilling performance by Jesse Plemons (“Killers of The Flower Moon”) playing a cold-blooded soldier unnervingly executing civilians at will (read our review).

It’s maybe ten minutes of screen time or less, but it’s one of the most talked-about sequences in the film. And ironically, Plemons was not Garland’s first choice for the role. In fact, he wasn’t even initially planned to be part of the cast. Another unnamed actor originally had the part, but a week before principal photography began, the actor had to drop out of the role for unknown reasons, leaving Garland scrambling.

Garland told the Los Angeles Times that he was on the phone outside the rehearsal space where the cast was preparing when he received the bad news that he was down an actor. “I was standing out on the street when I got the call, and I thought, ‘Oh s—. Now, we’re in trouble,’” the director explained. “And so I went to the rehearsal and said, ‘Bad news, guys, so and so can’t do it.’” 

READ MORE: Alex Garland Reiterates Plan To Stop Directing After ‘Warfare’: “I’m Not Planning To Direct Again In The Foreseeable Future”

That lucky break would be in the form of lead actress Kirsten Dunst, who suggested her husband, Plemons, replace that mystery actor. And Kirsten said to Garland,” ‘What? You should ask Jesse.’ And I thought, Oh, that would be amazing. “Jesse was around,” Dunst said. “I was like, ‘Let’s just ask Jesse to play this role.’” (Dunst has young kids and, in several recent interviews, has noted that Plemons always travels with her and the children when she is working)

“It was a stunning bit of good luck,” said Garland, finding a talented replacement so quickly. “That makes it sound like I’m being disrespectful to the other actor. I’m not at all. It’s just the film was very lucky to get Jesse.”

Garland’s future plans include a break from directing, though he will co-direct the film, Warfare,” with stunt coordinator Ray Mendoza next. After that, Garland will stick to screenwriting for a little while, and he’ll be busy writing a trilogy of new “28 Years Later” horror/zombie movies for director Danny Boyle and Candyman” filmmaker Nia DaCosta.