Jules Marc Turtletaub
Ben Kingsley and Jade Quon in Jules courtesy of Bleecker Street

In a year where the existence of extraterrestrials is suddenly being acknowledged, Marc Turtletaub’s heartwarming sci-fi drama Jules reveals that our fascination with visitors from outer space might actually highlight the most relatable parts of the human experience.

Jules stars Ben Kingsley as Milton, an elderly man who suddenly discovers that an alien has crash landed in his backyard — but no one believes him because he’s suffering from dementia.

Left to his own devices with his new, blue-skinned friend, Milton treats Jules like any other house guest. He discovers that Jules likes apples and, not being able to speak, makes a great listener. The two become close friends, and Jules’ presence helps Milton come to grips with the problems in his own life.

Marc Turtletaub on Making Jules

“It’s about how an alien who has no voice allows these other people to find their voice,” Turtletaub tells MovieMaker. “And that’s interesting, right? [These characters] have never shared their intimacies with anyone — maybe with their partners years ago, but certainly not in a long time. And so having someone who can just be the perfect listener, which we don’t find very often in life — usually people are thinking what they’re going to say next — this enables them to open up.”

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Jules is Turtletaub’s second time directing a feature, following 2018’s Puzzle. But he’s got decades of experience as an accomplished producer behind films like Little Miss Sunshine, which earned him an Oscar nomination; Safety Not Guaranteed; A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood; Our Idiot Brother, and Laws of Attraction. He’s also produced series like Sorry For Your Loss and Vida.

Jane Curtin, Harriet Sansom Harris, Ben Kingsley, and Jade Quon in Jules courtesy of Bleecker Street

In addition to Kingsley, Jules also stars Harriet Sansom Harris and Jane Curtin as Milton’s friends whom he lets in on his extraterrestrial secret. Succession star Zoe Winters plays Milton’s daughter, and Jade Quon plays Jules, the alien.

For Turtletaub, the recent Congressional hearing about the existence of aliens coming so near to the release of Jules was purely a coincidence. In fact, it’s not the aliens or UFOs that interested him in the story — it was the quality of the script written by Gavin Steckler.

“I look for things where, after you walk out of the movie, you have something to talk about and think about,” Turtletaub says.

“I forget who it was — one of our great filmmakers said, I’m only interested in art which enables the viewer to collaborate in the creation of it. And I feel that same way about movies. I want the movies to stimulate a conversation afterward. And I ideally want it to be about connection in some way without being on the nose — humanistic.”

Jules proves that alien stories can be surprisingly human. And Turtletaub let the humor of that speak for itself.

“You play it for real, you play it grounded. You don’t play it for fantastic. You don’t go, Okay, you’re talking to an alien. Now it’s ridiculous. You don’t play the humor for the humor, whether it’s cats, apples, or whatever it is — you don’t play it for the ‘badum’ on the punch line. You play it straight and let the audience participate,” he says.

“Let the audience find the humor in the situation, in the lines — but you don’t play it for that. And so after a while, get used to the fact that there’s a four-foot 11-inch alien at the dinner table and all she eats are apples.”

Jules arrives in theaters nationwide on Aug. 11.

Main Image: Ben Kingsley and Jade Quon in Jules courtesy of Bleecker Street.

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