Though Equals has been exclusively available on DirecTV since May 26, the premiere celebrated the film's limited release in theaters.
This futuristic romance takes place in a world where emotions have been eradicated, aside from a certain few -- including Hoult and Stewart's characters. While the two are an exception, that doesn't mean they don't portray themselves as emotionless in portions of the film. Doing so presented a unique challenge -- not only for Hoult and Stewart -- but a majority of the cast. "The characters aren't meant to feel, so then you have to play into that and understand that and how that changes through the movie and what it all means for these people," Hoult said.
Jacki Weaver, who plays Bess, also struggled with the task. "I had to concentrate," she told The Hollywood Reporter.
There is one scene in particular (it's even teased in a trailer) where Hoult and Stewart are forced to confront their newfound feelings, though. "It's a special scene," writer-director Drake Doremus told THR. "This is a scene where, the whole movie they've been waiting and waiting, to touch each other and then suddenly they're able to in this very strange, tight environment and it was really amazing because we waited to shoot it. It was just an explosion. It was like boiling water until that moment, so it's very explosive and very intense."
Hoult thought so, too. "We shot it, and after, I think after a week or two of filming, there had been no physical contact between our characters up until that point or anything so it was kind of a release I guess, in terms of that -- and also a discovery for the characters," he told THR. To prepare the actors not only for the scene, but the entire film, Doremus used slightly unconventional methods.
"Drake has this incredible rehearsal process that really doesn't consist of rehearsal because it's not about going over the material; it's about getting to know each other, which is, like, really nice groundwork that a lot of people don't necessarily typically put into rehearsal," Stewart said. "Usually it's about making sure in this sort of fearful way that you know your lines or that you are on the same page -- this was really more about breaking down barriers and feeling comfortable with each other and just knowing that once we actually got to set that we were able to give our all."
Hoult explained the process as being put in a room and doing different exercises, "where you'll just say hello to each other, look into each other's eyes for a long time and then you'll, like, only be allowed to tell the truth or you'll only be able to lie."
The two seemed to have a natural chemistry, according to Doremus.
"They're perfect," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "I mean, I really wrote the film for Nick, so he was always, you know, right there. When I met Kristen, she was so interesting and such a powerhouse, so much energy. I feel like they bring out something really intense and beautiful in each other in the film."
While Equals certainly isn't Doremus' first love story (his credits also include the award-winning Like Crazy), the film is different compared to other movies he's worked on.
"I think this film is very different than the previous films, but also very similar," he said. "I mean, at the end of the day it's a very intimate study of what it's like to fall in love and deal with those feelings and over the course of time how that changes you."
The dystopian setting also brought Doremus into a new territory. "I was never really a sci-fi nerd, per say, but I was always fascinated with the genre and thought it was an interesting sort of landscape to set a love story, to try to do something really warm to be honest," he said. "Most sci-fi films, to me, are very cold and very distant and I really wanted to make something that was the opposite of that -- it seems very warm."
Weaver even called the film a "retelling of the old Romeo and Juliet story," due to Hoult and Stewart's love being forbidden.
Though Stewart certainly isn't new to playing a Juliet-type character -- like Bella in Twilight -- she didn't see any relation between Bella and this new character; however, she said the two are "similar in their sort of dire nature."
For moviegoers, Doremus told THR he wants them to turn off their brains and turn on their hearts.
Charlie Hunnam, Courtney Love and Matthew Gray Gubler also were among those attending the premiere of Equals, which will hit theaters July 15.