What’s more impressive is that those subtleties come through even when Rogers has a mustache that would give Mario a run for his money. “He hated that thing!” Baird laughs. “At the end of every day, he’d rip it off, and he told me he would never, ever do a film where he had to wear a mustache again.”
Another aspect that makes Tetris such great fun is the way Baird uses assets from the gaming world. One early scene sees Rogers trying to get a bank loan to purchase the rights to Tetris in Japan, and as he talks, those famous colorful tetriminos fall from the ceiling. A few moments later, Hiroshi Yamauchi, the third president of Nintendo, makes an appearance, as does Howard Lincoln, the former chairman of Nintendo America, who reveals to Rogers a top-secret new project: the Game Boy. And, of course, that famous, catchy Tetris music is used throughout.
“It was hinted at in the script, using ‘Player One’ and ‘Player Two,’” says Baird, “but it wasn’t really until post that we really started playing with [Tetris assets]. At one stage, there was far too much of it, and it just felt gimmicky. We tried putting a lot in, then we took too much out, and then we took it out and didn’t have enough. We leveled up.”
Filming primarily took place in Aberdeen, and many of the establishing shots are stylized like classic eight-bit games. “We needed that because we couldn’t go to Moscow and shoot or Tokyo or Seattle,” Baird says. “It didn’t feel jarring, and it looked as though we meant it, which we didn’t really. The visual effects guys were top-notch on this, and the whole car chase is a visual effects thing. None of it’s practical. I haven’t done much of that, but it turned out well.”
With Moscow and the Soviet Union playing such a central role in Tetris, the movie—set in the late ‘80s—has become surprisingly relevant to the modern-day climate.
“In a strange way, it has become so relevant because of this horrendous situation in Ukraine,” Baird says, referring to Russia’s ongoing invasion of the country. “For people who were around at the time, it reminds them of how scary it was, and for younger people who weren’t around them, it educates them about how scary it was and how scary it is now. For Henk to make a decision to put himself in Moscow back then, it was terrifying. People appreciate it more now because I wouldn’t fancy going to Moscow at this time to try and do something like that. It’d be a frightening prospect. It would have made it a lot more difficult for me, personally, to make this had the war been going on at the time [we started].”