The Mandela Effect is a term often used to describe the phenomenon of shared false memories. Some consider it a conspiracy theory, others believe it to be nothing more than an Internet meme. While there are a strong few who know, without a doubt, that our current plain of existence is constantly shifting, as we experience the merging of various alternate realities. Is it all psychological? Or is this really happening to us, with ripples tearing through the fabric of reality, causing changes, burps and hiccups both big and small?
Fiona Broome coined the term in 2009, and it references the phenomenon where many people remember Nelson Mandela’s death before it actually ever happened, with many claiming he died in prison. Not years later as a free man. These types of shared false memories have stretched into many other aspects, raging from movies, to geology to human history. Things aren’t quite as they seem. The Berenstein Bears are now The Berenstain Bears, Ed McMahon never worked for Publisher’s Clearing House, Stover’s never made Stove Top Stuffing, and there is something called Razzle Dazzle camouflage. The list goes on and on, and continues to grow and change on the random.
This all comes from various shift changes in what we perceive to be our own current plain of existence. Some blame the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, claiming that smashed atoms have created black holes, changing the time space continuum. Others believe we are living in the Matrix, and when it gets rebooted, we are left calling Sally Fields Sally Field (her brother works at Cern, which is spooky in and of itself). Topics and changes concerning the Mandela Effect are far stretching, and a favorite topic of conversation. It’s almost become a parlor trick.
Now, director David Guy Levy has set out to make a movie about the phenomenon known as The Mandela Effect, working with screenwriter Steffen Schlachtenhaufen. The story follows a man who becomes obsessed with facts and events that have been collectively misremembered by thousands of people. Believing the phenomena to be the symptom of something larger, his obsession eventually leads him to question reality itself. And we’re left with a thriller wrapped around a conspiracy that itself spiderwebs into our own real world.
The Mandela Effect movie comes on like a crash course in this very interesting and captivating false memory theory, hinging some very human performances onto the mystery and intrigue. It takes one particular stance on what The Mandela Effect actually is, with Charlie Hofheimer playing Brendan, a father who recently lost his daughter. Consumed with grief, he becomes a little too infatuated with the idea of The Mandela Effect. Aleksa Palladino stars as his wife Claire, who doesn’t quite understand what is happening to her husband. And Robin Lord Taylor, who many will remember from Gotham as Oswald Cobblepot, is playing Matt, Claire’s brother and Brendan’s brother-in-law, who lends an open er to the ideas wrapped around The Mandela Effect, while also serving as a voice of reason. He really serves as the audience’s stand-in, and allows us to watch from the sidelines, bringing us into the madness that unfolds.
Looking at the time period of when The Mandela Effect was made, it’s amazing it remains in tact as the project this team set out to make. That is, if you believe in The Mandela Effect. David Guy Levy shot the movie in the summer of 2017, before at least three major universe changing shifts happened. So, the movie itself does not touch on some of The Mandela Effects that were discovered after the movie was shot and completed. You won’t hear Ed McMahon mentioned, and Razzle Dazzle camouflage is never brought up.
Speaking with Robin Lord Taylor about the movie and what it ultimately means, we touched on the fact that these current shifts haven’t disrupted or changed what the movie was, or ultimately is. For now, it has not folded over on itself. The Mandela Effect has yet to become its own Mandela Effect. But work at Cern continues.
There have been several minor shifts and at least three major shifts since you guys shot this movie. Are you surprised at all that this movie has arrived in almost the same state that you guys shot it in?
Robin Lord Taylor: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. It’s what I watched. Where real life and the story sort of intersect. The movie, in particular, is dealing with this subject matter. It’s totally appropriate. Yeah, it’s been quiet.
Before we jump into the actual idea of The Mandela Effect, I want to point out one scene in particular. Your character confronts his brother-in-law at a bar. It’s a small scene. I don’t want to call it a throwaway scene. But it only lasts a couple of seconds. And you are upset with this guy, because he’s becoming lost in this idea. And you really get up in his face. You’re just staring a hole through him, intense. It’s one of the more memorable scenes in the movie. Tell me exactly what is going on here? Why did you shoot this small scene in such a big, intense way? Because it’s an incredibly memorable.
Robin Lord Taylor: It’s funny. Those moments happen, especially on an ultra low budget indie. It’s like an accident. They’re really beautiful. It really means something. I feel like, with my character, he is somewhat like a stand in for the audience. He’s watching his brother-in-law slip down this rabbit hole. And he wants to be the voice of reason. And he wants to bring this guy back to what he thinks reality is. Of course, it turns out he’s completely incorrect, in that this is something. It is an emotional connection where he wants you, like, to just implore him, appeal to him, to whatever sanity he has left. And really just focus on the physical reality in front of him, which is his wife, my character’s sister. Just that intention, that look, those intense moments between two people. It’s really about trying to bring him back into the fold of everyday life.
I was watching Nicolas Cage talk on the Dick Cavett show, back in the 80s. But back then, he was talking about finding those small, almost nothing moments, and turning them into little pieces of gold. That’s what this reminded me of. Someone else might have just thrown that scene away, but you own it with a certain kind of power that makes the scene stand above what it’s really meant to be.
Robin Lord Taylor: Ah, brilliant. Thank you. My character is very, very much secondary to the story. To everything that is happening. But again, I want him to be the voice of reason. And also the voice of, ‘quote unquote’, sanity. He’s just trying to bring his brother-in-law back from the brink in that quick moment.
Your character is the skeptic. In dealing with the reality of The Mandela Effect, do you side with your character Matt? Was it easy to buy into his perceived ideas of reality? Or did you struggle with that? Do you believe in The Mandela Effect?
Robin Lord Taylor: I can completely see Matt’s point of view. I’m sort of one foot in, one foot out. I love the simulation theory. I really do believe it. Like, we can’t prove that this is all not really happening. That this is reality. And I think there is something very powerful there. There’s something about that, that really excites me in terms of the actual Mandela Effect. Though it tends to go down the internet conspiracy wormhole. It actually gives me a lot of anxiety. But, you know, if I can sit there and watch Neil DeGrasse talk about some of these ideas, about string theory…I’m very much on board with that.
Personally, it has been really interesting telling my friends and family about this film. Explaining what this effect is, then just going through some of the basic ones. The Berenstain Bears, the Monopoly man. When you get someone who is hearing this stuff for the first time. It really blows their mind for a moment. I find that so powerful. And to bring something like that into this fringy sort of conspiracy…It’s out there in the ether. Then when you have two human beings who are really going through something, that’s very real and very, very tragic and very emotional and grounded in reality, like the characters in the movie. I think that is the most powerful part. That’s the thing I gravitate to, how easy it is to start to believe.
I think it’s interesting to watch how some of this is turning. When the idea that Sinbad played a genie in a movie called Shazam, which disappeared off the face of the planet, became a big meme, everyone knew that simply wasn’t true. That movie never existed. It was Kazaam with Shaq. But now, I’m suddenly meeting these people who are younger than me, who insist that they remember watching this Sinbad movie. That never existed. At least not in my originating timeline. So what is going on there?
Robin Lord Taylor: Yeah, right. Exactly. I love the idea that you know it isn’t real. But it’s interesting that they think they know it is real. I think there’s a reason it’s becoming part of the zeitgeist at this moment. Because the prevalence of the Internet, and alternative facts, the ability to manipulate people is so much more powerful now than it was in the 80s, when the actual phenomenon the whole thing is named after actually happened. Everyone believing that Nelson Mandela had died in prison? That was before the Internet, before these conspiracies, before fake news. All of that. I think that’s really interesting to look at it in context, and know that it did exist before this. Then to see how it’s becoming more and more prevalent of an idea. It’s sort of the times that we live in right now.
Going back to explaining the movie to friends and family, and what exactly The Mandela Effect is, this has to be a somewhat unfortunate title for anyone who isn’t familiar with the concept. Removed from the so called conspiracy, The Mandela Effect doesn’t sound like a trippy mind altering Sci-fi movie. It sounds like you are about to sit and watch a movie about the effect Nelson Mandela had on people and culture at large. The title doesn’t mean that at all. For some people, this might be what you’d call a hard sell just from the title alone.
Robin Lord Taylor: Ha. Yes, it can be a little tough to get across. It requires a little bit of an explanation, especially with people who don’t know what the Mandela Effect. Saying that it’s actually about a phenomenon that is occurring, and that has been occurring for several years. It just so happens to be named after a brilliant, important man.
The movie positions several theories for the Mandela Effect. It touches on string theory, the Hadron Collider at Cern. But the end thesis arrives at this world around us being a simulation in a giant computer program. The Matrix scenario. And that’s where we reach the conclusion. I personally believe in the Cern theory that smashed atoms are opening up parallel universes. Where do you personally rest on the whole idea?
Robin Lord Taylor: I don’t know. It is that classic idea. I gravitate more towards the simulation theory of it all. I can look at my life as time inventing you. I am inventing everyone else. Because it’s always inside my head. Within my perspective. There is no way to experience anything outside of that. So, who’s to say that I’m not creating this reality right now? There’s no way to prove that. That’s really mind blowing, and interesting. I have gone back to that over and over in my life. So when learning about the simulator theory, and how that jives with this idea in the sense that, there’s no way to prove that it is not reality.That it is not a simulation, or that I’m not creating this reality right now. You don’t exist. That sort of goes hand in hand for me, which I find really interesting.
You know Sally Field used to be Sally Fields. Her brother works at Cern. There is a very interesting interview she has with David Letterman about her brother and the work he is doing. You can find it on Youtube. I like that her brother works there, and one of the first Mandela Effects, before people really knew her brother was doing this work, was the changing of her last name. Maybe that is why I gravitate to the Cern theory being behind The Mandela Effect. I like to think this dude tampered with his family’s last name.
Robin Lord Taylor: Really. That’s interesting.
Let’s jump to the end of the movie. It’s profound in a realistic way. I’ve had these realistic lucid dreams that feel so very real. The world is ending. And you close your eyes as everything goes black. Then you awaken, back in your bed, like someone reset a clock. Have you had this experience before? Can you relate that to how David Guy Levy chose to end his movie?
Robin Lord Taylor: Yes, totally. Sure. I feel like we live in such heightened times. I could name several instances, like climate change. The global political environment. Right now, you think in apocalyptic scenes. It’s always on our brains, all of the time. There’s so many times where I’ll be dreaming. And it’s like I can smell the air, and I can feel that drop in my stomach being like, ‘Oh, this is fucking it. This is it.’ But, you still walk away from that dream feeling like you went through something. I’ve definitely experienced that. It’s really fascinating that everyone shares that. Would there be any way to find out if this is more prevalent now than it was in the past? This is not just a condition that we’ve had? Who’s to say?
The Mandela Effect is certainly becoming an increasingly popular theory. And we’re starting to see this idea really open up in our entertainment. Back in the 80s and 90s, we would see Grey aliens everywhere. On TV, posters at the store, candy. Some believed the government at large was doing this as a form of indoctrination, so that we would accept these aliens when they were presented to us for real. Do you think that is going on here? With these ideas of a parallel universe, or shifting planes of realities? We have your movie, which deals with the Matrix simulation theory. We had Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, which took on the Cern angle. That won a Best Picture Oscar and opens the idea to kids, in family entertainment.
Robin Lord Taylor: After having grown up on Unsolved Mysteries, that certainly makes sense to me. If anything, that just scared the shit out of me. And it makes it more difficult with the ideas you bring up. I do strongly believe that we manifest certain things in our lives when we put that energy out there. I believe that it does have an effect. I think that’s a really fascinating thought, we’re putting all of this out there to somewhat pull some of the mystery away. Whether it’s conscious or unconsciously to get us ready for what could be the actual reality. We’re now at a point with technology where we could very potentially experience anything, and then that could be considered part of The Mandela Effect.
What about doppelgänger theory? Do you believe that there are other versions of ourselves possibly loose in the same reality?
Robin Lord Taylor: My husband will bring something up every day, and I’m like, ‘I didn’t say that.’ And he’ll be like, ‘Yeah, you did.’ I have no recollection of doing that, but that may be some kind of alcohol induced psychosis happening in that moment. The thing I keep going back to, that I had in my own career, like a real amazing connection to my own personal life is that some years ago, I did a movie called Another Earth. That doesn’t deal exactly deal with the same thing. But it does kind of deal with it. It does in a certain way. A potential alternate reality occurring and colliding with our own at the moment. It’s somewhat of a theme that these two movies share. I think it’s just so interesting in that film. I also play the brother. I play someone who’s very grounded in reality, and there are all of these parallels. Completely unintended parallels, that I really didn’t think about until I watched The Mandela Effect for the first time. Especially seeing the sequence of that anguish, that you can see the two planets crashing into each other in the sky. This ending was very evocative of what Another Earth was all about. And I just think it’s so cool. It’s like another thesis. It’s my own alternates, like sort of occurrence like, you know, a hiccup. That has happened in my career, which I think it’s so cool.
While The Mandela Effect could certainly be true, at the end of the day, this is just a movie. And it seems like it has franchise potential. Especially since we’ve had at least three major shifts since you guys shot this. And there are a bunch of startling new Mandela Effects that you guys didn’t even know to touch on at the time. With the way the movie ends, could we be looking at sequels sometime in the near future?
Robin Lord Taylor: Not that I know of. I think that’s a brilliant idea. You could even take it in so many different directions. It wouldn’t have to be about such a tragic occurrence in this family’s life. It could be funny. Random shit. You could dig in, and take it in so many directions. You can’t really disprove The Mandela Effect. That is what is so powerful about it. Who’s to say this isn’t real? That’s why I think it’s such an enduring idea. And it’s so exciting to people, because again, you can’t say it’s not really so. I think it’s so cool.