dir.: alfonso cuarón
drama / sci-fi / thriller
sandra bullock as dr. ryan stone
george clooney as matt kowalski
ed harris as mission control (voice)
- space debris cascade’ scenario is known as the kessler syndrome, named after nasa scientist donald j. kessler who proposed the theory in 1978. a cascading kessler syndrome involving an object the size of the international space station would trigger a catastrophic debris chain-reaction.
- sandra bullock spent 6 months in physical training. cuarón said, “more than anything else, we were just talking about the thematic element of the film, the possibility of rebirth after adversity.” they worked out how she would perform each scene, and her notes were included the pre-vis animation and programming for the robots. cuarón and bullock zeroed in on one crucial aspect of the performance: stone’s breath, “and how that breath was going to dictate her emotions,” he said. “that breath that is connected with stress in some instances, but also the breath that is dictated by lack of oxygen. james cameron, best friend of cuarón and a huge fan of the film, said bullock’s work is more impressive than the technology that supported it.
- alfonso cuarón, cinematographer emmanuel lubezki, and visual effects supervisor tim webber decided that they couldn’t make gravity as they wanted to by simply using traditional methods. so for the spacewalk scenes, says webber, “we decided to shoot (the actors’) faces and create everything else digitally. he would need to light the faces to match the all-digital environment they’d be put into. whether the characters were floating gently, changing direction or tumbling in space, the facial light would have to be a perfect match for the earth, sun and stars in the background. if the light is not moving at the speed that it has to move, if the position of the light is not right, if the contrast or density on the faces is wrong, etc.” lubezki suggested folding an led screen into a box (light box), putting the actor inside, and using the light from the screen to light the actor. that way, instead of moving either bullock or clooney in the middle of static lights, the projected image could move while they stayed still and safe. this “light box” became the key to the spacewalk scenes. but it was only a 9’ cube, just big enough for 1 actor, not an actor and a camera crew.
- various mechanical sounds made by the spacecraft are heard on the soundtrack as a result of conduction through the astronauts’ bodies while they are in contact with the station.
- aningaaq, the man dr. stone talks to on the shortwave radio, is the main character of the short film “aningaaq (2013)” dir. by jonás cuarón. in that movie he is an inuit fisherman camping on the ice over a frozen fjord. he has a daughter and a dog sled, both of which make an ‘appearence’ in gravity via the radio.
- gravity had languished in development hell for 4 years, because the film’s ambition - in terms of the cinematography, visual effects, and realistic “story atmosphere” of outer space - proved to be too challenging and cuarón had to wait for the technology to be far more advanced and progressed to meet his vision; that was finally realized in 2009 with james cameron’s avatar.
- length of the film: 90 minutes. the iss travels at approximately 17,500 mph which takes it around the earth in 90 minutes. in the course of the movie, the station makes 1 complete orbit in real life.
- the off-screen voice of mission control is ed harris, who played real-life mission director gene kranz in apollo 13.
- the real-life chinese space station is named tiangong (“heavenly palace”) and, at the time of the film’s premiere, it consists of only 1 small inhabitable module. the goal of the tiangong program is the construction of a space station much like the one in the film by the year 2022.
- though the film itself is scientifically accurate in depicting no sound in space, sound effects were added to the film’s trailers to make them appear more exciting.
- because of alfonso cuarón’s love of lengthy takes, sandra bullock often had to memorize long combinations of precise movements to hit her marks at different points in the shot. and she often had to coordinate her own moves with those of the wire rig attached to her and the camera.
- a chance meeting between their siblings led to astronaut cady coleman placing a phone call from the international space station to sandra bullock to speak with her about life in space.
- angelina jolie was originally cast but dropped out later. subsequently tested or approached: rachel weisz, naomi watts, natalie portman, marion cotillard, abbie cornish, carey mulligan, sienna miller, scarlett johansson, blake lively, rebecca hall and olivia wilde.
- alfonso and ‘jonas cuarón’ developed the film’s script at universal pictures, where alfonso had co-written and directed children of men for universal in 2006. universal was hoping to attach angelina jolie and robert downey jr.
- the spacesuit that dr stone puts on in the russian soyuz capsule has the # 42 on the patch, the “answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything” in the novel “the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy”.
- kowalski mentions landing at edwards, referring to edwards air force base in the mojave desert of california. primary landing site for all shuttle missions until 1991, then served as a backup landing site until the conclusion of the space shuttle program in 2011.
- robert downey jr. was cast but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.
- ryan refers to her mission as sts-157 in one of her transmissions. in real life, the 135th and final space shuttle mission was sts-135. it launched on 8 july 2011 and landed on 21 july 2011.
- this film marks george clooney’s first feature outside of his ocean’s franchise to break the $100 mil. mark since the perfect storm in 2000.
- sts (acronym) for space transportation system.
- natalie portman was the top choice for the lead role after angelina jolie twice refused it. portman turned down the role shortly before she announced her pregnancy.
- 1st film project for producer david heyman since the harry potter film series came concluded with harry potter 7-2 in 2011. it is also the 1st collaboration between heyman and alfonso cuarón since harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban.