They hung and painted landscapes: Before the flight of Yulia Peresild into space, actors in weightlessness were filmed on strings
Julia Peresild. Photo: Frame from the film
On April 20, the space blockbuster “Challenge” was released on the big screens – an unprecedented project of Channel One and Roscosmos, filmed on the ISS by director Klim Shipenko. For the first time, the audience got the opportunity to see how the actress looks (and plays) in zero gravity. And “KP” recalls who, besides Yulia Peresild, played space in the cinema – however, in the film set.
The flight of Yuri Gagarin provoked a boom in “space” cinema: in the 70s, the first “Star Wars” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” by Steven Spielberg were released. And in 1979, the audience was shocked by Ridley Scott’s innovative horror film Alien, in which Sigourney Weaver tried on a spacesuit. Now the Hollywood star, at 73, is filming new parts of Avatar, and then, at 30, she played the fearless Lieutenant Ellen Ripley, who does not give in to panic when an Alien appears on the ship Nostromo. The artists of the project, together with the director, built cold space and loneliness in one of the pavilions in London. Scott personally drew the storyboard and the “innards” of a space tug for the film, which at first they did not want to give money (they even tried to sell it as “Jaws in Space”).
Sigourney Weaver in Ridley Scott’s Alien. Photo: Frame from the film
The scenery of the three decks of the Nostromo was a single whole – like on the ISS. Each deck occupied a separate stage, consisting of different rooms connected by corridors. To move around the set, the actors had to wander through the corridors, which added to the film’s realism. For the scenery, scrap metal and parts of an old bomber were used (this was also the case in Star Wars, by the way).
Yugoslav actress with Russian roots Milla Jovovich became famous all over the world after the release of the space melodrama The Fifth Element (1997). In a film where love conquers monsters from any galaxy, she played the mysterious Leela – a creature capable of resisting the most powerful evil in the universe.
Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element. Photo: Frame from the film
Luc Besson shot this picture for $90 million – at that time it was the most expensive project filmed outside of Hollywood. And it was clear why: in addition to 900 (!) Designer costumes (one jacket cost $5,000) for aliens from Jean-Paul Gaultier, as well as salaries for actors, on the territory of the same English studio where they filmed “Alien”, Bond and ” Mission Impossible”, built an alternative world in seven film sets. Futuristic landscapes, skyscrapers, flying cars – all this was as lively, bright and deadly original as possible.
Many, not without reason, believe that the role of astronaut Ryan Stone in Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity (2013) is Sandra Bullock’s best role. In the most intense blockbuster, the actress settles in outer space.
Best performance by Sandra Bullock in Gravity. Photo: Frame from the film
Incredibly, Bullock and Cuarón managed to convey the state of a person hovering in the void between Earth and eternity without flying to the ISS. To do this, the actress was attached to a small frame inside a three-meter cube raised above the floor, the walls of which are covered with flickering LEDs. Bullock’s head, which was worn in a high-tech helmet, was exactly in the center of the scenery. Narrow rails were brought close to it – through a hole in the wall of the cube deep into the pavilion. At the other end of the rails, a robot with a female name Iris, equipped with a movie camera, was waiting for the director’s team. The android was controlled by a technician. On Cuarón’s command, Iris was supposed to rush along the rails at a speed of 30 km / h and stop a couple of centimeters from the motionless nose of Bullock. So don’t break it! No filming underwater. Only human plasticity (the actress took lessons from dancers and an ISS astronaut to understand how facial expressions work in zero gravity) and computer graphics that draw the beauties of space. Occasionally, Bullock was pulled through the air by “puppeteers” – at a height of six meters in a structure of 12 cables. The shooting took place in reverse: first, the scenes were modeled on a computer, and then the acting work in the frame was “customized” for them. The process took almost three years.
The funny thing is that Cuarón discussed sending actors into real space 10 years ago. But he admitted that no one would give him money for such a trick.
In Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Interstellar (2014), fragile Anne Hathaway was cast as astronaut Amelia Brandt, traveling through space and time. Literally everything on the set was robotic. Space scenes on the ship were filmed on real models of ships or their miniatures. And for the levitation scene of Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) in five-dimensional space, a slit-scan effect was used: the photo is placed on the scanner, and then this photo is moved by hand during scanning. So the images are elongated in the direction where they were sent. Surprisingly, CGI was used so rarely that even the scenes on the planet Manna (Matt Damon) were filmed on the ground – on the Snaefellsjokull glacier and the village of Kerkubajakleyster in Iceland.
Anne Hathaway in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar
For weightless scenes, vertical sets were erected (and some of them turned over at an angle of 90 degrees), where the actors were hung on cables.
In the French-German film “Proxima” (2019), Eva Green, in the image of astronaut Sarah Loro, goes on her first flight to the ISS, saying goodbye to her daughter for a long time, after training at our native Baikonur.
Eva Green as astronaut Sarah Loro. Photo: Frame from the film
The project can easily be called Russian, because most of the filming took place in Star City, where Russian cosmonauts are trained (the actress was even seen in the Pyaterochka store with fellow cosmonauts). “Proxima” passed almost unnoticed, and yet this is the very case when, thanks to the verified professional-cosmic line, the feeling of falsity and artificiality of what is happening disappears from the picture. Even despite the fact that it was not without vodka, Mandelstam’s poems and a snowy forest.
– Is my work similar to the work of astronauts? No, astronauts are superhumans and superheroes, Green admits soberly. – They must always be ready to go beyond human capabilities. This is a beautiful sacrifice. I don’t do anything special compared to them.