I lost 10 kilograms for the sake of flying: Director Klim Shipenko spoke about the shooting of the film “Challenge”
Klim Shipenko told our journalists about the filming of the film “The Challenge” in the program “Dialogues” on radio “Komsomolskaya Pravda”
Photo: Ivan MAKEEV
Klim Shipenko over the past five years has become one of the main Russian directors. His “Salyut-7” and “Text” were awarded the “Golden Eagles” as the best films of 2017 and 2019, and “Kholop” broke all records, becoming the highest-grossing film project in the history of modern Russian cinema. But the “Challenge”, for the sake of filming which Klim and the actress Julia Peresild went into orbitare discussing even hotter than Shipenko’s previous hits. He told our journalists about the filming in the program “Dialogues” on Radio “Komsomolskaya Pravda”.
“I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS CALL ALL OF MY LIFE”
– What did you feel at the moment when you were offered to shoot “The Challenge”? And how did it happen, Konstantin Ernst called and asked: “Do you want to fly into space”?
– My permanent producer and partner Eduard Iloyan called. He said that such an offer had been received. And then we already met with Konstantin Lvovich … I was wildly delighted. Because I’ve been waiting for this call all my life. I dreamed of flying into space, I thought about it a lot when I was filming Salyut-7 …
– And at what point did you realize that all this is real? What will you really fly?
– Intuitively, I knew that it would be so. It seems like a one in a million chance of me getting into orbit, but there are things that just have to happen. And if we talk about the specific moment when we realized that we were flying, this was when the decree was signed that our film would be made as part of a scientific and educational project. The space industry is not homogeneous, there are those who were in favor of our film and those who were against it, but after the decree it became clear that we were succeeding.
– Did you have backups in case you or Yulia Peresild suddenly fell ill right before the flight?
– Yes they were. Julia’s understudy was actress Alena Mordovina. She went through all the training, the medical examination, the same path that Yulia went through. And my understudy was the second cameraman Alexei Dudin. And he helped me prepare technically, took care of equipment, film equipment, helped me master the camera, various gadgets and stray, told me how to distill materials.
– You shot “Challenge” together with Roskosmos. Have you signed any documents on non-disclosure of state secrets? You are on a strategic target.
– As far as I remember, they did not sign. We were simply not allowed to go where state secrets were, and they certainly were not allowed to make films there. In general, after all, astronauts willingly show the interiors of the ISS, even on YouTube you can find a video tour of the station.
Klim Shipenko and Yulia Peresild at a press conference dedicated to the release of the feature film The Challenge. Photo: Alexandra Levchuk
“DRIVING A CAR IN MOSCOW IS MORE DANGEROUS THAN FLYING TO THE ISS”
– They say you took a rugby helmet into orbit so that you don’t bang your head against the walls of the ISS in zero gravity. Did he help you?
– It was clear that I would fly a lot, including backwards, looking into the camera lens. And I will not always be in control of my movements. To stop in weightlessness, you have to grab onto something with your hand, otherwise you will fly like that until you crash into something. We thought for a long time what could protect my head there. Everything that is sent into space must pass laboratory tests in order not to be sent there. And of all types of protection, it was the rugby helmet that came up – light, not bulky, but at the same time leveling all blows. So there was no head injury, although I fought it very often.
– Are you tall. Did your height bother you when you were tested to see if you were fit to fly?
– I am 189 centimeters, and the maximum allowable height is 190. Two more centimeters, and I simply would not have been able to go into orbit … As a result, I did, but growth created severe inconvenience for me when we sat in spacesuits on simulators for five hours, and then in a real Soyuz spacecraft. Yulia felt better.
There are also weight restrictions…
– Now I weigh 95 kilograms. When the medical examination began, it was 105. But losing 10 kilograms was not difficult: you had to count calories, not drink strong alcohol and go in for sports for two hours three times a week.
Klim Shipenko after landing the descent vehicle of the Soyuz MS-18 manned spacecraft. Photo: Sergey Savostyanov / TASS
– When it became clear that you were flying, did your relatives not panic? Screams: “Will you go into space only over my dead body?”
– No, it wasn’t. From a statistical point of view, driving a car in Moscow is a much riskier activity than flying into orbit. In the city every day there are fatal car accidents, and in cosmonautics, in its entire history, there are only a few deaths, and this happened in absolutely emergency situations. Now in the space industry everything is carefully thought out and worked out, for each contingency there are ten options for how to deal with it. Relatives were worried during the start, but simply because this is an exciting moment in itself. Also, the farewell to the astronauts is so organized – on the day of take-off everyone is waving their hands – that Yulia and I had the feeling that we were flying for a year. That is astronauts fly for a year, so in the case of them, this ceremony is appropriate, but we went for two weeks and said: “Guys, what are you, don’t be so touching!” And, of course, we took into account all the traditions of real astronauts …
– Did you watch “White Sun of the Desert” before the flight?
– Looked, of course. But in general, they have a million traditions: visiting a museum in Baikonur, raising one flag, another flag, and so on every day. Half a day was spent only on the observance of traditions. I said: “Friends, we still need to prepare for filming, give us time for this, otherwise we will comply with everything, but there will be no film!”
– In the film, the scenes on the ISS take about forty-five minutes. How much material did you film?
– Dozens of hours. But this is a normal process. Many takes are filmed, tens and hundreds of hours of material are obtained, from which a two-hour film is then mounted.
– Surely you have heard the questions: “Was the flight into space worth those 45 minutes? Is there really such a huge difference between filming weightlessness in a studio set and in orbit?”
– Heard. The fact is that any movie can be shot in the studio. The only question is how good it will be. “Challenge” is an experiment. It could have turned out nothing at all, no one guaranteed anything. But we wanted to be first. It costs a lot…
Sometimes the method dictates the shooting, sometimes the shooting dictates the method. Here, in many respects, the conditions dictated the plot. If I came up with the film “Alien-6”, and they told me: “If you want, you can shoot on the ISS,” I would say: “No. You don’t need the ISS for this story.” It’s too difficult to shoot fiction there, it won’t work. But Challenge is a story about real astronauts, a real space station. We under all this and came up with a script with my co-author Bakur Bakuradze. Also, keep in mind that shooting on Earth has a lot of limitations, and I encountered all of them when I was filming in the Salyut-7 studio, I experienced a lot of inconvenience … But I would not shoot Salyut-7 on the ISS either, the plot wouldn’t allow me: they wouldn’t let me start a fire there, they wouldn’t let me spill water all over the station.
In the second part of the interview, read about how Tom Cruise almost flew into orbit at the same time as Yulia and Klim, how the toilet on the ISS works, and why Anna German’s song “We are each other’s long echo” sounds in the film.
An Honest Review of The Challenge Filmed in Space: How to Overcome Fear and Expand Your Lungs in Zero Gravity
The premiere of the film “Challenge” took place in Moscow – the one that was filmed in orbit. KP.RU correspondent Denis Korsakov shares his first impressions (details)