HNS recently chatted with The Space Between Us actors Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson and Carla Gugino as well as Director Peter Chelsom, Producer Richard Lewis and Space Consultant Scott Hubbard about the film. Check out all the scoop below!
*Interviews conducted with other media outlets as well.*
I thought that it was a really sweet love story but I also saw it as a love letter to Planet Earth. I felt very much inspired and appreciative. Is that something that was planned? I feel especially with the times, everybody’s feeling very out of sorts. I felt this was a very inspirational movie, looking on the bright side of things.
Peter Chelsom: Music to my ears! That’s the point. I also feel, with regard to the times, that unifying experience for audiences is very important. And it’s not that I walked on set everyday wearing a so-called “family movie making” hat metaphorically. It’s turned out that way and I’m very proud of that and I think it’s… the best family movies I think are the movies that unite families in such a way that they all share exactly the same experience for exactly the same reasons as opposed to condescending to the kids and nodding to the parents. It’s hard to get that right. And I would hope this does that. From everything we’ve seen from audiences, the 70-year-old enjoys it just as much as the 12-year-old and I’m proud of that.
About accomplishing the effects of the varying gravity:
Carla Gugino: Yeah, it’s interesting, because we did a couple things for that. One was with our stunt coordinator, I did do some walking with just a bunch of weights on my ankles and legs, just to kind of feel what that would really feel like. But the other thing is because Albuquerque and Santa Fe are high altitude in terms of the breathing, because we obviously wanted the juxtaposition between my character running sort of more in a gazelle like way on Mars and then not on Earth. And it was interesting because it was only about half acting. Half acting and half altitude helping me out. (laughs) Yeah it was really amazing and that whole sequence when I’m running after the airplane, cause of course as you know we’re shooting that for 8 hours or however long we’re shooting it, by the end, I was like, ‘I gotta sit down!’
Peter Chelsom: We have to really acknowledge the gravity difference because it’s a plot point in the film. Some films, Mars is a third gravity, space is zero gravity. We had to embrace it because it’s a film about a boy who is brought up in a different gravity, and that’s the problem. So Asa has strapped all kinds of weight to him, got him running and got him used to what it would feel like to feel really really heavy. He did that for weeks, and then when you take the weights off there’s a muscle memory that kicks in and he can do it. A lot of it is frame/ speeds slightly slow motion. Remember when the ship lands on Mars, there’s someone running to greet them. That person for example is shot slightly in slow motion, but also there’s a massive crane with a wire to a harness that he’s in. Just like an inertia harness lifting him so there’s an oddness to his run. Similarly to Carla’s training and Asa’s training. So yes, that’s how I dealt with it. It’s tough. Being in harnesses is really tough.
Can you talk about how the collaboration (with NASA) came about?
Richard Lewis: I grew up in the Bay area. My dad taught medicine at Stanford. Scott is a professor at Stanford and ran the NASA Ames Program for years. So when this concept came about, there was a fellow writer, Stewart Schill, came to my office and we were working on another space project and he said, ‘I have this wild idea, what would happen if an astronaut discovered she were pregnant on a flight to Mars?’ And I called my dad who is a heart specialist, and he introduced me to folks at NASA Ames. Didn’t even know Scott was there and I said, ‘So guys, what would happen?’ And there was silence for seconds on the other end and they said, ‘Have you guys been listening to our phone calls? And I said, ‘I’ve never met you, I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ They said, ‘We don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re not prepared to give birth in a flight to Mars, we’re not prepared to abort, we’re not prepared to turn around.’ Can’t turn around. So all that was real and then we started digging into the science of it and the pressure on the heart, my dad was telling me would be enormous because the gravity would be two-thirds greater, puts pressure on the bones. And then I met Scott at a science technology Hollywood event symposium. Handed him the script that we had at that point, he tore it to shreds.
Scott Hubbards: (laughs) No I didn’t. Put a lot of yellow stickies.
Richard Lewis: A lot of yellow stickies, a lot of questions. I had the pleasure then of going to – NASA invited myself and my family, I have a son whose got his pilot’s license, he’s been flying, he’s obsessed with it. And flew down and saw the launch after the shuttle disaster – Columbia. So it was the first return to flight after the –
Scott Hubbard: the first female commander.
Richard Lewis: I met her. So, Carla’s character was modeled after many of the women I met. Who you find out from talking to them, really put their life on hold. Many of them aren’t married because they didn’t want it to get in the way. Some of them are married and don’t have children, often because of all the complications and danger. So it’s really interesting to see. It’s not that it’s sadness, they made a choice. And then when it came to the side of the Gary Oldman character, Nathaniel Shepherd that was a compilation of the obvious folks, Richard Branson, Elon Musk. I had the pleasure of meeting Elon in 2002. In which he pitched the ambition he had, before anyone knew Elon Musk, before any of this, before Tesla, before SpaceX and it was like ‘Whoa! This guy’s going to Mars? Are you serious?’ And he’s doing it. And we spent a lot of time going down to SpaceX, meeting a lot of people there, showing Elon footage, looking at their suits. And Richard Branson. I know also, I believe you see in the film, is a big fan of it. He’s promoting it on Virgin. So you have these disruptive entrepreneurs who are – it’s what needed to happen – and Scott can attest to this as a former Marizard running NASA.
Scott Hubbard: That’s right, I was NASA’s first Marizard. So after two missions disappeared in 1999, the administrator called me in to as he said fix the mess. So I got to put the whole NASA Mars program together that you’ve seen the last 15 years with Spirit and Opportunity and Curiosity and all that sort of stuff. So Richard and I, as he said, met through a national academy function they’ve got which is to connect producers with experts, although there’s this other connection through Stanford. In my old center did some of the only experiments of having living creatures gestating and give birth with micro-gravity. We launched a mission out of my center in the 90’s that looked at pregnant mice giving birth on orbit and all of the anomalies that they had, and this got built into a lot of what happens to Gardner and all the funny things with his bones and lungs and heart and so forth. So it’s been quite an adventure. Working with Richard’s been absolutely terrific, a real great collaborator. They’re storytellers, making movies telling story. I deal in science and engineering and so forth so it’s not always possible to make everything perfect, but I think the movie is incredibly accurate and realistic. The Martian is too to a degree, although it starts off with a storm that could never happen. The air on Mars is too thin to blow anything over. If you were in the worst dust storm/ wind storm on Mars it would be (blows one small breath) like that because the air is so thin. So these guys…
Richard Lewis: It’s a great movie!
Scott Hubbard: It’s a great movie. Hidden Figures is stunning, I loved that as well. The difference is our ambition with this story is Gardner is almost like Columbus, not by choice, but he’s the first person who’s going…
Richard Lewis: He’s the first martian.
Scott Hubbard: Yeah, he’s really the first martian. And unlike the end of The Martian, which is get me the hell off this planet, we actually are going to stay there. So that’s the ambition of the film, is he’s going to be the first person born on Mars, a colonist, more will come. Probably Tulsa will come at some point. But that’s his life. He resisted at first, all the way through the movie just wants to be on Earth, he wants to be human, and then he realizes he can’t. And so that’s his calling. That’s what he’s doing and Gary’s character of course has his own, all his conflicts and ambitions, and medical conditions that he’s afraid of and he has to overcome those. So they both risk everything. And yes there’s a love story but there’s a much bigger canvas that we’re trying to paint so again we started with ‘What would happen if an astronaut was pregnant?’ which is not so much a love story. My wife teases me she’s like, ‘You’re just like every Disney movie, Bambi, you always kill the mother.’
Richard Lewis: You always kill moms. What is the problem?
Scott Hubbard: As Carla says, she’s the best mom I never had so I think that’s part of it. That was a joy. These are all fractured characters, they all have real conflicts in their life. They’re all missing something in their life. And it doesn’t all get resolved, it’s not all neat and tidy but they kind of find each other.
The film is like a love letter to planet Earth. What is your favorite thing about Earth?
Carla Gugino: Yeah, you know. I do think its funny because, my favorite thing really is people. Like I am a lover of people. And of the just the fact that everybody that we have a planet that’s much smaller than we feel, I mean we all sort of want the same thing. We all want to be loved, we all want to have connection, and we all want to feel valuable, and have a life that’s filled with meaning and all those things and yet we’re all kind of stumbling around trying to figure out how to do that. And I really thank my parents for it, but I had a very eclectic childhood and I think that part of the thing that came out of that was just a love for very different kinds of people. So unlike Kendra, who I think is actually really happy to be away from the messiness of Earth, and sort of to not look back initially until she realizes that she wants to do it for Gardner, I think I’d feel really lonely somewhere else like that. So that would be the thing. But I will say that also doing all the work that we did on the Mars stuff on this, I was thinking the thing that it made me miss the most – because I’m from Sarasota, Florida originally – especially living in New York now, about every 6 months, there’s an inner clock of turquoise water. Warm. I need it now. So I guess that’s another thing I love about our planet.
Peter Chelsom: Nature.
Asa Butterfield: We’ve got varying answers now.
Britt Robertson: We’ve switched it up. But I’ll give you the true, honest answer. Because that’s what you’re asking. I would say specifically my dogs currently but like animals in general. I love animals. It’s not that humans aren’t amazing, but there’s something really beautiful about animals and what they bring into the world. Their unconditional sort of service to whatever it may be and their love and kindness…. The love that animals bring into your life is far more rewarding than humans.
Asa Butterfield: Me, for my short and concise answer, it would be food. Good grub. My favorite kind of food… this is where it gets a bit longer my answer. So we have beans and toast option, that’s my lunch. It’s very British. Baked beans, Heinz baked beans and toast. Spread some mayonnaise instead of butter. Fry some onions with the beans. Grate cheese on top. Maybe an egg, some sausages. I’m telling you guys. Don’t knock it til you try it. Breakfast? Probably like nutella pancakes with banana. And then for dinner, pizza.
You guys shot a lot of different locations. Do you have a favorite?
Britt Robertson: Vegas, baby!
Asa Butterfield: It was Vegas and Albuquerque, but you’re right Albuquerque has a wide variety of…
Britt Robertson: We also shot in Malibu and that was miserable.
Asa Butterfield: Did we? Oh yeah, we did. Oh wow I forgot about that. I just wiped that from my memory. We were out on a beach, in the sea in December.
Britt Robertson: It was cold. And the tide was rough, so we could barely get out there for long. I was knocked down like a million times.
Asa Butterfield: I remember we were just like soaked.
Britt Robertson: Yeah. In clothes which is terrible.
Asa Butterfield: It was just one day we were actually on the beach. I think. We didn’t have enough time, so it was just like, ‘Run!’
Britt Robertson: Go, go, go, go! The madness of it all. Yeah, Malibu was my least favorite. Never thought I’d say that.
You guys have really good on-screen chemistry. What did you do to prepare for that magic on film?
Britt Robertson: We made out a lot. (laughs)
Asa Butterfield: Loads of secret handshakes, which only us knew.
Britt Robertson: Most of our time spent together, actually the one time we hung out in Albuquerque is like the day we wrapped basically.
Asa Butterfield: And Halloween.
Britt Robertson: And Halloween yeah.
Asa Butterfield: Halloween. Where we all dressed up. Were you Batman? I was a clown. I think. I’m pretty sure I had the clown.
Britt Robertson: It was like mismatched outfits sort of. His stand-in brought over just like all of the Halloween equipment he had for you, your brother, myself.
Asa Butterfield: my brother had a beat up pumpkin suit. Which looked amazing.
Britt Robertson: Oh yeah, he did! He had a literal pumpkin suit. It was so good. And tie. No, not a pumpkin. Like a suit with pumpkins on it. We rehearsed, we hung out. We were nice to each other as best we could, and you know, that usually helps. Just be kind. It’s pretty easy to create chemistry if you’re just like kind, respectful.
Asa Butterfield: We’re actors. It’s what we do.
The Space Between Us hits theaters nationwide on Friday, February 3rd!