Critics and fans alike are still buzzing about Gravity, director Alfonso Cuarón’s 3D space adventure. It already amassed $55.6 million on its opening weekend, which Deadline reported as the largest October opening weekend in history. Before you head out to the theaters to watch it for a second time, check out these fascinating facts about the film so you have something more to think about than just George Clooney’s beautiful brown eyes. Just how difficult was it to shoot the movie? How much of it was CG? What were the metaphors behind the film? Warning: major spoilers ahead.
Silence is golden.
Cuarón first considered making the film entirely silent, but thought against it as it would probably “annoy the audience.” “The only sound you hear in space in the film is if, say, one of the characters is using a drill,” Cuarón said. “Sandra’s character would hear the drill through the vibrations through her hand. But vibration itself doesn’t transmit in space—you can only hear what our characters are interacting with.” [Wired]
Not George Clooney.
Before Clooney landed his Gravity role, there were talks of Robert Downey, Jr. portraying astronaut Matt Kowalski. [Vulture]
Just how long did the film take to make?
The film took a total of four-and-a-half years to make, including the research, animation, filming, and CG implementations. The entire film was first made as an animation, then as an animation with lighting, and then precisely filmed with the actors (with no room for improvisation). [Wired]
And how many Benjamins were used?
It cost $100 million to make Gravity. Just for comparison, Avatar reportedly had a budget of $237 million and The Dark Knight Rises $250 million. And just for laughs, the John Carter flop supposedly had a $300 million budget. [MTV, The-Numbers.com]
So many metaphors!
In case you missed it, there wasn’t too much dialogue because the whole film was a metaphor for rebirth as a direct outgrowth of adversity. Sandra Bullock’s character Dr. Ryan Stone is drifting so far away from human connection that she is having trouble communicating. (Cuarón felt space would be the perfect representation for loneliness.) She is stuck in limbo, floating and spinning in her own world between Earth and the emptiness of the universe. The debris represents the adversity she faces in life, while her astronaut suit is the skin she is no longer comfortable in—something that is suffocating her. She needs to shed that skin and when she does, she is able to see clearly and breathe again. Remember that that scene where she floats in the space station in fetal position? Yup, it represents her rebirth. When she lands on Earth in the ocean and opens the hatch, it is as if she is a butterfly coming out of her cocoon. [Wired, Space.com]
The first 17-minutes of Gravity is one long, unbroken shot of the two astronauts fixing their space shuttle. [Screen Rant]
The spacesuits and most of the background elements were all created in “photo-realistic CG.” Very little was built on stages—just bits and pieces of the space stations. [Popular Mechanics, ComingSoon.net]
What’s in a name?
The original title of the screenplay was Gravity: A Space Suspense in 3D. [ComingSoon.net]
Understanding zero gravity.
Not only did the team of Gravity have astronauts and advisors from NASA look over the project, but also physicists who had to explain how different objects react in micogravity. “Up there, there’s no up and there’s no down,” said Cuarón. “There’s no horizon, there’s no weight, and not only that, but when objects interact, it’s a completely different thing, because there’s no resistance. If you throw a baseball, the ball keeps on going straight until the infinite or until some other object changes the course of the ball, but if you throw the ball, at the same time you’re pushed backwards. With the same intensity that you throw the ball you move backwards and on top of that, depending on the distribution of weight in your body, that’s how you roll and spin or don’t roll and spin. So it’s a lot of little minutia that we have to try to understand and learn and apply. It was particularly difficult for animators, because when you learn how to draw, you learn based on horizon and weight.” [ComingSoon.net]
You spin me right round, baby, right round.
The team wasn’t able to use conventional wires or rigs to shoot the scenes. Rigs only go from left to right, but the problem with this is that the characters were both floating and spinning. They used a special and unprecedented nine-foot cube box with 1.8 controllable LED lights, which served as sort of a jumbo screen for the actors. It would flip the actors around in different directions and there was another box with a camera that would do the same, so everything was moving at the same time. “It was really disorienting,” Clooney said. [Vanity Fair, Vulture]
One is the loneliest number.
Bullock spent about 45 to 60 days alone shooting. The LED box they used was dubbed “Sandy’s Box,” since she spent so much time in it. Since it was time-consuming to get her in and out of the box, she opted to just stay in the box between takes and Cuarón would play her “atmospheric, atonal music.” When Clooney got on set, he would play gangster rap. [The Wrap, Vulture]
And just for your entertainment pleasure, check out this edit from Film School Rejects, which turns Gravity from a space thriller to an astronaut romantic comedy pairing Clooney and Bullock. It’s “out of this world!”