The Academy Award winning actress reveals what it's like being lost in space

One of the most highly anticipated films of the year, Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity, a heart-pounding thriller that pulls you into the infinite and unforgiving realm of deep space, finally releases in cinemas this week.


Here, the Academy Award winning actress gives us a glimpse behind the scenes and talks about what it was like being lost in space.


STUDIO: Gravity is an extraordinary movie. Can you talk about dealing with adversity?

Sandra Bullock: Yeah, I had been such an extreme admirer of Alfonso's body of work, and it was one of those dreams: 'If I can only work with...' The joke in my office was, every time we had a script, 'Do you think Alfonso will direct it?' We knew the answer was no because he writes his own material. But I always used his films as examples of things I loved, to say what we should aspire to. And then it came up that he had this project and I had no intention of working. They said, 'He'll come to Austin.' I said, 'What? Alfonso Cuarón is coming to Austin?' And he did and the conversation that we had when he came had nothing to do with how to make the film or what kind of film we'd be making, it had to do with the emotional core of what he felt this film was about. I was immediately able to relate what I felt I wanted it to be about and they both happened to be the exact same thing. And that was mind-blowing. Usually you're meeting with someone you've held in such high esteem and they end up not being as bright as you want them to be.


And then I met Jonas, and we talked about character development and nuances and the technical side came in and it was the great unknown. But you talk about life paralleling art, it was - we had great adversities every single day that he had to deal with, that David had to deal with, that Jonas had to deal with. Just on a logistical level, these things never existed before they started making this film. So every day you were battling something because your comfort zone was gone, but I think in the end, for all of us, it was, as Jonas says, an existential journey that spat us out at the end. You figure out what you're made of and what's no longer applicable and I'm so glad I had that experience with this very specific people, because we all needed to learn something and came out the other end having hopefully learned it.


STUDIO: How comfortable did you feel in the space suit? How sexy did you feel in it?

SB: Wow, sometimes questions come at you that you just don't know how to answer! For the most part, I was never in a space suit. There were pieces of a suit with weird things attached to you for the CGI crew to be able to navigate once you've done the action, to go in and overlay a suit. The Russian space suit was really the only one I wore. It was so exquisitely made. You talk about the technology on film, the technology that was invented or created to execute these works of art was beautiful. They were confining, restrictive, and that's as they feel when they're wearing them up in space. I'd love to tell you they were sexy, but there's nothing sexy about them. It was slimming. But it wasn't built for survival outside of the capsule. It's built for limited work outside. The American space suit is built the way it is because it's a life support system. It's a space ship. And the Russian one literally has a very limited time, to the minute, that you can spend outside and survive.



SB: Because it was designed for use inside the Soyuz capsule.


STUDIO: Talk about those moments of humour you had with George Clooney on set.

SB: There was nothing fun about making this film! Even when George and I were together in whatever contraption we were tied into, struggling with the technology, fun is not the word I would use. I think, out of anger and frustration towards Alfonso for putting us there, George and I were so in sync that we felt the need to make fun of Alfonso and the way he speaks. So George and I basically became Scarface. It was a good stress relief and I finally had a partner to vent on.


STUDIO: How did you compose your performance, especially acting against machines or nothing?

SB: I don't know. Composing means you have a beginning, middle and end and a fluidity to what you're doing. This was done in tiny little sections and then you had these long stretches where you had to wait for the camera to get to you and it ended up, for me, the easiest way to rhythmically figure out how to give them what they needed and have some linear story was musically. Alfonso had a bag of music and songs and sounds and I went through the catalogue and started pulling songs for each scene that made me feel something because I knew I would be isolated, and I needed something that would be a quick fix or wake me up in some way, so it was always the rhythm of some kind of music or song, whether it was just in my head or something we piped in. After we shot enough, I was able to say, 'Can you play back in my ear what we just shot?' So I could hear the breath, get the level of hyperventilation or fear, get worked up to that point and they could roll camera. The more we shot, the more I had to go back and reference to piece this together.




STUDIO: The pivotal scene is where you're in deep space and there's a lot going through your mind.

SB: That scene, and correct me if I'm wrong, was in everyone's mind. I had to be in top core strength because I had to collapse myself on this bicycle seat. When I saw it in the pre-vis and the piece of music they'd set it to, it was so emotional and had so much weight for all these reasons. I know it was a big scene for Chivo, for everyone. You could just feel it. So when we shot it, it was a tense day because the helmet was supposed to come off, how do we do it in slow motion? One leg is taped to this pole, everything is contracting and we worried so much - at least I did - that when we finally shot it, we had that piece of music we all fell in love with and we played it. I said, 'Just play it, and the rhythm will find itself.' And it did, it took a couple of takes, but after, I think, the sixth one, it was so silent, no one had to say a word, everybody knew that it worked.


STUDIO: Apparently you weren't allowed to show any strain?

SB: At one point, Alfonso said, 'Sandy? Does your leg have to shake?' I told him, 'I am slowly contracting using my core at this speed... That is a muscle, Alfonso. That's what muscles look like and it's supporting my entire body!' 'Okay, don't shake it, then. You can have the muscle, don't shake it!' But all those things Alfonso said, the metaphor, the visuals, the feelings I wanted people to have for themselves when they watched the scene, I didn't want to be responsible for messing that up. And to me when tragedy hits, we would like to go back to the womb and start over again because it's the safest place you ever were. To be able to show that, that sense of peace, that sense of beauty and silence was daunting. Every single aspect had to be perfect. I remember where everyone was, how it felt sitting there. Shooting it was like doing modern interpretative dance with Martha Graham, but such an emotional day and I just wanted Chivo and Alfonso to be happy. When there was silence and I didn't get an, 'Er, Sandy?' I knew. I started crying. Everyone had their moment. No one looked at each other. We wanted so badly to be in a story where you get the feelings you do from reading a book. Fantasy, suspension of belief, I don't think film has been able to have that for a while.


STUDIO: The movie's about rebirth. Is this the rebirth of your career?

SB: I've been granted many times to have different experiences. There's the work and there's a career. I can't control the career aspect because it's all about timing and other things. For me, it was a rebirth in my excitement at filmmaking and my part in it, and what I'm allowed to be a part of. Alfonso didn't have to be collaborative, but he's one of the most collaborative people I've worked with. So it was a rebirth in my faith in why I chose this profession.


Introduction by Louise Robina Happé.


Taken from the film's official interviews.


Gravity releases in cinemas November 7th.

“Every day you were battling something because your comfort zone was gone.”

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