Alfonso Cuarón is a man I am able to admire, and we should all admire. He was as a child very passionate about films, and I am able to relate to this, and also very optimistic about being an astronaut…okay so that didn’t happen, I’m sure we all would have loved to fantasise about such things at a young age. So perhaps it was his fascination with the subject matter that led him on to direct the epic, Gravity.
He laughs about losing most of the colour in his hair, but Cuarón doesn’t seem to be too bothered. Here is the recent Best Director winner and his speech…
I found an interview conducted by Variety!
Here are some of the questions I found most interesting…
Various actors “attached” and “detached” from the project as so much time went by before you were ready to start the actual shooting. Initial reports had Robert Downey Jr. attached to the role George Clooney ultimately played, as astronaut Matt Kowalski. How did Clooney come onboard, and what was it like to work with him?
We’ve been approaching each other to work together for years, and it was almost like something that completely made sense. And George is a terrific actor, an amazing writer, and a gifted director. So he gets it. He’s concerned about not just his scenes, but the film. We were struggling with rewrites, we’d stripped everything, a lot of the dialogue; we knew that anything that was going to be said, it was going to have a lot of weight. There was one scene we were doing over and over and over, and George overheard that we were dealing with that. And then one night I receive an e-mail from him, saying, I heard you were struggling with this. I took a shot with the scene, Read it. Throw it out. And we ended up using it. This was exactly what we needed.
Will you tell me what scene that was?
I probably shouldn’t, but it was when [Bullock’s character] was ready to go back [to Earth, near the end of the film]. When she has this dream and starts talking to Kowalski about her daughter. And that’s something that George wrote. You have an amazing partner when you work with him.
I hope this doesn’t come across as sort of vulgar, but watching the film, I couldn’t help wondering: Did you ever consider a different ending? Did you ever consider killing Bullock’s character?
[Laughs.] It’s always a temptation — and then you finish the movie and go with credits in silence. It’s the easy way out. Because, you know, it’s like when you are a film student; those are the endings that you make. I was more interested in another ending. For me, there was an ending and the ending was: She walks. It’s the first moment in the film that you see her walking. The film was a metaphor of rebirth; literally, at the end, she goes from a fetal position [earlier in the film, when she floats after undressing in the space station], then in the water [shot at Lake Powell, Arizona, with significant postproduction alterations to make it green and lush and butterfly-filled], to come out, crawl, go on her knees, and then stand on her two feet and walk again. You know, it was a bit polemic at some point with some people, with a kind of jaded, more mainstream thing, people saying, “But how do we know that she is going to be fine? How do we know that she is getting safely home? How do we know that she is not going to be kidnapped?” I said, “I don’t care, she is walking now!” I want to believe that if she survived what she survived … she’s equipped to deal with adversities. One film that I love that is in many ways a model — not all the time but many times, and by no means am I comparing the film to this film — but A Man Escaped by Robert Bresson. And that escape film becomes this film where the walls are the metaphysical walls. It’s amazing how the film, it starts to have that dimension, and at the end, once he goes to the other side of the fence, he just starts walking away, and that’s the end of the film. In a more studio, conventional way, maybe they’re going to be asking, How do we know that the Nazis are not going to get him? [Laughs.] It doesn’t matter! I think [the studios] have been jaded too much about the need [for audiences] to be reassured, and overexplained in things. Man, I give more credit for audiences.
How difficult was that eighteen-minute opening shot?
Everything was a pain in the sense that, Okay, shit how are we going to do this? And then you start figuring out the technology. Months and months and months developing technology. Then you realize it’s not working. Then always, in the last minute, you make it work. Then, once you make it work for the shoot, then you have to combine with CGs and you don’t know if it’s going to work. So you wait, another six, eight months.
Clip of the film’s opening shot!
It’s extraordinary that this movie looks so real, yet so much of it is actually computer-animated, with the actors’ faces inserted.
The technology involved basically is the worst possible scenario of animation and the worst possible scenario of a live-action shoot. There were different technologies that were involved that we created. What they all have in common is that they had to be pre-programmed. [Editor’s note: It was a maddening, circular scenario: They knew that at the end of the actors’ shoot, they’d have, basically, the voices of Bullock and Clooney as well as their faces — which would be lit appropriately for the scene — as the basic structural and timing elements around which they’d then animate. So they needed to conjure the finished product before the shoot in order to get the actors to do what would work.] So when we went to the shooting stage, everything was set in stone, meaning that we could not do adjustments, and meaning that the actors, there was very little room for actors to do changes, because the scene had to be exactly that length of time — the timing was written in stone. The positions were written in stone. It was like, At that exact moment, [Sandra], you reach out with your hand like that. Everything was so millimetric. It was a testament to Sandra and George how they went through with all these technical, psychological limitations around them, how they make it seem effortless. Everything was very uncomfortable for the actors.