‘Gravity’ has already earned a reputation as modern classic thanks to its groundbreaking special effects and an incredible central performance from Sandra Bullock – and it won seven Oscars to prove it in 2013.
But the coolest thing about ‘Gravity’ is both the amazing way the film was made, and the numerous space-themed Easter Eggs throughout the film. We sat down with director Alfonso Cauron, who dished the dirt on some out of this world (ugh, sorry) 'Gravity’ trivia. Enjoy.
1. Test audiences hated it
“Usually I like preview screenings,” said Cuarón. “They are great for getting a sense of watching your film with an audience, to see if it’s going too slow or too fast and so on. But in this case I was not thrilled.”
Apparently several test audience members for ‘Gravity’ were annoyed that there were no aliens or monsters in the film. “Because we know when we go to space, there’s always an alien or a monster!” laughed Cuarón. “That’s the reason they’re the audience and you’re the filmmaker.” The closest they get is a Marvin the Martian toy in the Space Shuttle.
2. The film’s length makes perfect sense
Boffins have noticed that the film’s running time - around 90 minutes – matches how long it takes the real International Space Station to orbit the earth. ‘Gravity’ references this when Bullock sets a timer for 90 minutes to remind her when the space debris that caused the first accident will make a reappearance.
“This is a really cool thing, I never thought about that. I have to start saying that in interviews,” laughed Cuarón. “But actually the film is only 87 minutes long!” Still seems like a rather big coincidence to us.
3. The voice from mission control sounds familiar…
…because it’s Ed Harris, who also played mission control boss Gene Kranz in ‘Apollo 13’. He’s never seen on screen however, though Cuarón said at one point he was under pressure to film scenes set in Mission Control in Houston. “Ed Harris is not just ‘Apollo 13’ but he’s ‘The Right Stuff’ as well… he’s Mr. space”, said Cuarón.
4. It was inspired by an early Spielberg classic
Despite some online speculation, there’s no other space movie references in the film. Instead Spielberg’s breakthrough hit ‘Duel’, about a man (played by Dennis Weaver) who is pursued and terrorised by a faceless lorry driver, was the point of departure for ‘Gravity’.
Another 1970s pursuit movie, ‘Vanishing point’, was also a reference for Cuarón.
5. Sandra Bullock channelled Rocky Balboa
It’s fair to say Sandra Bullock’s role of Dr. Ryan Stone was a challenge. She was acting on her own for most of the movie, often against a green screen and sometimes trapped inside tiny spaces. Cuarón and the crew tried all sorts of tricks to keep her spirit up during the production.
“Everybody was working very closely with each other to try and make things work for Sandra,” said Cuarón. “There was virtually no sets and she was usually on her own in the film. Sometimes we’d play her the ‘Rocky’ music [when she came on set], like she was a boxer going to the ring.
“Sometimes out of the blue, when she’d been stuck in the box for a few hours, we’d project pictures of her real son onto the walls with a LED light to get her through it.” It obviously worked, as Bullock got an Oscar nomination for the film.
6. George Clooney rescued a pivotal scene
Without spoiling the film, there’s a pivotal moment midway through ‘Gravity’ that proves a turning point for Dr. Stone (see it and you’ll know what we mean). Cuarón was struggling to make the sequence work, so he enlisted George Clooney - who co-stars as suave veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski - to help to rewrite it.
He said: “We were feeling uncomfortable with any version we had, and that’s when George came up with the idea. He’s an amazing writer and director and actor, and he did that scene, and we were very grateful because he nailed it.”
7. The 'Gravity’ disaster has almost happened in real life
The cataclysmic accident that sends Dr. Stone spinning into space is based on a real scenario called the Kessler Syndrome.
The theory (very briefly) is that the density of man-made objects in space is so great that any collision will create a chain reaction of debris – which is what happens in ‘Gravity’ when the Russians strike a defunct satellite with a missile. Cuarón said the Chinese almost did the same thing for real when they destroyed one of their own satellites and created a storm of debris.
“In the space programme they have great problems with debris,” said Cuarón. “In the last few years they have moved the international space station several times to avoid debris, and also sent astronauts home early because of the danger of it. Every single piece of debris is travelling way faster than a bullet, so any small collision of a small object is a disaster. In a space station, all you need is a hole!”
8. Clooney’s Russian rival is a real life astronaut
Clooney’s Matt Kowalski mentions several times that he’s trying to break the record for the total time spacewalking - 82 hours - held by real-life Russian cosmonaut called Anatoly Solovyev. Solovyev is now 65-years-old but completed 16 spacewalks between 1988 and 1998.
“We were trying to contact him in Russia” said Cuarón. “He’s still alive, I think he lives in Ukraine actually. Anatoly’s a real thing.” We hope they track him down.
Image credit: AP/Rex/Warner Bros.