Los Angeles - Matt Damon leads a stellar cast in Ridley Scott’s eagerly anticipated space action adventure The Martian.
The Martian is set in the near future and Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and her crew on the Ares 3 are the first humans to land on Mars after an epic space voyage lasting months.
But when a fierce sandstorm strikes their base camp, Mark Watney (Damon) is badly injured and presumed dead and left behind as Lewis is forced to abort their mission. From there the gripping drama unfolds.
Here’s a quick Q&A with Damon about the film:
Have you seen the film?
Yeah. I saw a rough cut a few weeks ago. The reaction so far seems to be good.
Were you at all surprised by what you saw?
With Ridley, the shots that he makes he uses, so if you’re looking at the set-ups, which I was the whole time, you kind of recognise every shot. I’m more surprised if a director shoots a lot of coverage – then the final result will be more surprising because you’re not quite sure which take he’s going to use. With someone like Ridley, he’s so decisive, and his vision is so clear, you pretty much know the whole time the movie that you’re making.
Jessica Chastain was talking about going to NASA and meeting with an astronaut in preparation for her role in the film. Did you do similar preparation?
No, I didn’t do any of that (laughs). I think all the actors got really physically fit, because astronauts are very fit, so that was a big part of our day in pre-production. From the moment Ridley and I started talking about it, he was talking about Robinson Crusoe, and how he always wanted to make that film, and how he saw a parallel with this one, and this was his chance to do that. So for me the rehearsal process was sitting with Ridley and going kind of line-by-line and moment-by-moment through the script and playing out a plan of attack for what we wanted each scene to accomplish.
For a large part of this movie, you’re on your own, with no other actors to bounce off. Is that something you discussed?
Yeah, we talked a lot about that, and that was really the central challenge for both of us. Not just for me – I think this was a challenge for Ridley because he’s got to balance the amount of solitude, and he’s got the other storylines to work. He’s got the NASA storyline and then the other astronauts who are making the decision to come back for me. Yeah, that was our central challenge with this particular story.
What was it like shooting day-to-day? Those space suits look pretty uncomfortable.
Ridley made it really easy. There were days where there was a little discomfort here and there. I got a little hot when we got to Jordan and we were outside in the desert. But we had cooling suits underneath that could mitigate some of that. I think this movie would have been unbearable with a different director, with someone who’s not really sure of himself.
It would have taken about three times as long and would have been a much harder shoot, but with someone like Ridley, you know, he’s got four cameras going at once and he is just charging forwards with an absolute definitive vision of what he wants, and is communicating that to all his department heads. It’s just fun, it really is fun.
Is your next film The Great Wall? Have you finished that now?
Yeah, it’s done. I’m really happy with it, and again I was working with another great director (Yimou Zhang).
And is it true you’re going to do another Bourne?
Yeah, I’m leaving next week to start another Bourne and I’m looking forward to it.
Could you sum up the experience of making The Martian?
It was great. Just selfishly, I got to go to two new countries that I haven’t been to, and I had a fantastic experience in both, and I’d go back to either and shoot in them in a New York minute. I really loved both places. But most of it is down to Ridley. He made it so fun, and I learned so much watching him. Just to work with a master is a blessing.
(Photos: 20th Century Fox)
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