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04 Oct. 2013

Sandra Bullock explores a new frontier, different side


Sandra Bullock 2Oscar winner Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side, Crash) can have anything she wants on earth so why not go for the proverbial grail on a new frontier, another dimension.  Among the highest paid female actors on the planet, the congenial, Virginia-born divorced mother stars alongside Hollywood hottie George Clooney in the dramatic, surrealistic, science-based new film, GRAVITY from director Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).

The 49-year-old Bullock looks amazing in the physically challenging role as Astronaut Ryan Stone, a scientist with a brilliant and accomplished career, off on her first National Aeronautics and Space Administration aka NASA mission.  Dr. Stone’s acumen and training are put to the test; her neophyte status as a space miner puts her at risk.

The film is visually stunning, the plot line compelling.  Paced with well-timed humor from Clooney’s depiction of Astronaut Matt Kowaiski, viewers can commit to their extraordinary journey for the sake of science exploration; likewise, popcorn lovers may find themselves on the edge of their seats at the duo’s unexpected struggles in outer space.

Bullock and filmmaker Cuarón discussed GRAVITY during press interviews in Los Angeles–

Your character is in space throughout the film. Though simulated, the force and pull of gravity, how does one prepare mentally and physically? What does it feel like? Describe the experience in making this film…

Sandra Bullock: Well, if there had been a green screen, it would have been nice; there was just blackness or bright white lights or metallic objects.  Basically, Alfonso said, ‘you had to retrain your body from the neck down to react and move as though it’s in zero gravity without the benefit of zero gravity moving your body.’ Everything your body reacts to on the ground – push or pull — is completely different than it is in zero gravity.  To make that transition seem second nature took training; weeks of repetition and syncing with Alfonso’s camera, the mechanics and the mathematics of it all, then separating that method from your thinking.

On the film set with Bullock and Clooney

On the film set with Bullock and Clooney

Within your head you had to connect with feelings and tell the emotional story; there were various contraptions that existed on the sound stages that you made ‘your friends’ as quickly and as physically as you could.  If you didn’t, they were so confusing and complex you had to figure out how to communicate in a language that you’re not understanding, one that didn’t make sense with my rhythms.  Rhythmically, it was a collaborative experience.

From a dancer’s perspective this is just core strength,  making sure you weren’t going to hurt your body, knowing you have to be very agile to maintain your body given the load it’s bearing, that load being your own body weight for long hours of time. Yes, there were tweaks to this process.

Once I saw the completed film, just watching yourself, hating yourself and picking your performance apart… actually, there was no time to pick apart one’s performance. You were inundated with the extreme beauty and emotion that Alfonso created, visually.

GRAVITY poster

I hate to describe this in technology terms because it sounds as if you’re talking about an inanimate object.  When you go into projects such as this one, technology is heavy; this film was turned into such an emotional and visceral physical experience, I don’t know how they did it. Particularly with sound and effects, you found yourself affected in ways that might not have been affected; I think George and I had the same reaction to the process.

The subject of NASA and their efforts in space exploration are massive, ever evolving and perhaps to a degree, never ending.  There is any number of directions this story could have veered.  Why this story? 

GRAVITY's Alfonso CuaronAlfonso Cuarón: We viewed this film almost as an existential experience with the characters in the story; one can see it as a big metaphor. This film is about the woman, the astronaut, the mother, the intelligent scientist…forget about space, it’s about a woman who is victim of her own inertia. The story is about a woman who lives in her own bubble and confronts adversities. These adversities bring her farther away from human connection and further away from a sense of life and living.

The scientists on the ground, the voices in her ear, the fear of the unknown, the other elements she minds are voices that are part of her own psyche; they represent a search of life, even as she is despairing, there is that part of the brain telling you to give up yet there is something that makes a species keep on going. It’s what keeps life going, the searching of life.

In many ways you can see GRAVITY (the film) as an internal journey of a woman but instead of having it take place in a city, in an apartment with other adversities, it’s just in space.

About the author

Sandra Varner has had her hands on the pulse of the entertainment industry and lifestyles coverage for decades, staying current, always.

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