See the first reactions to Matt Damon’s The Martian

13 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Don’t call The Martian star Donald Glover if you get lost in space.

Donald Glover had to learn a lot of science for his role in Ridley Scott’s space epic The Martian, but you might not want to rely on him should you actually find yourself stranded out in the universe. “I know a little bit about orbit, but not enough to sustain — or save — anyone,” the actor told JD Heyman at PEOPLE, InStyle and Entertainment Weekly’s photo studio at the Toronto Film Festival. First, I am generally contemptuous (or at least wary) of celebrity and everything it connotes, and really don’t care if I am, technically, standing in the same room as George Clooney or Susan Sarandon or Pete Postlethwaite or whoever.Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain have starred in two of the biggest science-fiction films of the last year, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and Ridley Scott’s forthcoming The Martian. “Each time I get to do a few more scenes with Jessica.A spellbinding and moving interplanetary adventure that wonderfully veers between thrills, drama, humour and genuine moments of touching emotion, Ridley Scott’s epic new film The Martian has pretty much got it all.

In 2009, Andy Weir, a computer geek with a chronic fear of flying, turned his musings about a human mission to Mars into an online book that became a phenomenon.Ridley Scott has rewritten the rules of sci-fi multiple times over his half-century career, but this time, the dystopian maestro sees hope in our stars. Glover stars in The Martian as part of an all-star cast that includes Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, and Sean Bean. Second, as a working journalist, parties have previously served a purely utilitarian function, providing free food and booze that I can suck back, hunched over a tiny cocktail napkin, wearing a knapsack like a cartoon turtle.

Sheryl Garratt travels to Northern San Francisco to find out how it changed his life This is what you do when you’re a nerd who ends up with a bunch of money!’ Andy Weir says gleefully, reaching up to a shelf at his home in Mountain View, near San Francisco, and handing me a small black rock. ‘This is a meteorite that came from Mars. Watch the video above for more on Glover’s role as the “science geek” of the film and why you shouldn’t call him for help if you’re lost in space. The on-camera people are dolled up to the nines, while the folks who write for print and online media tend to be dressed like they just rolled out of the nearest pub. As Whatney uses his smarts to survive, his crew and the earthbound NASA scientists devise ways to bring him home. “When I met the screenwriter, Drew Goddard, he said he wanted the movie to be a love-letter to science,” Damon said. “I think that it is. Woody Allen – with varying degrees of pomp, but an output that can not be denied – is 79, and has been been at it, like clockwork, with a movie every year for 40 years.

It is an absorbing science-fiction tale that bristles with technology and science and yet which is also grounded by compassion and a warm sense of humanity. That rock got knocked off the surface by an asteroid impact, then it wandered around in our solar system for God knows how long, and eventually fell to Earth.’ Until recently Weir, 43, was a successful computer programmer, and not given to buying such fripperies.

Not Ridley Scott’s “The Martian,” an enthralling and rigorously realistic outer-space survival story in which Matt Damon plays a NASA botanist stranded on the Red Planet after a sandstorm forces his crewmates to abort mission. Its characters may well be surrounded by space stations, rocket packs and computer banks, but at its core it is the simple story of trying to save a stranded man. The movie itself is a fairly hollow crowd-pleaser, workshopped to feel massively appealing — funny enough, tense enough, propelled by Drew Goddard’s glib, Sorkin-lite dialogue. The 77-year-old – in town bowing The Martian, a Fox film that’s been dubbed “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” – is earning some of the best notices he’s had in a while. Based on Andy Weir’s equally impressive novel, the film – surely a strong early contender for top awards – features a magnificent cast (including Kristen Wiig, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean and Rooney Mara) whose characters are joined together in one mission…try and bring home Matt Damon’s astronaut Mark Watney, who has been left stranded on Mars.

It won’t be easy, but it is possible — and that’s the exhilarating thrill of both Andy Weir’s speculative-fiction novel and screenwriter Drew Goddard’s “science fact” adaptation. And, by all accounts, there’s no one who’s enjoying this “comeback” more than this man who has the rapt eyes of a shark moving with purpose, ceaselessly swimming forward. “I see it as like being a athlete,” Scott told me, at a mellow pre-party for his premiere, held in the slim glassed atrium of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. “You can’t let yourself go soft.” Matt Damon, who was caught in another conversational hubbub next to us at the party, is probably only too elated to hear this: Thanks to Scott, he’s in the Oscar convo for the first time in a long time.

Recent space-bound astronaut-in-peril film Gravity certainly delivered a powerful story defined by stunning special effects, but The Martian with its underlying sense of compassion and determination feels a remarkably balanced film. Considering that the United States hasn’t launched a manned space mission since 2011, “The Martian” should do far more than just make Fox a ton of money; it could conceivably rekindle interest in the space program and inspire a new generation of future astronauts. He tweeted “we feel his solitude and horror without the movie being bleak,” and Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson echoed this “beautifully built” casting. As Mark Watney, Damon serves as the poster boy for these future space travelers, a good-humored, all-American team player who’s just 18 “sols” (or Martian days) into his mission when he is impaled by a communications antenna and left for dead by his colleagues during a forced evacuation.

Watney is the lowest-ranking member of his team and the least equipped to handle such a situation, with one notable caveat: As a botany specialist, his assignment was to investigate whether plants could grow in an environment without fertilizer or water — and now, with only enough food to last 400 sols and the next planned mission nearly four years away, Watney’s ability to pull off that tall order will determine whether he lives or dies. TORONTO, ON – SEPTEMBER 11: Actress Rachel Weisz attends “The Lobster” premiere during the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theatre on September 11, 2015 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage) My first carpet of the fest was for the North American premiere of The Lobster by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and John C.

Though Damon is always a steady presence, and was pretty nifty in that small-screen production of Behind the Candelabra, “it’s been a while since Damon led a notable big-screen hit,” as New York Magazine just pointed out, and The Martian is going to give him just that. Actually, there are a thousand different real-world things that could kill him, but it’s clear he won’t survive unless he manages to “cultivate” Mars. In 2009 Weir began posting the story on his website, chapter by chapter. ‘I wasn’t writing for a mainstream audience,’ he says. ‘I was writing for this core group of extremely technical, science-minded dorks like me.

Before “Gravity,” studio executives might have thought twice before greenlighting such a big-budget space drama (surely such Mars-set disappointments as “Red Planet,” “John Carter” and “Mission to Mars” must have given them pause), and while a good portion of “The Martian’s” audience will surely be hoping for a repeat of Sandra Bullock’s white-knuckle experience, Scott has a different agenda altogether. Shortly after which, it was time for Scott to slip off into the evening lights of the city, and go walk the glimmering slope of red carpet for another space adventure, another night. A trained botanist, he decides to put his scientific skills to work, starts to grow potatoes in a makeshift greenhouse, and scavenge for anything to help him survive.

I absolutely am.’ As the serial progressed, he picked up around 3,000 readers, who would send corrections if he got the science slightly wrong. ‘I had chemists, electrical engineers emailing me, and a reactor tech on a US nuclear submarine, just telling me how this stuff works. Though the film proves reasonably suspenseful in parts, Scott isn’t trying to generate the same real-time intensity as “Gravity” (in fact, “The Martian” takes place over nearly two years, demanding an altogether different pace). What I really wanted to ask her, before she launched into the romantic themes of the story, was what she thought the single people of the world might think of this film. The film brilliantly balances the desperate leaps of innovation and risk from Earthbound scientists with Watney’s struggles to keep alive in a tough and always hazardous environment.

Nor does he distract himself with attempting to pioneer the field of 3D filmmaking, though he does incorporate the technology in effective yet nondistracting ways. Couldn’t the story be perceived as a metaphor for finding true love in mid life, a time where many people feel they’re forced to choose between settling or being alone forever? Take Rachel Weisz, who never shows up to premieres with her husband, and who had a jaunty retort to the question, “What’s it like being married to James Bond?” when asked just that at the unspooling here in Toronto of her film, The Lobster.

And when his crewmates – led by Jessica Chastain’s steely captain – learn their colleague is still alive, they also want to get involved in an increasingly complex and dangerous rescue plan. I didn’t know anyone in Nasa, so all my research was on Google.’ He called his novel The Martian, and when it was finished he made the whole thing available via his website as a free e-book. At its most basic, “The Martian” serves as an epic homage to the nerd — a deferential widescreen celebration of human intelligence in a genre that so often hinges on speed, braun or sheer midi-chlorian levels (thanks for nothing, George Lucas).

And there was even a mashed potato bar, which is sort of like an omelette bar, except it’s just guys in chef’s whites slinging stuff into whipped starch. Beautifully directed by Ridley Scott (who has an affinity with science-fiction material, as he has shown with films such as Alien, Blade Runner and Prometheus) the film is both grippingly entertaining and also fiercely intelligent, all driven by a series of wonderful performances. Much more openly synergistic when it comes to hitting celebrity dos together, he’s been by her side as she begins the promo for Sicario, in which she gives one of TIFF’s top-shelf performances. “John showing face means Emily’s ready to start campaigning for Oscar,” is how a post on LaineyGossip.com put it, reading the tea-leaves and I concur. Nothing brings the people of this planet together quite like space travel, and Scott manages to alternate between the immediate Reader’s Digest appeal of Watney’s sol-to-sol survival on Mars with the unifying impact his potential rescue has back on Earth, where TV viewers follow every development and the Chinese even declassify a secret space program in order to help.

In case you’re wondering what the F a dystopian universe is, it’s Greek terminology for an imaginary community or society that is undesirable or frightening. Like one of the catering staff came up to me and said, straight-faced, no joke, “Care for some mashed potatoes with lobster and caviar?” To which I obviously replied that, yes, yes I would care for some, before turning inward and wondering, “Is this how the wealthy eat?” There’s something hilarious — and, maybe, noxious — about taking a basic, foundational foodstuff like the potato and then topping it with expensive crustacean meat and fish eggs. I watched John dutifully stand in a corner at a party held for Emily’s movie at Soho House – close, but not too close, letting his wife do her thing, but there in a pinch. “She’s amazing in the movie,” he told me when we briefly spoke.

By December it had sold 35,000 copies and was topping Amazon’s bestseller chart for science fiction. ‘I still have no idea why it has mainstream appeal,’ Weir admits. ‘I guess people liked the snarkiness of the main character.’ Watney has a daft sense of humour, an amusing hatred of the 1970s disco music left behind by the expedition leader, Commander Lewis (who is ex-military, and definitely made of the right stuff), and he constantly gets things wrong, coming close to killing himself several times. With no acid-dripping extraterrestrials to menace him on Mars and no James Cameron-style greedy corporate villains ready to sacrifice him on Earth (just Jeff Daniels, still in “The Newsroom” mode, as a pragmatic NASA honcho forced to make some tough calls), “The Martian” feels downright, well, Martian compared with the vast majority of space-travel dramas. Like many of the media on the carpet (the women among us anyway), I wondered if Colin Farrell, who stars alongside Weisz in the film, might make a surprise appearance despite not being listed as a confirmed guest. Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen attend Sony Pictures Classics after party for I Saw The Light. (Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Sony Pictures Classics) Then, there’s Elizabeth Olsen and Tom Hiddleston, a couple in the movie I Saw the Light, and also getting quite a bit of attention for their relationship off-camera. The sleek, science-friendly elegance of Arthur Max’s production design recalls “Silent Running” (another sci-fi parable with a botanist hero), while its running series of logistical challenges echoes Arthur C.

Still, it was fun, in a way, marvelling at the modest decadence and nudging my friend every time I saw an ostensibly famous person and proclaiming, “Look! That was the hollow promise “Tomorrowland” offered this past summer, featuring a feel-good epilogue in which its white heroes recruited a diverse range of talented young people around the world. While he was everywhere pressing the flesh, and being professionally charming – even courteously asking for his own tequila, Casamigos, while he stopped for drinks in the lobby bar of the Shangri-La – his superhero missus, Amal, was in Sri Lanka, meeting with the prime minister, after spending a few tense days in the Maldives where the international human rights lawyer is involved in a fight to defend its deposed president, Mohamed Nasheed.

It’s a weak plot with lame characters, and it’s badly written.’ In 1999 he was one of 800-odd employees made redundant when the internet provider AOL merged with the web-browser creator Netscape. But instead of waiting for that time to come, “The Martian” puts man’s potential for problem solving to to the test today, assembling a gender-balanced, multi-culti cast and combining their brightest ideas to save Damon’s character. Scott recycles some of his cast (including mission commander Jessica Chastain) from Christopher Nolan’s eye-crossing “Interstellar,” in which Damon played an astronaut with far more sinister intentions, and though “The Martian” can be even more densely geek-speak in places, Goddard’s script manages to parse the technical jargon for lay viewers. As Michael Pena puts it, “But like in English, what would that be?” after his colleagues hit him with one of their more technical solutions. (Chastain and Pena share the return vessel with Kate Mara, Aksel Hennie and Sebastian Stan, while Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Donald Glover and a half-serious Kristen Wiig brainstorm from the ground.) Weir did his research when writing the novel, basing each of Watney’s MacGyver-like solutions (using recycled human waste to turn Thanksgiving potatoes into a viable crop, burning hydrazine rocket fuel to create water, etc.), as well as their subsequent setbacks (killer Martian frost, explosive chemical reactions), on scenarios that could reasonably arise on Mars. The idea here is to capitalize on the excitement of human ingenuity, the musical metaphor for which can be heard percolating behind the team’s every breakthrough — and they are a team.

Unlike so many films that cast heroism as the doing of a single rebellious soul, this one does justice to the idea that truly amazing feats depend on the collaboration of exceptional people. Rather than giving Watney a Wilson volleyball or HAL-like supercomputer to chat with, Goddard relies on another of the book’s “Robinson Crusoe”-like touches (Daniel Dafoe’s novel was written in the character’s voice and fooled early readers as a faux travelogue), giving him amusing “HAB journal” entries — or video diaries — in which to document his own progress. Dariusz Wolski seamlessly eases audiences between the intimate loneliness of Watney’s habitat and the magisterial land- and space-scapes beyond — no easy feat, as Ray and Charles Eames’ “Powers of Ten” proved the year Scott made his directorial debut.

Though Watney has already proven his resourcefulness by doctoring his own puncture wound, his recordings serve the dual purpose of giving him a chance to explain complicated science ideas while endearing us to Damon’s naturally charismatic personality. The poor guy does his best to keep his mind active on Mars, but with only a collection of disco hits and “Happy Days” episodes to simulate human company, even the sanest astronaut would start to go a little stir-crazy — although, admittedly, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” has seldom seemed a more appropriate anthem. In the end, both deals were signed within four days of each other, in March 2014. ‘At this point I’m still sitting in my cubicle at work, fixing bugs,’ Weir says. ‘Then wandering off to take a call about my movie or book deals.’ A studio optioning a book doesn’t mean it will always get made into a film – quite the opposite. Camera (color, widescreen, 3D), Dariusz Wolski; editor, Pietro Scalia; music, Harry Gregson-Williams; production designer, Arthur Max; supervising art director, Marc Homes; set decorator, Celia Bobak; costume designer, Janty Yates; sound (Dolby Atmos), Mac Ruth; sound designer/supervising sound editor, Oliver Tarney; re-recording mixers, Paul Massey, Mark Taylor; visual effects supervisor, Richard Stammers; visual effects producer, Barrie Hemsley; visual effects, Framestore, the Senate, Industrial Light & Magic, Atomic Arts, Milk; special effects supervisor, Neil Corbould; stereographer, Gareth Daley; stunt coordinator, Rob Inch; associate producer, Teresa Kelly; assistant director, Raymond Kirk; second unit director, Luke Scott; second unit camera, Mark Patten; casting, Carmen Cuba, Nina Gold. There must be a moment when people who’ve won the lottery stare at the ticket for a minute and go, “No, I must be misreading this.” ’ The film went into production in November last year and was filmed in studios in Budapest and on location in Jordan.

The stellar cast includes Jessica Chastain playing Commander Lewis, plus Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kristen Wiig playing the Nasa staff and scientists racing against time to mount a rescue mission once satellite pictures have shown them that Watney is alive. In April 2014, with the print version of the book climbing the New York Times bestseller list, he left his job to start writing full time. ‘It was absolutely not a “take this job and shove it” situation,’ he stresses. ‘It was bittersweet. But done my own way.’ He is also pitching an idea for a TV series that, if successful, will mean he will probably move to Los Angeles – which by happy coincidence is where his new girlfriend lives. This April Nasa invited him to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and although he did look into driving or taking the train, he soon realised it wasn’t practical. Now he is trying to fly once a month, slowly reducing his reliance on pills to get him through it, with a view to eventually being able to fly long-haul.

It is easy to see why Nasa is so enthusiastic about The Martian: it is scientifically accurate to the point where Weir wrote his own computer programme to map the trajectories between Earth and Mars, it creates interest in Nasa’s Mars programme, and their own PR couldn’t have dreamt up a tale that shows them in a more flattering light. The Nasa logo is copyrighted, and films often struggle to get permission to use it, Weir explains. ‘Nasa is a large, slow, federal organisation that has no vested interest in giving you the logo. Weir is not a fan of what he calls ‘hand-waving’ – fudging the details – and the only major deviation he allowed himself from fact was the spectacular storm at the start, which wouldn’t be possible in the Mars atmosphere. Otherwise the book is scrupulously accurate, although recent data from Mars probes shows that Watney need not have gone to so much trouble to create water: there is plenty of it on Mars already, locked into the soil.Weir has become an expert on space flight.

Having spoken at the NewSpace Conference in July for commercial space travel, he thinks private companies such as SpaceX (funded by the PayPal entrepreneur Elon Musk) and Boeing will need to be involved in any Mars mission, to fly equipment into orbit. Once you’re talking about most of the industrialised world all putting money into a common pot for a mission, it starts to get more realistic.’ It’s all a long way from his first exposure to science fiction, watching reruns of Doctor Who on TV in the 1980s. ‘I’m a huge fan,’ he says. ‘It’s a secret fantasy of mine to write an episode some day.’In the meantime, Weir is already feeling the pressure of producing a follow-up to The Martian. ‘I forget which musician it was who said, you have your whole life to make your first album, then you have a year to make a better one. The Martian was so popular that the best I can hope for is for people to say, “It’s not as good, but it’s still pretty good.” So I’m working hard to shoot for that silver medal.’ He has to be alone to write, he adds, because he speaks all the dialogue out loud and with feeling, to ensure it feels realistic.

But as the film release gets closer, he’s doing more interviews than writing. ‘I’m about seven minutes into my 15 minutes of fame, right?’ he says laughing. ‘Once the movie leaves theatres I think it will taper off, and then I can be back in my cave, writing.

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