‘Gravity’: Six things to know about the Sandra Bullock space movie

If you’re a film fan, by now you’ve either seen “Gravity,” made plans to see “Gravity” or gotten annoyed at your significant other for choosing another movie because they’re “a little scared” by the prospect of sitting through the tension of “Gravity.” Either way, we’re here to help.

Here are six things you may or may not have known about the Alfonso Cuaron outer-space tale, equally useful on the way in or out of the theater. (No real spoilers, but we’re obligated to say proceed at your own risk anyway.) There are many more things to know, of course, but hey, we can’t do all the work.

Manned flight. As strongly as Bullock performs in the film, she was, for a long while, not the actress who was slated be trapped high above the Earth in a spaceship/on a lonely sound stage with a lot of equipment. Angelina Jolie was set to star for some time and, when she fell through, Natalie Portman was in talks for the part. Nor was George Clooney the original male lead: Robert Downey Jr. was initially chosen for the task. Took a lot of shuffling--and a lot of budgetary back-and-forth--before the movie would get made, as you can read about here.

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Children of directors. Alfonso Cuaron wrote the movie with his son Jonas, the first produced collaboration between the 51-year-old veteran helmer and his 30-year-old progeny. Jonas Cuaron grew up on movie sets, but his father was genuinely shocked when his son showed him his college thesis and he said he wanted to be a director. Said the elder Cuaron to my colleague Nicole Sperling, “When he showed me it, I said, ‘I didn’t know you wanted to do that,’ and he said, ‘I grew up going to movie sets. You take me to the movies all the damn time, talking about movies and telling me the stories you want to do. All of your friends are directors and they are always around talking about movies. What did you expect?’”


Cue the Ed. There are few other actors seen in “Gravity” besides Bullock and Clooney (that decimated half-face doesn’t count). But a key voice part comes from Ed Harris, who is guiding the astronauts through space from Mission Control in Houston. It’s a particularly cheeky choice, what with Harris probably the actor through whom we most have viewed space travel over the years--he played John Glenn in “The Right Stuff” and NASA flight director Gene Kranz in “Apollo 13.” Also fitting that Harris would be a part of a movie set amid the cosmos--he famously ordered to “cue the sun” playing the part of the God-like Christof in “The Truman Show.”

Equipment malfunction. Re-creating space takes hundreds of cameras and tons of complicated effects technologies--so complicated that when Alfonso Cuaron first set out to do it about five years ago, some of that technology had to be invented. Cuaron had to wait for the technology, or invent it himself. But the hurdle was more than technological. As Cuaron said at the Toronto International Film Festival. “The challenge was gravity, both the film itself but also...because the movie takes place in zero gravity,” he said. “And the challenge was, how can actors perform under those conditions.”

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Hot and cold. Bullock holds the rare distinction of winning the Oscar and Razzie for lead actress in the same year, back in 2009-2010 season, when she took her first gold statuette for “The Blind Side” but the Razzie for “All About Steve.” (She showed up to accept both.) With the upward trajectory this performance is getting--and her, er, not exactly Oscar-worthy turn in “The Heat” this summer--there’s a chance it could actually happen again. Producers, take note: if you cast Sandra Bullock, she’ll at least win something.

Al Gore would be proud. “Gravity” is the first movie in a long while to contain a Macarena joke. (They were usually found in such films as Doug Liman’s “Go” back in, you know, the ’90’s.) “Gangnam style” might have been a more timely choice here. You can give the Cuarons the benefit of the doubt when you see Clooney making one; after all, maybe it was something his story-happy nostalgist character would have done because he was still reliving 1996 himself. Or maybe the song was just really big in the Cuaron household when Jonas was growing up.


TIFF 2013: Sandra Bullock calls making ‘Gravity’ lonely

Alfonso Cuaron talks about ‘Gravity’ ahead of the film’s release

Alfonso Cuaron and son bound by words in ‘Gravity’

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