Sandra Bullock on the challenges of

Cuaron, Bullock and Clooney talk about the techniques behind the 3D space thriller

Alfonso Cuaron and his 3D space drama “Gravity” lifted Venice off to its strongest start in recent memory. The film, a tense drama about an astronaut stranded in space, was inspired by Cuaron’s own struggle with adversity, the helmer said.

Cuaron, 51, teamed up with son Jonas, 30, to pen the pic starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney (see review).

“We wanted a film about adversity, and used the debris as a metaphor,” Cuaron said at a packed presser, following a warm response at the press screening.

“The idea was for a film in which we could strip the narrative down as much as possible … a story of just two characters in a very hostile environment who undergo a journey; a metaphor the audience could connect with,” he added.

Bullock — who puts in a tour-de-force performance as Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer on her first space mission — called the pic set in a zero-gravity environment “physically and mentally, the craziest, most bizarre, challenging thing” she’s ever done.

Clooney said the biggest challenge was learning how to “move slowly to mimic body movement in space while speaking quickly.”

At one point Clooney avoided a question over possible U.S. intervention in Syria, saying, “I actually thought you would ask me about Ben Affleck playing ‘Batman,’ but no, it’s Syria.”

To depict spacewalking, Cuaron came up with new filmmaking techniques, including shooting inside a giant cube to evoke constantly shifting light sources. Bullock said she spent plenty of time in a nine-foot-by nine-foot lightbox or “hanging from 20 foot ceilings.”

“We had advisors, scientists and physicists teaching the cast how things would react in space,” Cuaron said. “A lot of the shots required the actors to be isolated, it was a very abstract way for them to perform.”

From a visual effects standpoint, “it was the worst-case scenario in terms of animation, and the worst-case scenario for a live action film,” Cuaron recounted.

But that struggle seems to have paid off handsomely.

Warner Bros. will release “Gravity” stateside in 3D, 2D and Imax on Oct. 4.

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