While the sun, Earth and moon lined up to cause a “super blood moon” eclipse Sunday evening, 20th Century Fox held its own celestial event by presenting a sneak preview of Ridley Scott’s latest sci-fi film “The Martian” in RealD 3D at the New York Film Festival. Scott, along with his starry cast members Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan and Mackenzie Davis, received thunderous applause for their performances in this outer space survival story based on the 2011 bestselling novel by Andy Weir.
The film stars Matt Damon as an astronaut-botanist, who is presumed dead and left behind on Mars by his crew. He is forced to find ways to survive as NASA officials race to bring him home. Damon was absent from the screening at Alice Tully Hall — due to shooting the fifth installment of the “Bourne” franchise in Europe — but taped a message for the audience and said working with Scott and the movie’s cast was “one of the most exciting things that I have been able to work on in a really long time.”
Producer Simon Kinberg called the film a “blessed movie” from start to finish. The visual effects-heavy production — shot in three and a half months on the sound stages of Korda Studios in Budapest, Hungary and at the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan, which served as the backdrop for Mars — was produced under-budget and made for $108 million dollars. Also, the studio was so confident with the picture that they moved the film’s Thanksgiving release date up to Oct. 2.
“Everything was blessed with this film. I’ve worked on a lot of hard movies, and I’ve never been on a film where everybody I asked said ‘yes,'” Kinberg told Variety on the red carpet. “Drew Goddard wrote an extraordinary first draft of the script, and I sent it to Matt Damon, who I had made another movie [“Elysium”] with. I sent it to him on a Friday, and on Sunday morning, I’d received an email from Matt saying, ‘This is an amazing script. When can I meet and talk about it?’ Then we got Ridley Scott, who was our first choice to direct the movie. There’s something about the spirit of the book and the particular voice that Drew captured that people wanted to be a part of.”
The film’s storyline was the main attraction for Scott. He found the script to be a “love letter to science” and knew immediately that he wanted to direct the epic project.
“When I decide which film to get involved with, it always has to do with the script. It’s all about the material,” Scott told Variety. “I got the script that Drew [Goddard] had written, and that was it. The hardest thing is getting the story on paper. Once you get it on paper, making a movie is easy for me. I’m so practiced at it. Coming up with the story is hardest part in filmmaking. I just read all about the material, and it’s up to me not to screw up the story.”
The prolific filmmaker — who has directed iconic films such as “Blade Runner,” “Alien” and “Gladiator” — said the key to his success in creating large-scale movies is to visually plan out every scene before filming.
“I storybook everything. It sounds Medieval, but that’s what I do,” he said. “That’s why we move so efficiently, because everyone sees what it’s going to be way before we film. This process is very important.”
As for helming “The Martian,” it was great fun for the 77-year-old director whose career has spanned five decades. “There was nothing really trying. The only irritation was having the actors on wires,” he said. “When you are trying to do a no-gravity situation scene, you’re doing Cirque du Soleil. Moving the camera here and there, it drives you nuts, as well as the actors!”
Stan claimed that being harnessed on the wires was not uncomfortable; he was much too in awe of the realistic set design.
“The set was like a giant toy. The spaceship and the rovers were all created by the set designers manually, and even the storm sequence was real,” recalled Stan, who plays an astronaut. “We had guys who tied ropes around us to pull us back, while these ginormous fans [were] going off, causing debris to fly at us. No stunt doubles were used. The noise was so loud from what was throwing at our faces, that we could barely hear each other, so we were screaming. The screaming you hear was for real! It was cool, and it’s one of those things where you wake up and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe this is my life right now.'”
For “Saturday Night Live” alum Wiig, who plays NASA’s director of media relations, acting in the drama under Scott’s direction has been one of her career highlights.
“Ridley Scott is one of my favorite directors. He’s made so many important films, and to have the opportunity to work with him was a huge honor,” Wiig told Variety. “I’ve been a fan of his my whole life, and [he] was a little intimidating to work with, at first. I’ve never really played a role like this before, so I wanted to make sure that I sounded like I knew what I was talking about. Ridley and I talked a lot about it, and I did get to talk to people from the European Space Agency, which helped. Looking back on this experience, I had an amazing time. Matt and the cast are so good and unbelievable.”
Scott agreed with Wiig’s sentiments. The director only had words of praise for Damon’s talent.
“He is one of the rare actors. There’s not a lot like him in this business,” said Scott. “When you are directing any movie, you need team players, and I always try to work in a team, and as a unit, and Matt understands that. He is a great team player and very kind. Apart from his incredible talent, he is a wonderful, caring person.”
(Pictured: Sebastian Stan, Mackenzie Davis, Kristen Wiig, Ridley Scott and Chiwetel Ejiofor)