Kyra Sedgwick has been acting since she was 16, stealing scenes from Julia Roberts in “Something to Talk About” and interrogating hardened criminals to Emmy-winning effect on “The Closer.” But she thinks she’s found her true calling as a director.
“I’m madly in love with it,” Sedgwick tells Variety as she prepares for “Space Oddity,” her latest directorial effort, to premiere at the Tribeca Festival. “I feel like this is what I was meant to do all along. All my years watching directors and being on set and knowing what it is like to have this giant piece of machinery in front of you and have to splay yourself open and be incredibly vulnerable, have made me able to do this in a certain kind of way.”
In “Space Oddity,” Sedgwick’s decades in front of the camera have helped her achieve a delicate balancing act between humor and heartache with a story about love and loss that strikes a chord in the pandemic era. The film centers on Alex (Kyle Allen), who has signed up for a one-way mission to Mars in the hopes of escaping a recent tragedy by starting a fresh life on a desert planet. But things get complicated after he has a “meet cute” with an insurance agent (Alexandra Shipp), who is tasked with filling out his life insurance policy. When he finds himself falling for her, he’s forced to reconsider his eagerness to be a pioneer and finds himself grappling with a family trauma he had tried to suppress.
Sedgwick spoke with Variety about the film’s political message, space travel and working with her husband, Kevin Bacon, who plays Alex’s father in “Space Oddity.”
Why did you want to make “Space Oddity”?
It’s a beautiful story and it has all the elements that I feel like I need in order to do my best work, which is this funny/sad genre that I’m totally into. It’s an Alexander Payne sort of thing, where it’s amusing, but meaningful. You can laugh and cry at the same time. And this story is about grief and loss and that’s something that we all struggle with and are especially struggling with now.
It also has a real ecological theme. Alex, the central character in the film, is kind of done with this world and wants to make a new life on Mars. Was that something you wanted to explore?
Definitely. There’s also a climate message which is just there’s no plan B. There’s no going to Mars. Life is hard and there’s loss and pain and people die and it’s scary to live on Earth, especially now, but it’s worth the fight.
You were originally supposed to shoot this before COVID. Did it take on a different resonance after the pandemic?
We’re all mourning for the way things were before COVID. We lost a million-plus people. We’ve basically been through war. Everyone knows someone who died of COVID. So many young people are dealing with existential feelings about why am I here? All the messages that we’re getting is ‘the end is near’ or ‘the end is here.’ What this young man at the center of this story is struggling with is something a lot of people are feeling. We’re all checking out in different ways. We’re checking out with our phones. We’re checking out with Instagram. And this movie is about how they need to check back in to deal with our grief and come back together. That’s something we all need to do. We need to check back in with our planet and with each other. Are we going to let all these dark forces take us down?
In the film, Alex’s Mars expedition is being funded by a big corporation. That’s not all that different from our reality. What do you make of all this effort to go to Mars?
The fact that we’re talking about going to Mars is such a way to deflect and check out. It’s like, ‘Look over here. Let’s pour all this money into this instead saving the planet.’ We have utopia right here and we’re thinking about going to an uninhabitable planet. How insane is that? But that’s what the corporations and governments do. And I understand the appeal of thinking, ‘great, we’ll just take a shit on this planet and then go to the next one.’ The idea we’re even considering it seems ludicrous and scary.
Much of “Space Oddity” unfolds in a flower farm. It’s so lush and pastoral. Were you trying to show a contrast with what Mars offers?
This film is a love letter to Earth. It was so important to shoot at the height of summer when everything was blooming. I wanted it to be clear that Alex should pick this planet.
Your husband, Kevin Bacon, plays a key role as the emotionally remote father, and your son, Travis Bacon, composed the music with Scott Hedrick. Did you set out to make this a family affair?
I’ve worked with Travis a few times. He did the music for my film ‘Story of a Girl.’ He did the music for my short and he did the music for a short that Kevin and I did over COVID. He’s remarkable.
I didn’t offer my husband the part of the father at first. The actor who was supposed to do it fell out, and I was like, ‘Hey, is there any world where you might consider doing this?’ Kevin was like, ‘I’ve been waiting for you to ask me.’ He’s stunning in the movie. I think I get great performances out of him. My dream is to direct Kevin to his Oscar, and I’m very good at forcing my dreams into reality. I think we’ll make that happen at some point in the next 10 years.
Did you set any ground rules about working together?
I told Kevin before we started that if he had a doubts about my direction to take me aside and tell me, but not to say anything in front of the crew. We know that everyone is watching us like hawks.
“Space Oddity” is looking for distribution. Do you have a preference for how it makes its way into the world?
I would love to work with any streamer that would give it some time in the theater. People want to come together right now and remind themselves of their pain and collective grief. They want the communal experience of laughing and crying together. But I also want the world to see it, so I want it on a streamer where it can have the biggest impact.
A lot of popular shows like “Law & Order” and “Criminal Minds,” are getting rebooted or revived. Would you ever want to revive “The Closer”?
“The Closer” had a lot of important things to say about women and women in power at the time in which it was produced. Any reboot would need to check those boxes. We don’t need to see the same story again. It would need to say something new and have something additive about it or why would we do it?