Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds are set to star in new sci-fi flick Life, which takes place on the International Space Station (ISS), where a six-member crew is tasked with studying a sample from Mars that may be the first proof of extraterrestrial life. Jake and Ryan are joined by actors Rebecca Ferguson, Olga Dihovichnaya, Hiroyuki Sanada and Ariyon Bakare, who make up the crew.
I was able to head over to London, England to visit the set of the movie and find out as much as possible about the mysterious thriller. Once I arrived at Shepperton Studios, I noticed elaborate set pieces that were recreated in the image of the real ISS. Production Designer Marc Holmes dropped some knowledge about where and when this movie takes place: “It’s about the search for alien life, and it takes place on the International Space Station, at some short period in the future before they break the station up, which will be in 2025. So what we’ve done is, it’s basically like a submarine movie as well. There’s some stuff on the outside, but most of it takes place in all these interconnecting modules.”
The movie will feel like you’re on the most expensive piece of equipment ever built, but since real life engineering isn’t always cinematically interesting, the team took, “The best parts of it and what we found groovy and interesting, and then we’ve re-contextualized them into the story-telling.”
Ryan Reynolds admitted he was, “blown away when I saw that space station.” He shared a story with us about how authentic the set was: “I had been in contact with this guy Commander Hatfield, who’s a Canadian astronaut, who’s spent a long time up on the ISS. I showed him a little picture of piece of the lab and he’s like, ‘It’s exactly that. It’s a perfect representation of what’s up there.’”
Ryan knows all about how much detail they put into making the set: “A lot of effort went into making it as authentic as possible. Coming back here three months ago and doing some of the wire work and wire training, where all the sets were these sort of rudimentary pillars, things that you grab and just represented the space station. And to come back and see it, you open a cupboard and it’s full of space food – it’s wild. They really dotted all their I’s and crossed their T’s.”
Throughout the day, I watched the cast film some scenes, one of which you see in the trailer when Ariyon Bakare is attacked by the sample from Mars. My first thought was, ‘Please don’t let the Black guy die first.’ Bakare kept the mystery up, saying, “Well I’m gonna say, the Black guy dies first…(laughs). No, no that’s not true. What can I say?”
Another reporter chimed in: “That’s another headline, right there. Black guy does not die first…but he does die first.”
Always with perfect comedic timing, Ryan Reynolds replied, “Also, I think that’s the working title of the film.”
That pretty much sums up the vibe on set. Everyone was in a good mood and upbeat, despite hanging in the air all day on wires. The entire movie takes place in a zero-gravity environment, after all. It’s easy to have fun on set when you’re working with great material. The screenplay was written by Deadpool duo Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, and it was so good, Jake Gyllenhaal read the entire script in an hour.
Jake said he normally likes to pace himself, but he blew through this story: “I got the end, legitimately you could picture yourself terrified when you read something and there are those experiences where you are actually like, ‘Oh! F*ck!’ There were a number of times reading this script where I thought, admittedly I felt like you hear about what it is or when I was told about it I was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ Then as I read it, I was like, ‘This is cool!’”
Ryan also gushed about the writers of this film: “Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick…who are actually my life partners. So, it was kind of a match made in heaven and an amazing cast. It’s hard to find great stories these days like this one. Great stories that contain real tension.”
When it comes to pulling off weightlessness on camera, it took a lot of work, but the cast seemed to be gliding through with ease. Jake said it will provide great moments in the film. “I think there are numerous third and fourth dimensions in this movie that play psychologically with these things that we fear and then, being out of control in more ways than one. Not just physically in space. Yes, we have chase sequences and things like that, where we’re trying to get towards something or away from something in the midst of not having our feet underneath us. But there’s also the fact this being, this thing, is a very particular thing,” he said. “It poses a psychological terror that I think creates its own non-metaphoric non-gravity in our minds. We’re all trying to figure out what it means to each one of us and it means something different. What it becomes is something different. And I think it will be for the audience too. We’re just constantly filled with question marks everywhere. So yes, physically, but also throughout the whole story it’s like that.”
It’s that insight that made the producers really adamant about snagging Jake for this role. After his recent performances in Nightcrawler and Southpaw, they all thought his ability to add texture and layers to the role was perfect. Producer David Ellison opened up: “I truly think he is one of the greatest actors of his generation, and very thankfully he was all of our first choice for Jordan. I mean, we all sat in a room, and it’s that dream of, ‘How wonderful would Jake Gyllenhaal be to actually play Jordan?’ And we sent him the script and we’re very, very grateful that he said yes, and he is just absolutely wonderful in the movie.”
The mood on set was everything, especially when Rebecca Ferguson (who plays scientist Miranda North) described her role like this: “My job is basically to, whatever we find, to protect Earth from it and to protect it from us. I’m like a giant condom.”
Keep checking back for more information on Life, which hits theaters March 24th, 2017.