How on Earth (no pun intended) does one write a screenplay like The Martian, where the majority of your story is set on an alien landscape? How, in addition, does a screenwriter attack a story where the lead character is all alone on a planet for 95% of the film?

These are but a sliver of the obstacles facing The Martian screenwriter Drew Goddard as he sat down to adapt Andy Weir’s best-selling novel for Sir Ridley Scott to direct. Goddard’s no slouch at the keyboard, having scripted episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias and Lost, as well as the feature films Cloverfield and The Cabin in the Woods (the latter of which, he directed). We were able to speak with Goddard at the Toronto International Film Festival about his experiences working on The Martian (a movie we LOVED), and this is what we learned:

Martian 1
Writing Scenes Set On Mars Wasn’t As Hard As You’d Think
One reality that struck me repeatedly while watching The Martian was that it physically looks like Sir Ridley transported Matt Damon to the Red Planet to capture the scenes that he needed. They actually filmed in Jordan and Hungary, but when I sat with Goddard, I wondered if having an alien location as his necessary backdrop affected him when he started to write. I mean, did he know how Ridley Scott would be able to film something that looked enough like Mars that the audience would believe him? Goddard told me:
I’m sort of appropriately naive, because if I knew how hard these things would be [to film], I sometimes probably wouldn’t do them, you know? But Ridley, I mean… I watch the movie, and I forget that we didn’t actually shoot it on Mars. When we’d watch early cuts, occasionally the camera would pan over and catch a bush they hadn’t painted out yet and I’d go, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not Mars?’ Even my brain just couldn’t figure it out, because boy, Ridley’s good at that.

Goddard admitted that he does think of the budget before he writes the screenplay, and if it looks like thye won’t be able to afford exotic, martian locations, he might start thinking about ways to cleverly get around the visual obstacle. Thankfully, one of the reasons why The Martian is so fantastic is because it LOOKS great. And we believe that Matt Damon is all by himself, on an alien world.

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