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Tom Cruise and Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman are teaming up with Elon Musk’s Space X and NASA to make the first feature film at the International Space Station. The action-adventure film is an ambitious project that looks to be on track to make movie history. Shooting a movie in space has been attempted before, but on a much smaller scale. It's an extremely difficult filming location, according to Apogee of Fear’s filmmaker Richard Garriott. Here’s why:
Every Shot Is More Expensive And Challenging To Capture
A single ticket to be flown out to the International Space Station on its own is in the millions, so getting a film crew and cast there is going to be incredibly expensive. For 2008’s Apogee of Fear, Richard Garriott spent $30 million to get himself there for a two-week stay. Garriott shot and edited the five-minute short film while at the ISS, and the planning was incredibly detailed. Here’s what the filmmaker said of his experience:
If you think about a movie, the pre-production is really critical. You plan out every shot, so once you have a large expensive crew onsite, you can be as efficient as possible in recording it. In space, that's going to be far worse. Because not only is every moment of the crew far more expensive, but also every shot is far harder to get.
It’s just not as easy to manipulate your set in space. The Apogee of Fear recalls props constantly falling out of place, and due to the limited space of the station itself, framing a shot was an obstacle. Tom Cruise is already learning how to use the bathroom in zero gravity for the film, but there’s sure to be a huge learning curve all around, especially behind the scenes just to capture the Mission: Impossible actor.
The International Space Station Is An Audio Nightmare
For obvious reasons, one can’t exactly crack open a window when things get stuffy over on the International Space Station. In order for it to keep the air flowing, the ISS is lined with loud fans all over that do not lend well to recording sound. When Tom Cruise makes the untitled movie in space, how sound is tackled is going to be a significant obstacle for the production. Could they use extensive ADR? Will the movie not be dialogue heavy?
Getting Around The Space Station’s Microgravity Is Slow
Another aspect of the production of Richard Garriott's short film the filmmaker cautioned against is how slow things move at the International Space Station. Because of the microgravity environment, there’s no such thing as running through halls (like the crew of a Star Trek film might do). Just getting around is hazardous and that can only stall a production – especially if Tom Cruise and Doug Liman are planning an action epic, In Garriott’s words to CNET:
On the Space Station, if you try to leave the floor by pushing with your toes to get something on another surface... you'll push so hard, on accident, that you'll smack your head really hard on the other side. Everything on the space station is held to the wall generally with a little piece of velcro. So if you're moving through the space station and your legs are banging into the sides, which they are as a beginner, you're dislodging screwdrivers, film canisters, lens caps, and by the time you get to the other end you look around and there's a cloud of debris.
By these accounts, it’s not going to be a swift production. Unfortunately, Doug Liman is coming off a rocky production for Chaos Walking, which was once reportedly deemed unreleasable by the studio. After a slew of delays the sci-fi film starring Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland is hitting theaters in January 2021. Tom Cruise also has Mission: Impossible 7 and 8 in the works for 2021 and 2022, where he’s already planning some “obscene” stunts even more impressive than the HALO jump.
You can get excited to check out Tom Cruise first in Top Gun: Maverick hitting theaters on December 23.