Father + son + 4 1/2 years = zero gravity

Father + son + 4 1/2 years = zero gravity
Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron (L), actress Sandra Bullock (C) and actor George Clooney at the 70th Venice Film Festival.

The movie Gravity began with a "gross miscalculation", say director Alfonso Cuaron and his son and co-scriptwriter, Jonas.

The idea behind the film was simple enough: a story about two astronauts being accidentally set adrift during a spacewalk and then battling to find their way back to safety.

With this stripped-down storyline and just two characters to contend with, Cuaron thought it would take one year to make, tops. Instead, it ended up being 41/2 tortuous years as he realised the technology to film this while also "respecting the laws of physics in space" just did not exist.

So he and the crew had to invent it themselves, coming up with ground-breaking filming and lighting techniques along with other innovations to create the illusion of zero gravity for both the audience and actors.

Critics are already predicting that their efforts will win an Oscar nomination or two.

But being technological innovators was the last thing the Cuarons were thinking of when they first came up with the story.

The duo, who spoke to Life! in Beverly Hills last month, say they envisioned something that would serve as a lyrical metaphor for overcoming adversity, with the emptiness of space representing the existential hollowness of the main character.

"We had this notion of doing a film that's a roller-coaster ride - that has you on the edge of your seat from the beginning - but which, at the same time, is nothing but a projection of a deep and emotional journey," says Cuaron, the 51-year-old director behind the dystopian drama Children Of Men (2006) and the magical adventure Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2004).

The Mexican film-maker, who is known for infusing his action blockbusters with arthouse sensibilities - including long, continuous takes and wide camera angles - was not about to cut corners when it came to realising this extended metaphor.

"The moment we decided to do a space movie, it took a lot of research," says Jonas, 32.

The production team, which included five- time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, a 49-year-old director of photography who has worked with major directors such as Terrence Malick and Martin Scorsese, consulted with astronauts and astrophysicists in order to make sure their film was as realistic as possible.

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