George Clooney must protect Caoilinn Springall from arctic elements in "The Midnight Sky." Photo courtesy of Netflix
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- The new Netflix movie, The Midnight Sky, is one-half space drama and the other half earthbound battle against the elements. Director and star George Clooney compared it to two popular movies in each genre, including one of his own.
"We were shooting two different movies if you want to know the truth," Clooney said in a Zoom press conference. "It was like doing The Revenant and then doing Gravity for the second half."
On Earth, Clooney plays Augustine, a scientist on the arctic observatory station Barbeau. Augustine is trying to contact orbiting space crews when he discovers a young child, Iris (Caoilinn Springall), whom he must protect from the hostile environment outside the station.
The other half of The Midnight Sky takes place on the Aether spacecraft. The Aether crew -- Rembshire (Kyle Chandler), Sully (Felicity Jones), Adewole (David Oyelowo), Sanchez (Demian Bichir) and Peters (Tiffany Boone) -- was on one of many missions to find a new home for humanity after an apocalyptic event. Aether is the only one Augustine has been able to reach.
"You don't find too many scripts in this industry with a Mexican playing an astrodynamicist," Bichir said. "Sanchez is a lonely man and he has nothing else to lose. That's why he's up there, and still he's hopeful."
Clooney said he began with all the Barbeau scenes filming in Iceland with Springall. During this portion of the shoot, the cast members who were portraying the astronauts trained to simulate space walks. The film interweaves scenes on Earth and aboard the Aether.
Both of the films to which Clooney referred were survival stories. In The Revenant, a fur trader fights for survival in the frozen midwest. In Gravity, an astronaut fights to survive a catastrophe in orbit.
By the future that is portrayed In The Midnight Sky, all of mankind is fighting for survival. Screenwriter Mark L. Smith adapted Lily Brooks-Dalton's book Good Morning, Midnight to The Midnight Sky.
"We wanted to talk about what man is capable of doing to man and mankind," Clooney said.
Clooney said the source material had themes of climate change and weapons of mass destructions. After editing The Midnight Sky throughout the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, Clooney said a new theme emerged. He said he related to Augustine and the Aether crew connecting with each other after their lonely, isolated existence.
"The story really was enveloping our desperate need to be home and our desperate need to be close to the people we love," Clooney said.
When Jones learned she was pregnant just before filming, Clooney said he decided to make Sully pregnant. The 37-year-old star gave birth to Wilbur on Sept. 11, but she felt carrying him throughout The Midnight Sky added to the film.
"We have seen pregnant characters in films but it's still pretty revolutionary," Jones said. "Particularly a pregnant woman in space is quite extraordinary."
Sully's pregnancy enhanced the theme of the film, Clooney said. Until they make contact with Augustine on Earth, the Aether astronauts have been alone in space for weeks.
"They're waiting for any sound at all of any sign of life," Clooney said. "The only sign of life they're getting is from inside Felicity."
As they accommodate Jones' pregnancy, Adewole became the father of Sully's child. Oyelowo changed his character's name from Harper to Adewole, a name from his own Nigerian tribe, the Yoruba. Adewole means "The king has entered the house," Oyelowo said.
"I realized that I'd never seen an African astronaut in a film like this," Oyelowo said. " I loved the fact that in and amongst us astronauts there was a certain amount of diversity there."
The film also tackled diverse philosophical questions, Jones said, adding that it explores questions as big as "what is the meaning of life?"
"At the same time, it was a very intimate relationship drama about trying to forge a connection and about family and about being a parent," Jones said. "The fact that it moved from the big into the small and did it so well is part of the reason that I wanted to do it."
The Midnight Sky premieres Wednesday on Netflix.