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Were The Martian Filmmakers Worried When Gravity Hit The Scene?

One person is stuck in space, all alone. The only hope they have of ever reaching Earth is their own smarts and a whole lot of luck.

If this description sounds familiar, it’s because it could describe both The Martian, hitting theaters this weekend, and Gravity, which was released two years ago almost to the day, on October 4, 2013.

Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock, was a game-changer, the first movie of its kind. The majority of the film is Bullock alone on screen, screaming her way through space, which wants nothing more than to kill her. Similarly, Matt Damon dominates The Martian as an astronaut stranded on unfriendly Mars.

The two movies are very different in tone and content, but the similarity in the summary would be enough for some producers to pull the plug on The Martian, assuming viewers would think it was a Gravity knock-off.

At the Toronto International Film Festival, MTV News caught up with Martian screenwriter Drew Goddard and author Andy Weir to find out whether they were worried that Gravity would doom their project.

Goddard, who adapted the screenplay from Weir’s novel, said that he turned in the first draft of the script the same day that Gravity opened.

“I remember thinking oh, fuck. Like, is this gonna kill us?” His fears quickly abated when he actually saw the other movie. “I went and saw Gravity and I loved it and it’s totally different, so I felt good. I felt like maybe this will tell the studio, hey, maybe space is OK! We go through these ebbs and flows of what’s fashionable in Hollywood and there hadn’t been a space movie in a long time when we were working on it and I think it gave the studio confidence that space isn’t just this weird thing for fringe elements.”

Weir worried about how the success—or failure—of Gravity could impact The Martian as well.

“I worried it would flop,” he said. “Because I hadn’t seen it yet I didn’t know that it was going to be such a huge success and I was worried! Gravity came out right around the time when we were trying to pitch The Martian and trying to get the studio to go for The Martian and then I figured if Gravity comes out, it’s a realistic science fiction thriller, if it comes out and flops then the studio is going to be like, oh, screw this. We’re not going to do something like that. We’re going to learn our lesson from Gravity. But, then it comes out and it’s this huge success and I’m like, ’awesome.’ And then the studio, Fox, said we don’t want to make something that looks like we’re just ripping off Gravity. And I’m like wait a minute, Hollywood’s going to start being original now?! But fortunately everything did come together.”

In fact, Weir said he hoped that The Martian and Gravity would set off a trend of science-based sci-fi.

“Kind of realistic sci-fi,” he said. “I think it’d be great if that was a new genre that started up. Like hard-core, hard science fiction is what it’s called in the books.”

Goddard agreed about the similarities between The Martian and Gravity, as well as the vast difference in tone and actual plot. People can definitely get different things out of the movies, but they can certainly enjoy both.

“I think there’s a universal element that people will respond to,” he said of the “alone in space” theme. “I think [Gravity] helped us, quite honestly. Andy’s book is so unique that we also felt quite confident. Like yes, there might be cosmetic similarities between this and other movies but nothing is like it in its soul.”

The Martian lands in theatres October 2.

INNERSPACE CLIPS