TIFF Report: Ridley Scott’s The Martian Is More Science Than Fiction
Dear Science, Matt Damon, Ridley Scott, and the rest of the cast and crew of The Martian have something to tell you. They love you. They love you a lot. In fact, when Scott and screenwriter Drew Goddard were attempting to recruit Damon for the movie, that’s exactly how the described it: The Martian is “a love letter to science.” Aw.
“The fantasy of space, which is now also a reality,” explained Scott at a press conference ahead of the film’s world premiere at TIFF on Friday, “is a marvellous platform and a form of theatre, if you like. Honestly, almost anything goes. But, if anything goes… you’ve got to actually make your own rule book and stick within the confines of the rules that you make. So, if I’m doing Alien or Prometheus, I’ve got to draw up the sidelines of the rule book and stick within them. [The Martian] is a lot easier because, actually, you can lean very heavily on the science in the book. This was a much more realistic movie.”
The science comes courtesy of author Andy Weir who wrote the book that the film is based on—but it didn’t end with Weir. Both Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jessica Chastain talked about how much fun it was to “nerd out” on space stuff, meeting actual NASA astronauts and seeing the equipment they work with.
“I got to go to the JPL in Pasadena and meet with all the robotics guys and see the Curiosity Rover and do virtual reality to be on Mars and see what that would be like,” said Chastain. “And then I went to Houston and met with Tracy Caldwell Dyson, who’s an astronaut and talked to her.” Ejiofor consulted with the European Space Agency to gain insight on the types of personalities who are drawn to the dangerous, pioneering work of space exploration.
“It’s like being a little kid and watching these movies and hoping someday you get to do that. I don’t really want to go to space but I want to pretend to,” Chastain joked.
For his part, Ridley Scott said that he relied heavily on both his cast and the original material Weir supplied him with, though he did draw inspiration from one other unlikely source: “I was brought up on Westerns,” said the director. “I was weaned on the idea that it’s always the man against the odds, or man against nature… I put myself always in that place of being the cowboy. I’ve never done a Western but I always apply that to everything I do.”