With The Martian out now, let’s take a look at 15 things you probably didn’t know about
Ridley Scott’s big-screen adaptation of Andy Weir’s best-selling book.
Director Ridley Scott didn’t want to rely on visual effects for the sandstorm scene,
and wanted to make it feel real for the actors and audience, so giant fans were used to fill
the air with dirt and small stones. Dust got everywhere including inside the air
vents in the actors’ helmets, which made it tough for them to breathe, so between takes
wardrobe assistants had to help them remove the helmets.
And the thick dust in the air also meant the actors could hardly see each other while filming.
Fortunately, the mini-intercom system installed inside their helmets allowed them to talk
to each other and Scott throughout. According to Kate Mara, who plays astronaut
Beth Johanssen, the cast used the intercom to swap jokes and tease each other, which
helped them bond quickly on set. The sandstorm scene took three days to film
on the Martian exterior set that was built on one of the biggest soundstages in the world,
Stage 6 at Korda Studios, near Budapest.
As Matt Damon plays astronaut Mark Watney who gets stranded by himself on Mars, he spent
most of his time filming alone, without the rest of the cast, for a total of nearly five
weeks. In fact, his filming schedule only coincided
with Jessica Chastain and the other actors playing astronauts for three days in mid-December
2014. And he filmed again with just Chastain for
a couple more days in February 2015.
After plans to film in the Australian Outback didn’t work out, the filmmakers decided
to shoot many of the Martian sequences on sets at Korda Studios to give them more control
over the environment. However, the movie also filmed panoramic views
for 8 days in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert, which doubled for Mars.
Other movies that have shot in the same area include David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia
and the sci-fi horror The Last Days On Mars. Back in the studio, a huge green screen, over
300 foot long and 65 foot high, was assembled so background plates of Wadi Rum could be
added. And to ensure that shots taken on the stage
matched those from Jordan, the movie’s visual effects supervisor and cinematographer studied
Wadi Rum’s solar path charts so they knew the correct lighting direction at all times.
4,000 tons of soil and other materials were used to create the Martian landscape set.
It took three types of Hungarian soil mixed together by hand and machine to get the right
colour to match the Wadi Rum desert. A nursery with artificial lighting and heating
was also built at the studio to grow Watney’s potatoes, using half-cut spuds, just like
in the movie. A total of 1,200 potatoes were grown, with
around 8 potatoes per plant.
The Martian’s Rover was modelled on the Curiosity rover, though the movie’s version
is even bigger. A team of 22 technicians from the movie crew
and 15 members of the Hungarian Opel Dakar team constructed two full-scale Rovers for
filming. But before shooting began in Jordan, the vehicle’s
ability to deal with rough terrain was put to the test in a Hungarian quarry.
While the solar panels on the vehicle’s exterior make it look as if it runs on solar
energy, which is part of the story; in reality it had a 2-litre diesel engine.
The design of the Hermes spacecraft was influenced by the interlocking modules of the International
Space Station. The Hermes set was built on several stages
at Korda Studios, and the craft’s bright white interior is a nod to director Stanley
Kubrick’s classic scif-fi, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
To make it look like the actors were floating around in zero gravity, an enormous winch
system was built and suspended above the roofless set of the Hermes and the actors were harnessed
to wire rigs at the waist, legs and shoulders. Although the system was mechanised, members
of the stunt team were still needed to pull harness ropes to make the actors move vertically.
150 metres of truss, 90 metres of track, 70 pulleys, and around 400 metres of rope were
used to build the rig.
To get inspiration for the movie’s spacesuits, costume designer Janty Yates visited the Johnson
Space Center and the Jet Propulsion Lab, researched spacesuit designs with the Curator of Space
History at the Smithsonian National Air And Space Museum, and even saw designs for suits
that are going to be used on missions beyond 2030.
15 suits were made for the film, and the actors wore them for 10 to 12 hours a day.
The surface suits, which were worn when exploring Mars, were made of neoprene, which is also
used for wetsuits, and their combined weight with the helmet was over 30 pounds.
The movie’s Extra-Vehicular Activity suit or ‘outer space’ suit, which was worn
outside the Hermes spacecraft, is a more streamlined version of a NASA suit used outside the International
Space Station. Underneath the suits, there was a system of
cold water tubes to keep the actors cool, and fans inside their life support backpacks
also channelled air through a hose into their helmets, which was the same as the cooling
system used in the spacesuits in Interstellar. If you want to check out some more cool facts
and things you didn’t know about Interstellar, click right there!
To get inspiration for the movie’s spacesuits, costume designer Janty Yates visited NASA
facilities, researched spacesuit designs with the Curator of Space History at the Smithsonian
National Air And Space Museum, and even saw designs for suits that are going to be used
on missions beyond 2030. 15 suits were made for the film, and the actors
wore them for around 10 hours a day. The surface suits worn for exploring Mars
in the film are made of neoprene, which is also used for wetsuits.
The movie’s Extravehicular Activity suit or ‘outer space’ suit, which was worn
outside the Hermes, is a more streamlined, less bulky version of the Extravehicular Mobility
Units worn by astronauts on spacewalks at the International Space Station.
Underneath the suits, there was a system of cold water tubes to keep the actors cool,
and fans inside their life support backpacks also channelled air through a hose into their
helmets, which was the same as the cooling system used in Interstellar’s spacesuits.
If you want to check out some more cool facts and things you didn’t know about Interstellar,
click right there!
To get good, clear close-ups of the actors’ faces, the helmets made for the movie had
to be bigger than the ones worn by real astronauts. Also, each helmet’s visor had to be flawless
and ultra-polished to prevent the kind of glare that makes it very difficult to capture
the faces of real astronauts on camera when they’re in space.
Again, to keep the actors’ faces visible while filming, the helmets also had several
lights in them which were operated separately by a small remote.
The filmmakers worked closely with NASA from script to shoot.
For example, they were allowed to film rocket launches at Cape Canaveral, including the
lift-off of the Orion, a spacecraft designed to eventually enable human exploration of
Mars. In fact, on board the Orion during its maiden
voyage in December 2014 was the title page of The Martian script, which included a sketch
of astronaut Mark Watney by director Ridley Scott!
To prepare for her role as Commander Lewis, leader of the Mars mission, Jessica Chastain
spent a number of days at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Johnson Space Center and
got to go inside a Mars Ascent Vehicle. Chastain also did background reading on astronauts
including Sally Ride, and spent time with astronaut and chemist Tracy Caldwell Dyson
who shared her experience of both the technical and human side of life in space.
On top of that, via a virtual reality headset, Chastain experienced panoramic images of Mars
taken by the Curiosity rover.
Production designer Arthur Max found much of his inspiration for the movie’s NASA
sets on a tour of the Johnson Space Center, led by Dr James Green, who, as well as being
Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, also happens to be a huge fan of Alien!
During the tour, Max spoke with lots of specialists and took hundreds of photos for reference.
He also inspected the old Apollo mission control centre and the current Centre, and incorporated
aspects of those into his own vision of NASA’s next control room in The Martian.
During filming, the monitors in the movie’s Mission Control Room displayed a mixture of
graphics, high-res satellite imagery and video footage from NASA.
Ridley Scott preferred this to using green screen and adding the images in post-production
as it allowed him to use the images on the screens as light sources and it gave the actors
something real to react to. By the way, director Colin Trevorrow did something
similar in Jurassic World. And if you’d like to find out more things you didn’t
know about that movie, click right there.
Filming in Budapest also took place at The Whale, a cultural and commercial centre located
along the Danube River. The state-of-the-art building was used for
scenes set in the offices of NASA director Teddy Sanders and media relations director
Annie Montrose, played by Jeff Daniels and Kristen Wiig, and it was also used for scenes
involving conference rooms, a break room and coffee shop, and a main entrance.
To make the maximum use of the building’s open spaces, fake concrete walls were placed
on wheels and used to quickly create and then change the layout of offices, as needed for
Kate Mara was already such a huge fan of Ridley Scott before she was even cast in The Martian
that she had named one of her dogs Lucius, after the Emperor’s nephew in the Oscar-winning
historical drama, Gladiator.
Now, let me know in the comments below, what are your favourite sci-fi movies?
And what other movies would you like me to cover in my Things You Didn’t Know videos?
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