Interviews: Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson on ‘The Space Between Us’
The sci-fi romance The Space Between Us paints a scenario that could definitely be possible.
Set in the not-too-distant future, the film shows how humans are now able to journey to Mars and set up a livable colony on the planet. A conundrum arises, however, when a female astronaut discovers she’s pregnant and gives birth to a son on Mars. Now, 16 years later, the orphaned Gardner (Asa Butterfield) is a teenager filled with questions, particularly after he falls for an Earth girl named Tulsa (Britt Robertson), who he has been conversing with online. When he is finally cleared to travel to Earth for the first time, he experiences the wonders of the planet through fresh eyes and embarks on an adventure to find Tulsa and discover how he came to be.
At the recent press day, Butterfield and Robertson spoke with us about their love story, the challenges of playing someone born in zero gravity and more.
Q: Asa and Britt, was this a backstory about how you guys began chatting online or did you come up with your own thing?
Asa Butterfield: I guess it was just two kids (who are) kind of bored and they find this foster home chat. My username was “Spaceman247” which is appropriate; she didn’t get the thing that I was from New York.
Britt Robertson: I was like, “This guy is just spaced out? I don’t get it.” Yeah and “Tulsanator246” was really interested in this guy who seemed a little out there, and he wasn’t rooted out there in the world. All of the things that plague our mind became so big but are really just kind of meaningless. I think that did a big part of her draw to… after meeting him and her (desire) to explore this friendship, relationship, whatever. He’s someone she’s never really met before and I do think it served her well, you know? It got her out of her shell and gave her a way to be open, kind, and vulnerable with someone, which she’s never really had.
Q: Brit, you are playing a teenager, but you’re older than Asa who is an actual teenager. How do you make chemistry at the same age, and how do you play that age group?
BR: Yes, I’ve not been a teenager for a very long time, but I think for me it’s never really like, “What age is this character?” I don’t really look at it that way. When I look and read material, it’s all about what journey this character is going on. How can I serve this character? What’s interesting or fascinating about it to me? I never really looked at it from an age point of view.
I don’t think Tulsa (Britt Robertson’s character) is really a teenager. She’s had to be an adult for a really long time. She’s had to take care of herself. She’s had to figure out where she’s going to live, and pay her mortgage or gas. She thinks like an adult. There’s this dynamic where she’s almost parenting him in some ways. There’s this very specific kind of thing where she’s teaching him about the world (saying), “Get it together, these are people. Why are you doing it this way? Why aren’t you being human?”
Inversely at the very end of the film, you realize he’s done the very same thing for her. He’s been able to teach her about the beauty of life and all of the things you can appreciate. (Our age difference) I think really helps the dynamic. It’s not something I really pay attention to.
Q: Can you tell us about the similar traits that you share with your character?
Butterfield: I think me and Gardner are both quite interested in the natural world and are kind of fascinated by it, in lots of aspects. We both share a curiosity and a drive to see more of it, or explore it. I think that is probably the biggest thing we share.
Q: Do you have an interest in space exploration in general?
Robertson: I’ve been at NASA for a launch before. I’ve seen a real life launch. I’ve read a few books about it, I learned about it in school, but it’s never been a specific interest of mine. But I do find it cool.
Butterfield: Yeah, I am interested in it. I like science fiction. I am quite a technologically kind of up-to-date person. I like seeing what the new developments are.
Robertson: He makes computers.
Butterfield: I built my last PC. Aside from that, yeah, going to Mars is the next logical step. I’m still hopeful that we will come up with some sort of way to fix, or not necessarily fix, but try and help the shit storm we’ve stirred for ourselves. I think as long as technology’s advancing, we should theoretically come up with a solution, because so much attention’s being put toward it, and if we don’t, then we’re all screwed and we need to go to Mars.
Robertson: We’re all idiots. Stop playing with the iPhones and get it together. Fix the environment.
Q: What are the things that you would like to experience for the first time, that you can’t wait, that you have never experienced?
Butterfield: Sky diving.
Robertson: Oh, I would love to re-watch for the first time, The Jinx. Did anyone see that on HBO? That is my dream, to be able to re-watch that as if it was me experiencing it for the first time again. Aside from that, I would say yeah, skydiving’s cool. I’d love to go on a safari. I love animals. I want to go cage diving with great whites off of Seal Island. Lots of cool things, guys.
Q: Asa, can you talk about the physicality of the role? How did you come up with the process, coming back to Earth?
Butterfield: I didn’t watch lots of penguin videos. [Laughs] I tied weights around my ankles. I had like a weight [list?] on, around my hands. Just to see how that changed the way you move and the way you run. Also while filming, having to do all these different actions. Then take them off and try to replicate that as best you can. The hardest part was keeping it consistent, but then a consistent tailing off of it. Because I start off severely kind of… he’s got some issues with his walking. Then as he gets better, he becomes more human. He finds it easier to walk and then actually walking like a real human.
Robertson: A real boy.
Butterfield: Like a real boy. So yeah, that was my fun journey of walking.
Q: The writer said your character’s name is an amalgam of Chauncey Gardner from Being There and Elliott from E.T. Did you watch any movies or do any research about playing someone so innocent?
Butterfield: Um, innocence is something that I’ve had to do quite a lot in my roles. Don’t know why, I guess I just have that kind of face. Whether it’s like the boy in The Boy with the Striped Pajamas, who was pretty innocent boy unaware of all the horrors going around him or a few other films I won’t go into detail, anyway. But yeah, as a character, I watched Being There, which was a really great reference for me. And Wings of Desire, a film consistently looked at, even in its cinematography. Yeah, [Gardner] is a really interesting character. Me and Peter, the director, we had a lot of fun creating him, making him unique and really fun to watch.
Q: Playing characters that have been innocent, do you think there’s a certain expectation of you or do they have a preconception of you when they meet you?
Butterfield: You mean as me, as a real person? As a real boy? I don’t really know what people’s perceptions of me are. When I’m back in London, I manage to keep a pretty low profile. I kind of just do my own thing. Hang out with my friends. So there’s not really any pressure or not trying to do anything in particular, just do what interests me. Like videogames and technology and the natural world. If you know me, you know that’s the case, otherwise I have no idea what people think of me.
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