by Kit Bowen 27 December, 2020
Part sci-fi, part family drama, The Midnight Sky is a compelling, heartfelt story, combining thrilling action with an emotional core.
Here’s the synopsis: Just after an apocalyptic event has destroyed/contaminated most of Earth, a lone scientist (George Clooney) in an Arctic station tries to connect with a spaceship returning from a mission where they have found a suitable planet to support life to warn them not to come home. To his surprise, he also finds a stray young girl (Caoilinn Springall) who was seemingly left behind in the evacuation. Meanwhile, onboard the spacecraft, the small band of astronauts (Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Damián Bichir, Kyle Chandler and Tiffany Boone) are equally perplexed on why they can’t reach Earth and experience their own obstacles.
At a recent press conference, Clooney, who also directs, joined his fellow cast members -- Jones, Oyelowo, Springall, Bichir, Chandler and Boone – to talk about making The Midnight Sky, and how it eerily imitates what we are going through right now in real life.
Here is what they each had to say about the experience:
GEORGE CLOONEY: On bringing something new to a space drama and offering hope, Clooney said he first wanted to explore what man is capable of doing to mankind. The anger and hatred that has built up over the years, either by denying climate change or blowing ourselves to kingdom come, would manifest. But as he finished shooting and the real pandemic hit, the movie morphed into a desperate need to be home and close to the people we love and trying to communicate that. “The themes are unfortunately relative, and no one counted on that.”
Clooney added that about three weeks into shooting the scenes in Iceland, Jones told him she was pregnant. He said they tried to deny it and shoot around the baby bump but then he decided the best way to handle is to accept it and not see it as a problem. Jones’ pregnancy became a part of the movie and the crew of the spacecraft all gathered around to protect her and drew everyone together. “We could then write scenes about naming the kid or doing the ultrasound, which I think is a stunning scene because they’ve been waiting for any sign of life and what they are getting is inside Felicity. Suddenly, everything was infinitely more hopeful.”
FELICITY JONES: She said what she loved about the script was that it was a macro film about “pretty massive issues, asking existential questions about the meaning of life, why we are here, what we value, which is what we are now asking ourselves in this strange epoch that we find ourselves in.” But then it was also an intimate film about forging relationships and finding connection, about family and being a parent. She added she thought they were making an entertaining and exciting film, but in some ways, it turned into a sort-of documentary.
And on her pregnancy, Jones was initially afraid she’d get fired but when Clooney was so accepting of it, it just made her feel very comfortable. She added she was very happy and relieved she could look pregnant and not to deny herself chocolate cake.
DAVID OYELOWO: On finding his character, the actor found inspiration from Clooney, who would talk about his experience on the TV show ER and learning all the jargon. “If the audience buys you know what you are talking about, then they get into the emotions of what your character is feeling,” Oyelowo said. They don’t get caught up in the terminology and keep in the emotional space. He laughed it was like acting school, “You’re in a room with a group of friends and it’s the end of the world. GO!”
Oyelowo was also pleased he could incorporate his African roots into his character. “Originally, my character’s name is Commander Harper, as written in the book… and I realized that I’d never seen an African astronaut in a film like this. I loved the fact that, in and amongst us, there’s this sentiment of diversity there. I felt very strongly, being a proud person of African descent, a crew tasked with saving the world should have an African in there. So I asked George if he was open to changing my name and we did. We changed it to Adewole, which is a name from the tribe I’m actually from in Nigeria, the Yoruba tribe. It’s going to sound self-important, but the name means, ‘The king has entered the house.’ [Clooney said], ‘Well that’s in the movie!’”
KYLE CHANDLER: On working with Clooney, Chandler said that he keeps everything so relaxed on set. Of course, everyone is expected to deliver 100 percent, but with Clooney, he listens to you and is very collaborative. "Everyone had a sense of ownership on what they were doing,” but he added that Clooney knew what he wanted and was straight up about it, “If you got a joke in, you got slapped up the side of the head and you continued on.”
DAMIÁN BICHIR: The actor said he was impressed with the overall film and thinks it’s just beautiful. He described having to imagine the special effects around him, which he had practice with on a film he just made “looking at King Kong and Godzilla” but he felt the production design was “outstanding,” and one of the best he’s ever seen. “That makes your work very easy.” He added there were some things they did get to see as they were shooting, especially on what happened to Earth and what it became. “That was very emotional,” Bichir said.
TIFFANY BOONE: She said that looking at what Clooney and Springall had to shoot in Iceland, she felt “very lucky.” Boone added, “I heard the stories about the cold and the snow in the beard and all that, but to see it, they were troupers and I felt lucky to be on a warm stage.” But overall, Clooney and the team created such a world that Boone felt she was really there.
CAOILINN SPRINGALL: The actress spoke about having to act without saying anything and just using her emotions. “It was really hard doing it by yourself and I struggle with it. But then I got there.” She added she is generally a chatterbox, “My mom calls me that.”
Clooney added that the youngster put all of them to shame. “I told the others that Caoilinn did all her scenes in ONE TAKE. So enjoy.”
The Midnight Sky is streaming now on Netflix.