Morten Tyldum talks about his big budget Hollywood debut.
The Norwegian director looked to both the future and past when designing the look of his sci-fi blockbuster Passengers, which tells the story of two space colonists (Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt) who are on a 120-year journey to another planet when their hibernation pods wake them 90 years too early.
“The past is with us – the past inspires us – and I wanted to have the past to be very present in the film,” the acclaimed director of The Imitation Game explains. “ At the same time, it has robots, it’s a smart ship, it has screens, it has AI. By combining this, on a pure aesthetic level, a visual level, I think it’s unique. It feels very sci-fi, but also very grounded, very belonging to our world.”
To make this vision a reality, Tyldum turned to Guy Hendrix Dyas, an Oscar nominee and BAFTA winner for his work with Christopher Nolan on Inception. Taking their inspiration from luxurious cruise lines, they imagined the spacecraft Avaon would offer every amenity imaginable, with various looks inspired by classic designs.
“We wanted to build as much as possible, because this is a character-driven movie, not a movie that is driven by special effects,” says Tyldum. “We have a lot of big spectacle scenes, some mind-blowing effects, but the driving force is the characters and the performances. To get those performances, I didn’t want Jen and Chris to act against green screens – I wanted to build as much as possible so they can actually feel and understand the space they’re in. I think it pays off because it feels more real.”
Tyldum says that it was apparent from the beginning that Lawrence and Pratt would be the perfect actors to bring the space passengers to life.
“It’s great that they are the biggest stars in the world, but first of all, I wanted to make sure that they were the right actors for these roles,” he says. “I had to get the feeling that they were going to click, that they would have chemistry. We sat for many hours – I had a four-hour dinner with Jen – and I could immediately see that they would be perfect. They’re very smart people who had a clear understanding of what they wanted the character to do. They really understood the choices, the motivations, the life these characters have to go through – so that made me feel that they really got it.”