Clare Lewins didn’t think she was the right director for a movie about the International Space Station.
When producer George Chignell approached the idea, with whom he worked on the 2014 boxing legend documentary “I am Ali,” Lewins’ first reaction was that she was “not a science-based person,” but then he began to investigate who had done it. lived on the space station.
“That’s what made the difference, really,” he told collectSPACE.com in an interview.
That and a book he was reading at the time. Joseph Conrad’s turn of the (20th) century novel “Lord Jim” depicts ancient sailors traveling into the unknown, with an urge in their blood to dream of the future.
Related: ‘The Wonderful’ Tells The Story Of The International Space Station Through The Eyes Of Many Astronauts (Exclusive Clip)
“And he wrote, ‘They were wonderful … And I must admit they were ready for wonderful,'” Lewins said, quoting Conrad. “And I thought, ‘That’s it. That is the history’. Really, that’s the movie. “
“The Wonderful: Stories From the Space Station” focuses on the lives of a dozen international astronauts and cosmonauts who for a time called the International Space Station home. From Bill Shepherd and Sergei Krikalev, who were members of the station’s first expedition team more than 20 years ago, to Scott Kelly and Peggy Whitson, who set duration records during their time aboard the outpost, the film of two hours reveals the humanity behind it all. of the engineering and technology that made such an installation possible.
“From the beginning, I thought, actually, I want to do it about people, not about 450 tons of spacecraft, which, by the way, is amazing, but other movies have done it,” Lewins said.
collectSPACE spoke with Lewins and former NASA astronaut Cady Coleman about “The Wonderful,” which is now open in select US theaters and available on digital platforms worldwide. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
(Image credit: NASA)
collectSPACE (cS): Cady, as one of the “wonderful”, what was your reaction to the movie? Was it wonderful for you?
Cady Coleman: I liked it. U.S [astronauts] They don’t get to hear much about other people’s stories and hear and see them told in such detail, and from these really interesting points of view, it was just fascinating to me.
I’ve been a part of the space program for so long because it’s something I really believe in, even after I retire. Having someone make this exquisite movie that celebrates so many different aspects of the people who make this meant a lot to me.
CS: Clare, with almost 250 people to choose from (244 astronauts and cosmonauts have visited the space station since 1998), how did you select all 12 for the movie?
Clare Lewins: Telling the narrative of the space station is quite difficult. You know, if you were doing [a documentary about] Apollo 11, there is a clear narrative there. This [spans] more than 20 years.
So I said I’d pick different stories that don’t seem to be connected, but actually are. What I’m trying to show with all of this is that everyone is connected. There is a human connection.
cS: You worked exclusively with footage in terms of scenes shot in space. Did you discover that you were limited to what the astronauts had captured on film?
Lewins: We were very lucky. Actually, there is so much that you could spend a lifetime going over everything. We got really lucky with some of the people at NASA who really helped us with that. I said I wanted the best file available, really things that have been shot in a red. [Digital Cinema HD] camera. Like the Peggy Whitson scenes, it’s just beautiful.
But most of the images are exactly representative of the cameras they had. [at the time]. The first images we were trying to get, like those of [Russia’s federal space corporation] Roscosmos was a bit more difficult to come by. But I love that. I love when you see [cosmonaut] Sergei [Volkov] with his dad [also a cosmonaut], it looks so soviet. It looks iconic. You can see exactly that that is nowhere else but Russia.
cS: In addition to the stock footage, you created scenes that are more artistic in nature. How did those come about?
Lewins: For me, it was important that it wasn’t just interviews and archives. As with the [scene with] Little kids who dreamed of being cosmonauts in Russia, we went to a boxing gym from the 70s that had the right green color. Or the child lying in the snow, dreaming of being a cosmonaut.
Scott Kelly told me that he had this dream that he used to have, this recurring kind of daydream that he was going to be in a really small space, and I thought we would film it as a kid. He also talks a lot about the lack of water when he’s in space. So I thought about pouring rain out the window with a child dreaming.
With Cady, she talks about her father being a diver and I thought it would be great to have an underwater scene where we shoot a free diver underwater and then the scene goes straight up. [space station’s] Dome.
Everything seems a bit unusual. But in my head, it all makes sense.
CS: Cady, your segment of the movie focuses on your family, your husband Josh and their son Jamey. What was it like filming together?
Coleman: Generally, Clare asked all of us individually questions that had never been asked of me before. It was a very different kind of interview. And I didn’t actually listen to Jamey and Josh’s interviews on purpose because I wanted them to be able to be with Clare and tell their stories.
But it’s been really wonderful for me to hear their stories and what it was like for them when I was getting ready to go out, when I jumped in and what it was like to have me there. In fact, very emotional, really, for me. I cried the first time I saw the movie.
Just thinking about it, it was very difficult to leave them. And at the same time, it was what we had decided as a family; This is what Jamey’s mom does, this is what Josh’s wife does, but that doesn’t mean hearing the little details, you know, I’m going to cry just thinking about it. When Jamey says “my mom was really gone”, I mean, that’s a big deal.
(Image credit: Universal)
CS: Clare, going back to what Joseph Conrad wrote, now that you’ve made the movie, has your view of the “wonderful” astronauts changed?
Lewins: I have more respect for them, because of course they are all human with all their weaknesses and things, but I think they all take space exploration and their work extremely seriously.
They know they have a whole team of people at NASA and Roscosmos and their family members who are helping them get there. And they know that it is a privileged position, but they take it very seriously. I mean, people like Cady, super brilliant in science, technology, engineering, you know, everything. But that’s not what my movie is really about. My movie was more about, I don’t know, just the kind of inspiration from humanity and connections.
So to answer your question more succinctly, I think they are wonderful.
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