What exactly is Alfonso Cuaron up to? It's been five years since the Mexican filmmaker released Children of Men, his dystopic masterpiece about a near future without children that managed to be both a deeply felt humanist drama and a reinvention of the action/war genre. His new movie, the astronaut drama Gravity, is more than a year away, but having finished principal shooting and begun the extensive post-production process, word has leaked out from an unlikely source.
Cuaron's close friend and countryman, Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro, recently touched on the project in an interview with MTV. “Alfonso and [director of photography] Emmanuel Lubezki are absolutely pushing a new boundary in filmmaking: completely mind-blowing,” he declared. “And the way they're making that movie I think will forever change certain types of productions. The engineering and the ingenuity of the machines they've created to film that way is fantastic.”
Little more than a synopsis is available on Gravity: when space junk almost destroys a space station, the two surviving astronauts – played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney – have to race against time to not only survive, but return to Earth. Speculation has included reports that Cuaron will shoot the entire movie in just a handful of long takes, per Children of Men's acclaimed set-pieces, and that he'd found a new way to replicate zero gravity conditions.
The always enthusiastic del Toro added that he had introduced Cuaron to James Cameron, so they could discuss some of the former's technical queries and the latter's experience making Avatar. “What Alfonso is trying, is so insane,” observed del Toro. “And Jim said, 'Well look, what you're trying is about five years into the future.' When James said that it's too early to try anything that crazy… they did it.”
Gravity is currently due out in America on November 21, 2012, marking the end of an extended creative process that at one point saw Angelina Jolie and Robert Downey Jr. rumoured for the two parts (the female role reportedly has more screen time than the male one). It's likely that del Toro, or the other mutual friend and member of the Mexican troika Alejando Gonzalez Inarritu (21 Grams, Biutiful), will have some input along the way. After all, it was del Toro, the creator of mythic monsters, who told Cuaron that the only way he could end his 2001 road movie, Y tu Mama Tambien, was with a threesome between the lead characters.
What they can do for NASA remains to be seen.