Hey Lovelies, 

Who saw ‘The Martian’ over the weekend? If you did you will have seen the amazing Jessica Chastain within it lovelies and to celebrate her amazing performance in this film, I have a brand new interview with the star, talking all things space, NASA and the film lovelies! 

With the film already causing a huge stir, it is definitely going to be a one to look out for and watch, because I think this is going to be the surprise at next year’s award nominations! Anyway though aha, let’s enjoy this brand new interview! 

Take it away Jessica…

Ms Chastain plays Melissa Lewis, the commander of Ares 3, the first manned mission to Mars, and Matt Damon is Mark Watney, who is left behind on the Red Planet when his crew mates mistakenly believe he has been killed during a fierce sandstorm. Millions of miles away, NASA and an international team of scientists work tirelessly to try to find a way to bring ‘the Martian’ home while Lewis and her team plot their own audacious plan to try to rescue him before his meagre supplies run out. 

The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s bestselling novel, features a star studded cast that includes Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover and Mackenzie Davis and was filmed in Budapest, Hungary and on location in Jordan.

Q: What did you think of the finished film?
A:  Yes I just saw the film recently and I thought it was such a ride. Ridley did a fantastic job, as always. 

Q: Ridley is literally creating another world here. Was it a surprise to you in any way?
A: I thought he did a brilliant job of bringing Mars and life in space to the screen in a way that was unique but realistic. I loved those Martian landscapes. I believe they filmed those scenes in Jordan, which I wasn’t a part of, as I filmed all of my scenes in Budapest. So when I watched the film, everything on Mars was new to me.

Q: Could you describe your character, Melissa Lewis, for us? 
A: There were two reasons that I chose this project, and of course, one was to work with Ridley – that was a huge deal for me. I also wanted to learn about space travel.  It felt so incredible to get this opportunity to work with NASA and The Martian, while playing the commander of the first manned mission to Mars. So I met with astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson at Houston, and a lot of how I played Commander Lewis was based on what I got from her. A lot of, I think, her energy and her wit, how she’s very stable and always in control. I asked her what a commander does, and she told me that in a space station the commander needs to make everyone feel like they’re part of a team, and that every single person on the team is a valuable player. She said that the team doesn’t function without everyone. There isn’t a feeling of dominance, I guess is the word, from the commander. That, I really used a lot when approaching this character.

Q: When you met Tracy, did you get to look around NASA?
A: Oh yes. I told Ridley when I first met him, ‘If I do the movie, can I go to space camp?’ (laughs). I’m really interested in space exploration after working on Interstellar and being around Christopher Nolan; he kind of ignited that interest in me. I went to JPL [Jet Propulsion Laboratory] in Pasadena and observed the scientists in their robotic work, and I saw the Curiosity Rovers there. It was really incredible, because the rover right now on Mars is having trouble with its wheels, because the wheels going over the rocks are breaking a bit, so they were testing its twin rover here on Earth on different kinds of really jagged rock to see how, on the next version of the rover, to make it more durable.  They also were trying to figure out what to avoid on the surface of Mars, in an effort to extend the life of the Curiosity Rover. I got to watch them programming the rover on Mars in real time.  Of course there’s a time delay just to get messages to it, based on the distance. I also did Oculus Rift, a virtual reality activity where the images that were being sent back from Mars were uploaded into this programme, where you can put the glasses on and have 360 views of Mars, and you could walk around the space and feel as if you were on another planet. It was incredible. I could look at the rover, and I could walk around and look underneath it. It’s an incredible tool for the scientists who are trying to understand if there’s something wrong with the rover, because using this program, it feels like they’re there, performing tasks on it. After I left, it felt like I had been on Mars. It was really spectacular. Then I went to Houston and met with Tracy, and we went on mock-ups of the space shuttle, and the space station. It was really… (laughs) the prep for this film was as much fun as actually making it, for me. It was really phenomenal.

Q: Is that part of the attraction of the job? Exploring, literally in this case, different worlds?
A: Yes that’s truly a big part of how I make decisions on which roles and films I’m a part of. I have no control over the finished project, over what happens in the editing room, or how the audience is going to respond to the film – so the only thing I do have control over is what situation I’m putting myself in, day by day, and when I leave the making of a film, am I leaving that film having gained something, gained experience? So that for me, for sure was a big part of this film. I knew walking away from this film, I was going to carry with me an experience that I would have for the rest of my life. 

Q: Did you ask if it’s possible and how long until we have a manned mission to Mars, the way we see in The Martian?
A: Yes, and absolutely. They are working on it right now. The issues, in talking to the staff at JPL, is that we can't send people to Mars and safely bring them back. That’s something we’re struggling with. People are volunteering for private missions to Mars, knowing that they will never return, or that they may return, but we don’t know how that will be at this point in time. The rover that they’re sending over now, they can collect samples of the ground and can kind of analyse it, but we have no way of even getting those samples back from Mars. When I was at Houston and NASA, they showed me the entirety of the Hab, which is the habitat that the astronauts would live in on Mars. They’re currently testing these habitats; people volunteer and they’ll go into the desert and live in these Habs for months at a time, just to test it out and see how you can survive. This is how NASA learns that they need to make changes in the habitats, because the plan would be to send the Habs out first, so that when we do get a manned mission to Mars, it will be set up to receive humans. I mean, that’s kind of what the film is about – we’re the first manned mission to Mars. There’s already been a trip to Mars setting up the Hab, and there would have been supply missions so that when we arrive as a crew, everything is set up for us.

Q: NASA are very pro-this film. Is that because it depicts the science, the way they work, so accurately do you think?
A: Yes, absolutely that’s true. If you get a chance, I would recommend you watch a YouTube video called ‘Seven Minutes of Terror.' It was the seven minutes they filmed waiting to find out how the Curiosity Rover was landing. Because we’re talking about seven months to get to Mars, and then when it lands there’s a 12 minute delay, so we don’t know if it’s crashed, we don’t know anything, and we don’t have anyone driving it in real time. So everything it’s doing, it’s programmed to do on its own. It’s basically a robot that takes care of itself. The people at JPL are able to invent these rovers and crafts. They are a remarkable group of people. You can’t believe what they can create and how they invent what they do.

Q: Was it a very physical role? And do you enjoy that side of the job?
A: It was very physically challenging in terms of the space suit. The surface suits were shockingly more difficult to wear – they’re similar to the ones we wore on the surface of Mars. The way that the helmets work, if you bent a certain way, it would cut off your oxygen flow, and the helmets were attached to the suit in a way that you needed someone else to come and take them off. So in shooting, sometimes the oxygen would just stop, and you’d get condensation because you’re just breathing carbon dioxide, and then also, during the storm sequence, we had so many wind turbines that we couldn’t even hear each other, so we would have speakers in our ears, and microphones, of course, in our helmets, and our own lighting system and our own air system, and on action, with all the noise, we would just be screaming, with low visibility, to try and hear each other. So it really did kind of create this panic, but a controlled panic that I’m sure the crew would have faced, so it felt kind of authentic in that way. 

Q: And Ridley likes to do as much as possible with real sets and keep CGI to a minimum…
A: Yes, he does. The end of the film was shot in a big, big area with a green screen, because of course, how do you create space, but otherwise I was in practical sets. The scenes in the ship, they built those, and we were all on wires, doing the zero gravity work. Same with the scenes on Mars-they created Mars on that sound stage in Budapest, which was an incredible set. 

Q: You’ve said that one of the reasons you took the role was so that you could work with Ridley. Was he as you expected?
A: He was! He’s in a tent and he’s got everything around him, all the monitors and equipment, and he’s got his 3D glasses on so he can actually see, while he’s filming, what it’s going to look like. If you were a shy actor you probably wouldn’t see him [laughs]. But I’m not shy and I love to collaborate and it was the same with the guys who are playing the Ares 3 crew - Michael Peña, Sebastian Stan, Kate [Mara] and of course Matt [Damon] -- we all spent a lot of time together and in between takes we would go over to the tent and hang out with Rid [laughs]. Every time I would go, in my space suit, or whatever, he would hand me a pair of 3D glasses and would show me what it was going to look like, and he would show me the rehearsal of something that we’d just filmed so that I’d get an idea of it. He’s really very warm and very funny, but also what I appreciate most about him is that I can be impatient -- I love to be constantly working on a set-I love to work and Rid is like that. Any time in my head I’d been thinking, ‘Okay, what’s taking so long?’ I would hear him say, ‘Right, it’s time to move on.’ He would really push things along. He’s like Christopher Nolan in that way  – you work on these huge films but you feel like you’re making an independent film because you are constantly moving.

Q: You mentioned that you hung out with the actors who play the Ares 3 crew. Was that a conscious decision to try and build the bond that we see on screen?
A: Yeah, the actors and I were just hanging as a crew – we became like a big family, we had dinner a lot together, and it was important for us to create that bond. I knew from reading the novel that there’s so much respect for Commander Lewis, and when Mark Watney is found to be alive, they’re constantly stressing over and over again that it is not her fault – they’re really protective of each other, and that’s why it was really important for me to talk to Tracy and to ask her what would make a very good commander in space, because it was very clear in the novel that Commander Lewis was. The crews respect for her was just a given, and it never needed to be addressed. It was important for me in the film, and for Rid, to show that.

Q: Would you say that’s the central theme of the film – not leaving someone behind, doing everything to bring Matt’s character home?
A: Yes, Commander Lewis is responsible for these six people and she needs to get them back home, safe. Every moment in space is a dangerous moment. And for her, it’s an absolute given – you do not leave anyone behind. That’s the number one thing you learn, no man left behind. So she struggles with the fact that she did leave someone behind, and how does she rectify that? But also how does she not wallow in that? Because she still has these five people that she has to make sure stay safe. I love that part of the film, too, that it doesn’t go into some melodrama with Commander Lewis. You might think, ‘okay, this is a moment where she expresses her sadness’ but we kept it as realistic as possible. She does her job because that’s what she’s trained to do and she does it very well.

Q: Having met Tracy and the teams at NASA and JPL, did your opinion of astronauts change?
A: They are absolutely extraordinary and I learned so much about them. Tracy is a chemist, that’s her main field within NASA. To become an astronaut, you don’t all have the same training – it’s like in our film Mark Watney is a botanist and we all come together with our own special training, each responsible for different things during the mission. That would be how it would work on a real mission and that was educational for me, because it was like, ‘oh of course, if you’re going to have a group of six people going out into space, each one has their separate expertise.’ Also, something that I learned that was really invaluable was their sense of humour. Being in a confined space with the same group of people, for the seven months it takes to get to Mars, is a very intense situation. It’s obviously important that the crew gets along and humour is an excellent way to lessen the intensity. No one is going to be aggressive, or have a history of aggression, or of not being able to work with others, and it’s very important that when faced with difficult situations that these astronauts retain hope and positivity. That is really shown in the book - there’s a lot of humour in the book with Mark Watney. In dire circumstances he is able to remain hopeful and keep his sense of humour. That’s what ultimately keeps him alive. Having spent time with Tracy, I know that’s how they are. It’s not just a movie thing – they really do banter with each other, it’s an astronaut thing, and that inspired me a lot.

Catch the film in cinemas now lovelies! 

Blog Soon, 
Joey X

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