It occurred to me a few weeks ago that I'd never mentioned Alfonso Cuarón's upcoming sci-fi epic Gravity. And here's a worrisome opportunity to do so. According to CHUD Angelina Jolie has passed on the big budget project for a second time. That type of a "no" can often doom an expensive project.
Who will Alfonso Cuarón find to handle the heavy duty film-carrying demands of the role? The film concerns a man and a woman who are stranded in a space station. Or at least the woman iss (details are kind of unclear) The rest of the crew is dead. Robert Downey Jr has the principal male role but for whatever reason, it's a supporting gig. Gravity will rest on the female lead's shoulders. Most exciting from a filmmaking perspective is not, for me, the abundant groundbreaking CGI (as much as in Avatar) but that Cuarón wants to include long unbroken shots... one of them 20 minutes long.
Long unbroken shots are just about my favorite cinematic thing in the world after actresses so I should have mentioned this project long ago. This movie gives both. And Cuarón's already given plenty just by making Y Tu Mama Tambien and Children of Men. (Speaking of unbroken shots...)
Anyway, this has got to be a tough role to cast... and not just because of bankability issues. Not every actor would understand the shift in performance style required to carry huge metaphysical but also action-tinged sci-fi epics all by their lonesomes. Who were the last actors to do so? I guess Jodie Foster (Contact), Hugh Jackman (The Fountain), and George Clooney (Solaris) have all given that a go in their respective ways. Carrying a survival epic on your own? Tom Hanks in Castaway pops into mind... though that's decidedly earthbound. But we'll allow for him since he's also got the stranded in space thing with Apollo 13. Obviously you have to have a star people love to look at if they have to spend 90-120 minutes with primarily one face.
I always find it amusing/annoying that when big roles for women that don't seem to require a specific age range are being cast, studios always seem willing to consider any currently hot A list star of any age and virtually every 20something in town with any heat that month even though there's usually no proven bankability (which is how so many people end up starring in like 10 movies simultaneously and are never heard from again. Remember Kate Bosworth?). Studios will almost never bank on someone who once had heat and lost it despite the cold hard fact that showbiz is nothing if not a random chaotic collection of people who are walking embodiments of the cyclical nature of heat.
"Interested" lists always make me realize how rare and lucky we are as moviegoers when something accidental happens like when someone gives someone great a real shot even though they aren't perceived as "hot right now" or bankable or on every shortlist in town. Like Marisa Tomei in all of her Oscar nominated roles. She was never on the top of every list but she's so damn talented and reliably watchable. Or like Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham in '88. She had to fight to get that and then was magnificent obliterating any notions that she had already peaked. Many people even thought Streep was over in the early 90s, you know?
Who would you cast? Bear in mind we know virtually nothing about the role other than that it's a solo and the character has a daughter back on earth (so you can't skew as young as Ellen Page, or at least you probably shouldn't because why would someone leave a baby on Earth while they were space travelling?) They'll have to have chemistry with RDJ if he stays on, and they'll need to be comfortable in an effects heavy film (which is why I worry about the studio's interest in Natalie Portman. When exactly is she good in those situations even though she's often good elsewhere?). I'd be considering Gwyneth Paltrow first (I'm serious) and then probably Nicole Kidman. Hell, I'd even test Christina Ricci on account of the curveball aspect of it. There's a familiar interesting face that nobody would be expecting but that many people would enjoy and if she ever delivers big somewhere a million people are going to say "I knew she had it in her all along!". But as much as it surprises me to hear myself type it, the studio's rumored interest in Sandra Bullock makes total sense to me artistically even if they're probably only interested due to the monetary heat. Still, I can imagine her being a good match with RDJ and her uncomplicated but highly watchable acting style might actually be an assett to an effects heavy film. She's never tried one and maybe she'll want to stretch a little post-Oscar?
I'll shut up now. I do go on. Your turn. Which actress would you love to see carrying a sci-fi epic for Alfonso Cuarón.