Over recent years it feels like there has been a deluge of films focusing on space exploration and what may lie beyond the stars.
It is, after all, the final frontier…
Alice Winocour takes an altogether different approach with Proxima, which she directs and co-wrote, in her gripping story starring Eva Green.
And it showed with its honourable recognition at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and you can also read our review here.
Inevitably the film’s release date of May 8th was pushed back due to coronavirus but one of the first films to be released as cinemas begin to re-open.
We originally caught up with Alice originally at the Glasgow Film Festival to talk about her latest film and the journey in bringing it to life.
Proxima opened this year’s Glasgow Film Festival in what was its UK premiere. That must be a personal highlight for you…
Yeah, it really is. And it was my first time here in Glasgow. It is really exciting to bring this film to the festival.
What was the journey like for you making this film?
It’s been a long journey, a long prep. I was writing during the prep process because I had to get authorisation to be able to film in some military bases.
These are places that have never been filmed before, so it was quite hard to get all the authorisations. To the Russian space centre and Kazakhstan and the launch of the rocket.
It was really discovering a fascinating world. So it was a real experience.
Why the world of space exploration as the catalyst for the story?
I don’t really know. It is a world I am drawn to, something about it attracts me to it.
Then I thought about the female astronaut would be such a great character. I think it is something you haven’t really seen that much of in films. To have a mother that separates from her daughter I think resonates.
I have a daughter the same age as the little girl in the film, so could relate to the character.
What was the most challenging part of making Proxima?
I think what was frustrating was to not have more time on the set. We were filming at a time when there was real astronaut training happening at the centre.
Sometimes we were losing hours and sometimes it was only one take for some shots.
It is hard to work for two years writing but then may only have 30 minutes to get a scene done. It was really exciting though and we got to film in the real place where astronauts live.
The very famous Italian astronaut, Luca Parmitano, was training when we were there. He almost fainted when he saw Eva because he had a poster of her when he was younger, I think he was in love with her. He just couldn’t believe she was there, it was very funny.
Eva Green’s ‘Sarah’ is the only woman part of the team in what is a male-dominated industry, a theme throughout the film. Is that easy to tap into given the parallels to filmmaking?
I think the worse thing as a woman is that you self-censorship. I think it is worse than what you see in the film with some of the behaviour from male characters.
It is something we are very used to. Of course it is not nice and you really always need to prove that you are capable.
This idea you are the one who is supposed to take care of the family and if you don’t then it means you are a bad mother. It is that feeling of guilt that is hard and that is one thing I wanted to show.
Only 10% of astronauts are female. It is not because they are not good, it is that they don’t even dare to dream those kind of careers.
How was it working with Eva and did you always have her in mind for this part?
I mean there are not so many actresses who are capable of a lot of strength but also vulnerability.
I’ve always loved her as an actress in Tim Burton’s movies. I love strange characters. I can really relate to actors who have this sort of strangeness. Eva says she doesn’t belong to this planet, she’s a bit like in another world. And I feel a bit like that as well.
Also she is incredible physically for this role. I knew she had skills to be able to do this and she’s like an Amazon. It is good to show a mother in that way as supposed to what has been portrayed before.
What I like about Eva in the film is that she kind of has this side at the beginning where she is almost inhuman, almost like a cyborg. And she gets more and more human further into the film.
Did you try out any of the astronaut training facilities during the shoot?
No, no way! I get claustrophobic in the elevator let alone something like the centrifuge.
We, of course, got a double for Eva for that scene because being in it is like having three or four elephants on your thorax.
What projects are you working on at the moment that you can share with us?
I am shooting a new film hopefully in September. It is a little bit early to say much but it is a story about a female character in Paris at night…[laughs]
PROXIMA is out in UK and Irish cinemas from July 31st