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Daniel Espinosa’s sci-fi thriller Life hurtled into its world premiere Saturday as the closing-night film at SXSW in Austin, with castmembers Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare and Hiroyuki Sanada in tow to promote the pic.
The boisterous premiere was directly at odds with the tone of the film, which is mostly tense and light on humor, which surprised some, considering Deadpool scribes Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese penned the screenplay. Wernick, who admits he doesn’t like scary movies, said he and Reese embraced the more serious tone of the film. “It was really liberating not to have to pop in some humor to make people laugh. We’re going to do that on Deadpool 2,” he teased.
Reese agreed, adding that though the feel of the film is quite different, the process is similar. “If it makes us laugh, we hope the audience laughs. If it makes us scared, we hope it makes the audience scared,” he said.
Life follows a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station, whose mission of discovery turns to one of survival when they find a rapidly evolving lifeform that could have caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.
Comparisons to Ridley Scott’s fellow sci-fi/horror pic Alien (1979) will be made, according to Espinosa. However, he said, there’s one key distinction he hopes audiences make: “The realism of [Life] makes it different than other movies. Alien takes place 200 years into the future — this one could take place tomorrow.”
The realism of the film in part relies on the movement of the actors, who had to constantly look as if they were floating in space. Reynolds called the gravity-defying effects “all Hollywood tomfoolery and Pilates,” while Gyllenhaal credited Reynolds, joking that he “has a real way of sucking the oxygen out of the room.”
That sort of camaraderie was present on set, too, although it might not be present in the finished film, Ferguson said. “I realized [after seeing it] that the film that I saw is not the film I shot,” she explained. “On set it was a sort of very homey, fun environment, a lot of jokes.”
Gyllenhaal agreed, calling the set “a wonderful place to be.” He added, “We were laughing all the time. None of us takes ourselves that seriously, so there was a really wonderful spirit on set all the time.”
And while they may play heroic characters in the film, Reynolds says he’s the last person to call in the event of a hostile alien takeover. “If this happened to me, I’m not qualified for this. I spent 30 minutes working on a microwave a few days ago,” said the actor.
Gyllenhaal says to count him out, too: “Seriously, I find treadmills complicated, so I don’t know that I’d be able to survive on the International Space Station if a creature attacked.”
Life opens in theaters March 24 via Sony’s Columbia Pictures.
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