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Redmayne and Felicity Jones star in the film as a scientist and a pilot who join forces to take on a potential world record for the highest gas balloon ride.
While on the CBS late night show, Redmayne recalled the first time he and Jones went up. “Our first couple days of filming, we were in the balloon and we took off,” he said. “Gas ballooning, rather than hot air ballooning, is very rare in the U.K., so we had a pilot who was hiding in the basket, but Felicity and I were fully dressed in our gear, and they had helicopters and drones shooting around the balloon.”
He added that filming the scenes was “tranquil” and “wonderful.” Once the crew got the footage they needed, they went their separate ways so Redmayne, Jones and the pilot could land. “As you come to land, you pull on a rope that allows the gas out of the top of the balloon, and gradually you start coming down, but you can’t completely control it,” he explained.
“We were hurtling toward these trees, at which point the pilot was like, ‘OK, OK, throw out the ballast. Throw out the sandbags,'” he recalled. “And so Felicity and I feverishly throw out these bags, which meant that the thing rose a bit and we missed the trees.”
Redmayne and Jones celebrated their quick reactions by high-fiving and hugging. “We’re proper aeronauts. We’re nailing this,” he said.
“Then we looked at the actual pilot and his face — every ounce of blood had gone from his face and he was just looking totally terrified,” Redmayne continued. “And we looked, ‘What’s the problem?’ He goes, ‘You’ve thrown out all the sandbags.’ And we looked and him and said, ‘You told us to throw all the fucking sandbags out.'”
The actors then learned that they were only supposed to throw a few sandbags out of the basket so that they could continue to dodge trees during their next landing attempt. “When we were next trying to land, which we did moments later, and we were hurtling toward another forest, which we did, we had no way of avoiding it,” he said.
While trying to land, the group ran into another set of trees and “came hurtling down to the ground, smashed down onto the ground.” He continued, “Felicity’s head smacked back against this campaign chest, and there was just silence. And this was our first day of filming.”
“There was total silence, and I heard Felicity go, ‘I don’t think I can move my neck.’ And so that is how we started this film,” said Redmayne. He added that Jones was “totally fine” and that “no Felicitys were hurt in the making of this movie.”
“From that moment, what was wonderful, a lot of the film was then shot on green screen,” he said.
While much of the footage from the incident was not usable, Redmayne later learned that their screams from the crash made it into the movie. “They recorded our screams, even though they hadn’t caught it on camera, and there’s a moment in the film in which we’re hurtling to our death and the director reassuringly went, ‘Don’t worry, your screams are in there.'”
Watch Redmayne’s full interview below.
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