'Gravity' Premieres in NY: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and Alfonso Cuaron on Confronting the Unknown
Plus producer David Heyman talks about his faith that the film would get made and why J.K. Rowling returned to Warner Bros.
When Warner Bros.' Gravity touches down in theaters Friday, it will be the culmination of many years of hard work, including cast changes and various technological challenges to make the immersive, 3D film.
But during the movie's long gestation period, neither producer David Heyman nor director Alfonso Cuaron lost hope that the film would get made.
"I never questioned that it would not get made, it was just a matter of where and how," Heyman told The Hollywood Reporter at Gravity's New York premiere Tuesday night.
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Heyman also praised Warner Bros. for standing by (and spending money on) the film while they were developing the technology they needed to tell the story.
"The studio were incredibly supportive I have to say. They were willing to take a big leap into the unknown because we actually didn't have the technology to realize it. We had to invent and develop that technology, and they were spending lots of money while we were still in the area of the unknown…I think, both in terms of cast and in terms of technology, we ended up in the best place possible."
It also took a while for the film's cast to be firmed up, with Angelina Jolie, Robert Downey Jr. and even Scarlett Johansson attached to the film at various stages.
But when Sandra Bullock and George Clooney signed on, Cuaron said, "That was it. I mean, you could not ask for anything better."
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Co-screenwriter Jonas Cuaron claims that it wasn't until the film's stars were locked in place that the script fully took form.
"Character-wise, my dad and I had mapped the harmonies, we knew kind of the arc that the characters had to take, but once Sandra came on board, she kind of helped us draw the melody," he said. "She really gave life to the character."
Heyman concurred, saying that Bullock "was even better in this than either Alfonso or I could've imagined."
Bullock, who has been increasingly selective with roles she's taken on, didn't know if she'd be up to the many challenges of making the movie, but she knew she'd made the right decision to sign on when she met Alfonso Cuaron.
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"I didn't know how to make this movie; I didn't know if I could make this movie, but I knew I wanted to work with that man and just be around someone who I'd seen create amazing things," Bullock told THR. "That's when you sort of take a leap of faith and trust that hopefully someone will guide you in the right direction, fingers crossed."
Clooney was also intrigued by not knowing "how they were going to do it."
For Bullock, that fear of the unknown never really went away, as she said "every day" was the most challenging part of making the movie.
"Not knowing how to use the technology, not knowing if the technology would work, not knowing if I could get to the emotional part of the scene that he needed me to be at," she explained. "Every day that was my panic."
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But now that she's seen the entire product, she believes in Alfonso Cuaron's abilities even more.
"Alfonso is the master that I always thought he was in terms of being a storyteller," she said.
And in terms of what audiences will get out of the film, Bullock said of her director, "He likes to tell stories about rebirth: What about human nature allows us to dig deep and find a reason to stand up in the morning and a reason to try harder? There's no evidence that we should. He finds those reasons for you and reminds us."
The premiere also served as a bit of a reminder of Warner Bros.' hit Harry Potter franchise, which Heyman produced. Hermione herself, Emma Watson, was in attendance and excitedly greeted Alfonso Cuaron, director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the least successful of the studio's Potter titles. The afterparty was also held at the Museum of Natural History, the site of a lavish celebration for one of the final Potter titles.
And Heyman is in talks to produce J.K. Rowling's upcoming Fantastic Beasts film.
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Although he wouldn't reveal the extent of his involvement in the Harry Potter spinoff, Heyman said: "It's an incredibly exciting thing, and [Rowling] would not have gone back to this world -- she had no need to, except she had a need to in the sense she had a story to tell."
Clooney meanwhile is continuing to juggle roles as a producer and actor, and he said the decision on whether he stars in a film he's producing depends on a variety of factors.
"Sometimes it's about your availability. Sometimes it's someone else has interest and you think it would make a really great film and it's something you developed, then it's OK," he explained, referring to what happened with Ben Affleck and Argo. "Some of it's about timing and some of it's about what feels organic."
Speaking of Affleck, Clooney was surprised to learn that he's going head-to-head with his friend in theaters this weekend, as Affleck's Runner Runner also opens Friday. But Clooney dismissed any talk of competition.
"When you work in this business, you're always going to be in some way competing, I think, but I don't feel very competitive with Ben," he said. "I think we're friendly enough that there's no great competition."
Also on hand for the premiere of the film at the AMC Lincoln Square in Manhattan: Dan Rather, Katie Holmes, HBO's Richard Plepler, Warner Bros. executives Sue Kroll and Kevin Tsujihara and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes.