Toronto: Why 'Gravity's' Alfonso Cuaron Thanked James Cameron In The Credits (Q&A)

Alfonso Cuaron Headshot - P 2013
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Alfonso Cuaron Headshot - P 2013

The filmmaker reveals the relentless pressure on Sandra Bullock and how "there was not technology for what we were trying to achieve. But Cameron was a big champion."

This story first appeared in the Sept. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

It has been seven years since Alfonso Cuaron’s previous film (Children of Men), but the 51-year-old Mexican filmmaker hasn't been wasting time. Gravity, his hugely ambitious space thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, required years to research, write (with son Jonas) and seamlessly visualize (actors' faces often are the only non-CG elements of scenes). After winning raves at Venice and Telluride, the film arrives Sept. 8 at Toronto ahead of an Oct. 4 wide release and likely awards run.

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The film's opening scene is a 13-minute showstopper. How long did it take you to choreograph everything?

You're asking why this movie took four-and-a-half years to make. (Laughs.)

The logistical details of being trapped in space feel totally authentic. Did you have NASA consultants?

Some were astronauts or people involved with the Hubble telescope. It was constant research. Even how people float, action and reaction -- that's the weirdest thing with micro-gravity, the way bodies react to other bodies.

When writing essentially a two-person screenplay, did you feel you needed two big stars to carry the film?

The camera was relentlessly on Sandra Bullock for a long, long, long, long period. We needed someone to really be able to sustain that because the whole film was going to be on her shoulders.

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What surprised you most about Bullock?

Amazing discipline. She had to pretty much learn scenes like a ballerina learning choreography. She was performing inside a box of light with almost no reference to what was going on outside. We would say, "OK, exactly at this moment, you have to look up here, George is on your left, but remember that you are spinning so that is going to change, next time you refer to George, he's going to be over there." She would take her time to absorb everything, so when we started rolling cameras, everything was pure performance and emotion.

In the credits, you thank James Cameron. Why?

This film was a miscalculation. There was not technology for what we were trying to achieve. But [Cameron] was a big champion. He said, "Man, you're going to make this happen," and started giving me pointers. And we made it happen.