People in New York and Los Angeles, mark your calendars for June 12th (click here for expanding dates) as you’re about to embark on a cinematic experience when Sony Pictures releases Duncan Jones’ Moon (review), which follows astronaut Sam Bell who has a quintessentially personal encounter while stranded on the moon for a three-year period. To get ready for the release, Bloody-Disgusting’s David Harley chatted with both director Duncan Jones and the incredible Sam Rockwell, who plays astronaut Sam Bell. This is a must-see film and fans of 2001 Space Odyssey and Alien are sure to find a special place in their hearts for this indie fetaure.
If there’s one film that’s really stuck out to me so far this year, it would have to be Duncan Jones’ feature-length debut, MOON. The film, which tells the story of astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell ) and the surprising encounter he has while fulfilling his mining contract on the Selene moon base, is a thinking man’s sci-fi tale; one which says a great deal about big business and the human condition, and is bolstered by a superb performance by Rockwell and a memorable score by the great Clint Mansell. MOON also happens to be a film that reveals its twist in the first 20 minutes and since this interview delves into that plot point a bit (even though the film isn’t about the “twist” and Jones told myself and a few others after the interview that he doesn’t mind people knowing about it), I just want to give fair warning to those who want to be kept completely in the dark about the film.
MOON has a slick, high-tech appearance and feel, which is influenced by sci-fi fan favorites, such as Silent Running and 2001: A Space Odyssey. But, instead of trying to blend all of its influences into something that’s really familiar, MOON goes in a different direction that is, as Rockwell describes it, “a Kafka-esque story. So even though it’s an homage to those movies, it goes into a different realm. Probably the closest is Silent Running, emotionally… We also watched Dead Ringers a lot.”
Jones followed up, saying, “I think what keeps it from being a greatest hits is that we had this core story we wanted to tell that wasn’t like any of those films. The idea of “what would you do if you met yourself and would you like yourself? Would you only see the bad things at the beginning?” That was the philosophical underpinnings of the story we wanted to tell, which is completely different from those films.”
One of MOON’s most impressive attributes is Rockwell’s performance, in which he is literally beside himself the entire film along with Gerty, a supercomputer of sorts voiced by Kevin Spacey (I ask you: who doesn’t want their life narrated by Kevin Spacey?). “It was infinitely challenging, it was like a math problem every day,” said Rockwell when talking about his approach. “We had a body double/ actor named Robin Chalk. And he and I would go over the scenes with my friend Yul in New York. Yul and I would read the scene and switch clones, riff or whatever, and it was just a way to try to find differences between the two personalities, even though they are the same person really; they’re still derogative of one person. The difference is one has been on the moon for three years. Being with us for three years is different from being in Auschwitz or prison or on the moon for three years – it’s more like ten years. We wanted to create that Robinson Crusoe quality to it. It was just sort of me. We explored that the original Sam is, not so much an asshole, but kind of an asshole, and one of the questions the movie asks is “if you met yourself, would you like yourself?” It explores the loneliness of being isolated. I watched the documentary that Ron Howard did about the moon, watched Midnight Cowboy, The Right Stuff, Silent Running, Blade Runner, Alien, Outland or 2001. I rewatched 2001 and the making of that and Blade Runner and got a new appreciation for those films.
Jones added that “There was an emotional chord to it in that this was a guy who wanted to get home. So for Sam 1, that was driving everything for him. And when Sam 2 turns up on the scene, he’s literally just starting his three-year contract to be out there. All of the sudden you get that conflict, that little difference in personality.”
Gerty is an homage to 2001‘s HAL, one of the greatest film villains of all time (though, Gerty isn’t a villain in MOON, per say). When asked if Spacey was a conscious choice for Gerty, Jones replied, “I needed Kevin Spacey, and I needed him because of HAL. Everyone is going to think of HAL when they see Gerty. And you think we’re going to tell the same story, [but] we take you somewhere else and that’s what his voice did for us.”
When we’re introduced to Sam Bell, he only has a few more days before his contract is up and he can go home to his wife and daughter. Some info is given about his life on Earth through video transmissions and a few of Gerty’s comments, but we don’t know much about why Bell took the job on the moon (not that this is a fault, mind you). Jones and Rockwell worked out a back story for the character, with Rockwell commenting, “In my mind, he was a test pilot who became an astronaut but gradually he became a kind of miner; a working class guy. It wasn’t as specific as you’d think but it left room for your imagination. We did talk about how long he hadn’t seen his wife… I thought it was that he thought he was going to [the moon] for only two months or six months and it became three years. I thought, `Why would anybody go up there for three years? That’s crazy,’ but Duncan said he knew it was three years and that’s when it became about the money..”
Jones also talked about Bell’s back story, saying, “His relationship with his wife was a driving factor to why he took this job at the beginning… Yes, he was going to go up there to get the money to buy a house.”
When asked about whether there were any scenes that didn’t make the final cut, because of budget constraints (I was shocked at how little the film was shot for; it looks like it was made for triple or quadruple its actual budget, at least) or flow, Jones said that they “shot an epilogue for the film back on Earth, and if we had more time we might have been able to make it work. But the strange thing about it is it felt so out of place compared to the rest of the film, which felt very claustrophobic and had an aesthetic and feel to it; the interior of the moon base and the exterior of the landscape.”
MOON opens in NY and LA on June 12th, before expanding to a Chicago, Boston, Austin, Dallas and countless other cities.