Passengers — in theaters Dec. 21 — pairs Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt on a luxury intersteller spaceship bound for the Homestead II colony 120 years away. They’re two out of 5,000 souls traveling in suspended animation before they’re mistakenly awakened 90 years too early. Alone in outer space with a giant ship as their personal playground, they begin to fall in love just as it becomes apparent that the ship is malfunctioning and endangering its entire population.
Director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) chatted with EW about working with two of Hollywood’s biggest superstars and the challenges of making a big studio movie that also happens to be a character drama.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The script for Passengers, by Jon Spaiths (Prometheus), has been a hot commodity since it was included on the 2007 Black List [Hollywood’s annual ranking of the most admired scripts that have yet to be greenlit].
MORTEN TYLDUM: Yes, it was a popular script. It’s one of those stories that really grabs you and you fall in love with it. It’s very smart and funny and clever and such a page turner I couldn’t put it down. Every 10 pages, something new happens! At the same time it’s a very intimate movie while taking place on this epic scale. For me, it’s a story about what’s important to live a full life. What are the things we need as humans? It’s not afraid to entertain but at the same time it asks big questions about what does it mean to really feel happy. Every generation has its love story. I feel like this is it. I had to do it.
You certainly up the ante by casting two of Hollywood’s biggest and most likable stars, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt.
I honestly couldn’t ask for a better cast. They’re so great together, and both of them are so hard-working. They take the characters so seriously and bring so much to the roles with charm and intelligence and charisma. They really went for it and it is phenomenal to watch.
I heard you had very long days shooting in Atlanta last year.
Yes, we did have full days. Most of the shooting was just with Chris and Jen. It was a very technical film with big sets and a lot of effects but at the same time, it’s a character drama. It’s a love story. It has the complexity of a big movie and at the same time we really had to put time aside to put into character development. And it’s exhausting. They were on every day. It’s big emotions: it’s desperation, it’s love, it’s happiness, it’s fear, it’s anger. It was big emotions every day.
You can’t tell me the ending of course, but answer me this – will I cry?
You will laugh and cry and hold your breath and be at the edge of your seat. It has chills. It also will make you smile and laugh a lot. We wanted a playful movie. And if you have Chris and Jen it’s impossible not to have — they’ve come up with a lot of stuff on set. They’re both extremely funny. They’d try this and that and come up with really funny stuff. They can go very dramatic but their great chemistry – they’re just so good. It is just fun to be around them and fun to be on this journey. In this day of sequels and reboots I think it’s refreshing that it is a completely original story with two of the best movie stars in the world. I’m very, very happy with the movie.