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Cast and Crew Talk 'Lucy in the Sky'

03 Oct, 2019    added by : Landon H. Johnson








Original Network

While Natalie Portman definitely channels that Black Swan mania with “kaleidoscope eyes,” alas, like some of the Oscar-winning actress’s latest work (Vox Lux, cough cough), Lucy in the Sky doesn’t reach those heights.

Lucy in the Sky is based on a true story about the infamous 2007 “astronaut love triangle” scandal that rocked NASA, in which astronaut Lisa Nowak was dubbed the insanely jealous “diaper-wearing astronaut.”

Although Portman surprisingly escapes having to wear a diaper, she is faced with the challenge of humanizing Nowak given the series of events portrayed in the film. To protect the innocent, Portman’s character is renamed Lucy Cola. Jon Hamm, of course, plays her charismatic and dashing fellow love interest, astronaut Mark Goodwin.

At a recent press day, ScreenPicks got the chance to hear from director Noah Hawley (TV’s Fargo) and screenwriters Brian Brown and Elliott Diguiseppi about the genesis of Lucy in the Sky, along with stars Jon Hamm and Natalie Portman, who talk about how cool it was to play astronauts and the challenges of the complexity of their roles.

Hawley started the presser by speaking about the advantages of being able to direct a story on the big screen rather for TV. “I get to make all the stories I want for the small screen. So, in thinking about making a movie for the movie theater, which is where some people still see movies,” Hawley joked, “I wanted to think about what would be a theatrical experience.”

He explained what it was exactly about this story that stuck out to him as a first-time film director. “It starts in space, it’s got the scope to it, it’s got the underwater training sequence, ya know, it feels like a big film,” adding, “But it’s really a drama about a woman having an existential crisis” and seeing the world “in her head” and “through her eyes.”

“When she’s in space, everything looks enormous. And when she comes to Earth, everything gets smaller. And we have that experience in the theater and the sound can work to our advantage,” Hawley expanded. “I always like to think of what things we take for granted as storytellers and one of those things is the screen itself.”

As for novice screenwriters, Brian Brown, and Elliott Diguiseppi, who grew up in the Orlando, Florida area going to shuttle launches, they were fascinated by the fact that these astronauts were not only viewed as heroes but also real people with real, everyday problems.

Brown explained the innate appeal of the story by telling the audience that the same people he watched go into space would be the same people coming into the Target he worked at since they lived near the space center.

Diguiseppi added that they both spent a vast amount of time at a Silver Lake Del Taco writing the screenplay. “The story is inspired loosely on real events. And when researching that specific crime, it was the little details that helped us find the humanity behind this. This isn’t someone who is just falling apart. This is someone falling apart in a very structured way.”

Portman then weighed in on the challenges of humanizing and portraying a mad woman that the media had already sensationalized and branded a criminal all those years ago. “I think it’s really this about this existential crisis of what happens when you have this experience that makes you feel more alive than ever. But part of that experience is realizing how small we are and how meaningless, perhaps, everything we care about is.”

The Oscar-winner discussed the relationship between her character and Hamm’s and how he “deposits” this idea in her head that “nothing really matters, let’s just do what we want which is so tempting to go into.” She added, “And she’s kind of fighting for meaning.”

Hamm chimed in about how the relationship they portrayed on-screen goes from “theoretical to real really fast.” The Emmy-winning actor also said what attracted him to the script was that it wasn’t just a “basic” story of “some woman on the verge”, it was “deeper and emotional.”

Young actor, Pearl Amanda Dickenson, who played Lucy’s teenage daughter in the film, also shed some light on what it was like working with seasoned actors like Portman and Hamm. “I feel like I learned a lot with how she (Portman) presents herself on set, just super professional,” the 16-year-old explained.

Dickenson admitted that this was still one of the first sets she’d been on for a long period of time. “She was my scene partner for most of the time, so I was able to learn a lot by reacting and observing. I felt like I was going through my own existential crisis.”

Portman then shifted the conversation back to the fact that this female character’s main issue wasn’t a child or childcare. “Like, the only drama a woman could have would be worrying about her child while she’s in space,” she explained, laughing at the Hollywood cliché.

The actress said she thought the idea of this woman having an existential crisis was kind of “radical” and “meaningful.” There were many mitigating factors to Lucy’s behavior that could be construed by broadly labeling it “mental illness.”

“It’s her childhood, it’s sleep deprivation, it’s returning from space and seeing things differently, it’s the issue at work and feeling gender-based discrimination and unfairness, it’s a man who’s treating her badly, it’s her grandmother. Every person is a unique constellation of issues,” Portman explained. And what human can’t relate to that?

Lucy in the Sky descends into theaters October 4th, and one thing’s for sure, this story is stranger than fiction.

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