George Clooney discusses the difficulties of filming The Midnight Sky
Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Midnight Sky.
George Clooney is pulling double duty. Not only does he direct his latest film, The Midnight Sky, but he also plays the lead character, Augustine, a scientist who thinks he's the last person on Earth until he finds (and begins to care for) a young girl. The movie follows Augustine as he tries to warn five astronauts currently in space about returning home to an uninhabitable Earth following a mysterious global catastrophe.
The Midnight Sky (now streaming on Netflix) presented a unique challenge for Clooney. As an actor, he didn't have much dialogue, and the dialogue he did have was opposite a young girl who did not speak. "To me the beauty of the screenplay was that it's actually a story of redemption, and it's very hard when you have a little girl that doesn't speak to have any dialogue," says Clooney. "It all just sounds like exposition if I'm telling her everything I'm thinking or doing. We cut out probably 70 lines that I actually did say just because the more you looked at it, the more I'd go, 'He wouldn't say that to her because she can see it.' So to me it was more about if we're able to tell a story without much dialogue. That makes for a slower-paced film, and I felt strong enough that that's the kind of film it has to be. It has to be a film that sits with him and the little girl looking up at Polaris and those kinds of things. You have to let it bake a little bit so that there's loss and then there's some redemption along the way."
Clooney says they shot all his stuff first so that he could focus on directing. But filming in Iceland presented its own challenges. "It was like 40 below, 60-70-mile-an-hour winds, and it's tricky because you could get lost 15 feet away from the camera," he says. "So we had to have string tied to ourselves and to the crew so that we couldn't get too far away. But while we were shooting, I lost like 25 pounds [for the part], so I was pretty weak in general and I'm also directing a big film and you need energy. I was pretty beat up."
Then he got a call from Felicity Jones, who plays one of the astronauts, saying she was pregnant, which meant wire work was out of the equation. "We started at the first of the year with her and she was very much showing already, so we started by trying to shoot her with a head replacement the whole time," Clooney says. "On top of it being tedious, it never works. I went home after about a week of doing that and called her up and said, 'Can you just be pregnant in this?' And I actually think it ends up having a real impact on the film, and certainly the end of the film."
Another obstacle for the film was casting a young Augustine. As Clooney previously told EW, it's difficult to cast a younger version of a character he's playing because everyone knows what Clooney looked like 20 years ago. Ultimately, they decided on Ethan Peck for the role and used technology to blend Clooney and Peck's voices for the character of young Augustine. "He doesn't sound like me and he looks enough like me — he's better-looking than I was, but hey, I'm casting so I can cast a better-looking guy — but no one recognized it as being me," Clooney says. "We basically combined both of our voices so that it's an octave higher. It's his voice and my voice combined so that there's some understanding."
George Clooney stars in this sci-fi thriller about a lone scientist in the Arctic who races to stop a crew of astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.