[WARNING: Major Gravity SPOILERS Follow!]
A lot of people know how George Clooney showed up to lend his trademark wit and charm (some would add smugness) to the two-person show that was Gravity – but did you know he also lent a bit of his talent as a writer, as well?
In a press conference (brought to our attention courtesy of Movies.com), Cuarón himself revealed that a key scene in the film was actually written by Clooney, who stepped in to help the filmmakers get over a big hurdle in the story.
The scene in question takes place about 2/3 through film; Ryan Stone is nearly home-free to a nearby space station after a hellish bid to live… except her rocket ship is out of gas. Defeated and broken, Ryan begins to lower her oxygen levels with the concession that she’ll die and be with her deceased child – that is, until Clooney’s Matt Kowalski returns from seeming peril to pep-talk Ryan into making a last-ditch push for survival.
As discussed on the Gravity podcast episode, the scene was a big risk (breaking realism in favor of a more abstract and existential exploration of Ryan’s mind), but it paid off big time – primarily due to the willingness of the audience to suspend obvious rationale out of love and hope for Kowalski to make it. Given that it was Clooney himself who wrote the seen, there’s a clear opening for cynics and haters to tear into him for yet again indulging in his own persona – but Cuarón, for one, was grateful for the assist:
…It was when [Bullock’s character] was ready to go back [to Earth, near the end of the film]. When she has this dream and starts talking to Kowalski about her daughter. And that’s something that George wrote. You have an amazing partner when you work with him.
We were struggling with rewrites, we’d stripped everything, a lot of the dialogue; we knew that anything that was going to be said, it was going to have a lot of weight. There was one scene we were doing over and over and over, and George overheard that we were dealing with that. And then one night I receive an e-mail from him, saying, ‘I heard you were struggling with this. I took a shot with the scene, Read it. Throw it out.’ And we ended up using it. This was exactly what we needed.
Not only was introducing a “Whoops, it’s all a dream” moment into a break-neck thriller extremely risky, the scene also represents the most direct and overt moment of pontification about emotion and philosophy that the film ever touches on. It would’ve been so easy for it to come off as cheesy and soapy, but thanks to Clooney’s matter-of-fact dialogue and sympathetic, straight-shooter delivery, it all works. And when Kowalski vanishes from the screen for that final time, the audience both feels the loss, and has the understanding of why Ryan would sit up and decide to fight again.
That’s great scene work – bravo, Mr. Clooney.
What do you think about science fiction vs. science fact in Gravity? Did anything about the film’s presentation of space exploration bother you? Let us know in the comments.