Jessica Chastain and Matt Damon both appeared in filmmaker Christopher Nolan's outer space adventure Interstellar in 2014, though the pair didn't share any actual screen time. The two will have a couple scenes together in director Ridley Scott's The Martian, by the sound of it - though not too many, since Damon will be alone and stranded on the red planet surface for a large chunk of the movie.
The Martian is based on the novel of the same name (written by Andy Weir) and stars Damon as Mark Watney, an astronaut who is serving as part of a mission to Mars when a storm hits and he winds up separated from his crew - and, eventually, left by himself on the planet after being presumed dead by his fellow space explorers.
Scott's latest project is rounded out by quite the impressive supporting cast; in addition to Chastain, the roster includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Donald Glover, Sean Bean, and Michael Peña, among others. Again, though, much of the film's running time will feature Damon isolated and struggling to stay alive under less than accommodating circumstances; as Scott told People, "frankly he's got 28 days to live - and that's if everything goes well for him." The story of The Martian has been compared to such 'man vs. nature' narratives as Robinson Crusoe and Castaway in the past, for related reasons.
Similarly, most of the Martian images released thus far have depicted Damon, alone on Mars. That's mostly the theme with the latest batch of official screenshots from Scott's film, which you can peruse through below (via People and EW):
Most of these Martian stills show Damon's astronaut in varying emotional states - be he staring forlornly at the Martian sand, excitedly checking over local flora and plant forms, or sitting around and seemingly depressed after being alone for some time (judging by the facial hair he's accrued). The exception to that rule is the last image, which instead takes place on Earth and introduces Wiig's NASA spokeswoman character - one of several people who work for the space exploration program in Scott's film, along with those portrayed by Daniels (mission control) and Chastain (another astronaut).
Chastain spoke with People about the research she did for her role in The Martian, having said that she "jumped at the chance" to play a space explorer after seeing how much fun her Interstellar costars had pretending to be astronauts (while she played an Earth-bound scientist). The Oscar-nominee therefore spent time at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, where she got to visit Mars... by way of virtual reality representation:
"I got to see all the maps of Mars, and participate in an 3D virtual reality perspective. It was incredible, as soon as I put the glasses on, I felt like I was really there on Mars. Whether I looked left or right, it felt like I was there with actual images all around me. It was a fantastic way to imagine what it would be like to be on that planet."
Scott's recent directorial efforts have wrestled with issues like human arrogance and humanity's place in the grand scheme of things (Prometheus, Exodus: Gods and Kings), as well as what are perhaps more relatable yet equally heavy themes about mortality and how much control people have over their destinies (The Counselor). The Martian touches upon similar matters with its intimate tale of survival, so it's not so surprising that the project attracted the filmmaker's interest.
The Cabin in the Woods co-writer/director and Daredevil Netflix series creator Drew Goddard penned the adapted script for The Martian. That suggests the movie's screenplay may well be stronger than those recently brought to life with Scott's trademark gorgeous visuals and lavishing production design (to mention nothing of the film's accomplished cast).
20th Century Fox certainly appears to be confident in the final product, seeing as Scott's movie has been scheduled for theatrical release during the busy 2015 Thanksgiving holiday frame. Of course, in the past that same period was where other director-driven big-budget features were released, on their way to becoming critical darlings - and much more (see: Hugo, Life of Pi). Will The Martian follow in their footsteps?
The Martian is currently scheduled to open in U.S. theaters on November 25th, 2015.