“In 2033, the crew of the Daedalus, the first human mission to Mars, enters the red planet’s atmosphere”
This exciting story is the premise to Mars, the new mini-series that starts today on National Geographic. The show is a mixture of both drama and documentary and will help galvanise interest in space travel to the Red Planet, which is getting ever closer to reality. We caught up with renowned filmmaker Ron Howard to chat about the exciting new series.
What have the challenges been for you, as the Executive Producer, making narrative congruence between this contemporary science-fact documentary footage and future-set drama?
“Yes, that’s what daunting about it, and also what was really attractive and exciting. Given that our bosses in the matter have embraced the experimental side of it, I think they want to make sure that audiences also understand that this is going to unfold in an unconventional way. That’s part of what’s exciting about it.
“But I think the reason it made sense to all of us to try was because if you’re just to do a mini-series about going to Mars and colonising Mars, you’d research it thoroughly and so forth. But in people’s minds it would be like Ridley [Scott’s] wonderful movie The Martian. It would be near-future sci-fi…”
How did you come to choose Everardo Gout as director?
“First, his creativity. His work demonstrates a kind of independent aesthetic that’s grounded in reality but still reflects humanity in a kind of honest but poetic way. That seemed like a great combination for the scripted portion of our series.
“He also, when you talk to him, has the spirit of an adventurer and yet can articulate his feelings in a very accessible, human way. So he was both interested in the authentic and the research, but he also was equally excited about what it might feel like to engage in this experience. So that was important.
“The third thing simply was that he had worked with the people at RadicalMedia on a number of different projects over the years. And they had a lot of respect for his creativity and also his ability to be responsible as a storyteller, and filmmakers. So that was a great combination.
Are there are some movies about Mars that you like or have been an inspiration or you?
“The Martian was great. But there’s no one… I can’t think of a movie that was actually inspiring us to believe in this, any more than The Martian, which I thought was a terrific movie. Everardo, the production designer, our research teams, the scientists and the astronauts who helped – they’re the ones that helped us shape the drama. Stephen Petranek’s book, How We’ll Live On Mars, was sort of the first foundational narrative jumping-off place. Because while he didn’t go into a lot of detail, he also became a part of the production and had all of his research about the kind of crises that humans are very likely to face. We made a big list of all the things that could kill you up there! And there were far more than we could put into this six-hour series. ‘Number 45! Rock slide!’ We could do years of this stuff based on the punch list of expected threats to colonisers.”
Considering films of yours such as Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Rush, In The Heart Of The Sea – are you driven to explore what makes humans want to push themselves to the edge, and beyond, possibly at the risk of their own sanity or life?
“It really fascinates me. To me it’s the supreme exploration of what people do when they come together as groups and ad hoc families, and try to survive. I always find that pressure to be emotional, dramatic and very relatable. Whether in most of our lives the big pressures are coming together to deal with some sort of problem in the family or neighbourhood or at work. Or whether it’s helping one another survive a whale attack or Apollo 13 or a return to Mars.
“It’s kind of what I liked about the Beatles project I just did. It’s about a group of guys who really have to lean on each other in order to get through something that they had no idea could be as tumultuous as it turned out to be.”
Why do the public have to watch Mars?
“I think that the Mars series is going to stimulate the imagination and the intellect. So it’s kind of two ways of really engrossing you and entertaining you. I think the documentary portion reinforces the drama. The drama underscores the emotional content of the documentary material, and I think that’s what’s unique about it, and makes it something [special].”
Don’t miss the first episode of the new series, tonight at 9pm on National Geographic Channel. @NatGeoChannelUK
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