About The Production
To realize a whole new experience of space flight and Mars, the filmmakers sought a director who could bring a fresh eye and sensibility to the story. Producer Mark Canton brought in young filmmaker Antony Hoffman to helm the project. "Over the years I have always supported emerging filmmakers," says Canton. "I was very impressed with some of the commercials Antony had made and in his confidence and creative ability. It was a massive undertaking for him because it is in every sense a big film. It was, therefore, important to surround Antony with an experienced crew that could help bring his vision to life."
Comments Hoffman, "I like the idea that this story is likely to happen at some point in tune. There are, in fact, projects in the works to determine whether Mars could one day become an inhabitable planet, should the Earth become so toxic that we can no longer live on it."
Hoffman spent many months of research at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Texas "hanging out with astronauts and learning as much as I could about them," he explains. Hoffman was allowed time inside the shuttle and observed the process called the "Mars Habitat," in which six astronauts are confined to a small room for six months to simulate the effects of space on a crew. "It was very important that the film be as realistic as possible," he notes. "I enjoyed my time at NASA and felt very privileged to be given such an insight into their work."
In addition to soundstages and a quarry in Sydney, Australia, "Red Planet" was shot on location in Wadi Rum, Jordan, and remote Coober Pedy, Australia — two locales that provide
probably the best facsimile of the Martian surface here on Earth. "As far as the eye could see you had this flat, flat desert interspersed with incredibly massive rocks shooting straight out of the ground way up into the sky," observes producer Jorge Saralegui. "It was breathtaking scenery and very similar to the Mars surface which is, in fact, full of vast craters and mountains."
"The landscape and topography of Wadi Rum was very similar to photos I had seen of the topography of Mars," says director Hoffman, "all that flat land as far as the eye can see, dry and desolate. It worked perfectly to convey the scale and proportion we were looking for and to show how small mankind really is. which is an important theme in the film."
"It is extraordinary how you feel you're on Mars," says Val Kilmer. "We're very familiar with Mars from the photographs that have been sent down and the locations we used, and what the crew has accomplished technically is just amazing. When you watch this movie, you are there."
This same location had been the setting for "Lawrence of Arabia" and hadn't been used for a film production since that legendary production. Perhaps with good reason. "We all agreed that it was the most spectacular location we could have found and I think we all agreed that it was also one of the most difficult." Hoffman notes. "We couldn't have had harsher conditions." The heat was the main problem, particularly for the cast who had to wear rubber space suits. It
was well over l040F (400C) every day.
"The beginning of any movie is difficult, but with that extraordinary heat and those space suits — that we hadn't worn before — it was really hard,"
comments Tom Sizemore. "It did have some benefits in that it made the action of the movie seem very real. Man, we were living those roles! I really felt like we had crash-landed on Mars.
"It's a funny thing, though; the harder the circumstances the more the cast and crew pulled together," he adds. "We became a real family."
For others, filming in Jordan offered the chance to explore.
Adds Simon Baker, "It was all qu
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