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SOLARIS

About The Production
Although SOLARIS is set at a time when traveling to distant worlds is possible if not commonplace, Soderbergh wanted to keep the film's look rooted in the worlds of today or the near future. As a result, the film's design elements are based on or extrapolated from items that exist now.

"We didn't want to be specific about how far in the future the story takes place, but we didn't want it to feel like the distant future," Soderbergh comments. "And we didn't want the film's look to call attention to itself or center around what new technology is going to be available, because that didn't seem relevant to the story."

Executive producer Gregory Jacobs, a frequent Soderbergh collaborator, worked closely with the director and his creative design team, led by production designer Philip Messina and costume designer Milena Canonero. "Of course," notes Jacobs with a smile, "we also had a world-class director of photography and editor: Steven."

"I've been the lucky recipient of the fact that Steven has worked in so many genres," says Messina, who previously worked with Soderbergh on "Ocean's Eleven," "Traffic" and "Erin Brockovich." "His films have been so varied in their look and their approach. ‘Erin Brockovich' had a blue collar look to it while ‘Traffic' had a vérité approach, and ‘Ocean's Eleven' had a very slick Vegas look. Now he's taken me into space.

"SOLARIS needed to feel real," adds Messina, "because it is a love story, not a ‘hardware' film. Outer space is simply the backdrop."

Soderbergh elected to film most of SOLARIS on the same sound stages that served as home for much of "Ocean's Eleven." The most imposing set Messina designed and had built for the film was the two-story space station Prometheus. Measuring 150 feet by 220 feet, the set was supported by concrete footers going down six feet through the stage floor, retaining walls and miles of rigging attached to the stage rafters to help keep some of the weight off the structure.

Soderbergh and Messina extrapolated the look of the Prometheus, in part, from the International Space Station currently orbiting Earth. "What we liked about the International Space Station were the textures and the fact that not everything had been figured out yet," says Messina. "There are odd pieces that stick off the walls."

Their research revealed that space stations have little room to spare for windows. "Real estate is valuable in these situations," says Soderbergh, "just like it is on a submarine or battleship. The sense of being closed off and isolated would be diminished if you were constantly aware of what was outside. I really wanted a sense of being trapped in a somewhat oppressive environment." To add to the claustrophobic feel, Messina built thresholds that rise eight-inches up off the floor, and bulkheads.

Because SOLARIS is set in a space station, Messina did come up with some futuristic-looking gadgets, including high-tech computers on articulated arms. But even here, practicality and function were paramount. "By putting the screen on an arm that looks as if it can move around, it becomes a piece of hardware and not a precious piece of ‘electronica'," Messina notes.

Soderbergh and Messina gave considerable thought to palette and texture. "We wanted the colors of the Prometheus to be<

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