MISSION TO MARS
The spacesuits worn by the cast in over half the film were designed after
much consultation with NASA and include an array of practical features that function much in the same way that actual spacesuits do.
"We wanted to create a spacesuit that was a combination of an old- fashioned and a futuristic suit," says Tom Jacobson. "There's a lot of different
ideas at NASA about what
the future of spacesuits should be like. Some are very bulky and hard-shelled and some are looser in that they want the astronauts to be more flexible. We opted for the more flexible look because, frankly, we thought it was more attractive for our actors."
Costume designer Sanja Milkovic Hays, who had previously designed costumes for such films as "Star
Trek: Insurrection," "Blade" and "Beowulf," says, "The spacesuits were conceived by production designer Ed Verreaux and designed to be heroic looking." Milkovic
Hays' contribution emphasized vertical lines.
She began her research by going to Johnson Space Center in Houston and was surprised when she observed where the actual spacesuits are made, "on an old, industrial Singer sewing machine," she says.
The spacesuits weigh 62 pounds. A cooling system, located in a battery pack in the backpack, provided fresh air to the helmets. "They had to have oxygen and air flowing through them to keep the face plates from fogging up," says Jacobson. "So, in a way, like NASA, the stuff had to work under harsh conditions. And movie making is harsh conditions," Jacobson smiles.
In addition to the cooling system, there were also "cool suits," practically identical to what is actually used by astronauts. Worn as the first layer of clothing under the sealed spacesuits, the "cool suits" were sweat suits in which ice water was pumped through tubing, running through the entire suit all over the body, to keep the body from getting overheated.
The process of getting suited up was complicated and technical. While it originally took over 50 minutes to dress the actors when filming began, by the mid-way point the technique had been pared down to 20 minutes. And once the helmets were screwed onto the suits, everything had to be working perfectly.
In addition to the air and oxygen circulating through the sealed suits, the helmets were equipped with unique lighting as well as microphones and radios, so the actors could communicate with each other and the director.
Special, throne-like chairs were built for the actors while waiting on set in their spacesuits. The chairs had low-level back rests to support the weight of the heavy backpacks attached to the suits.
"The spacesuits are incredibly hot and very heavy. You have to be in pretty good shape to work in them," says Tim Robbins.
Jerry O'Connell loved them. "It was a real process to suit up in those outfits," he says, "But when I got that suit on, I felt like a super hero. I couldn't wait to jump into it. I'd have loved to play in it all day and wear it out at night, too."
Connie Nielsen says that once sealed inside, "You can hear yourself. You can hear your own voice. It's almost like being closed inside a fish tank. The only kind of communication that came in was what we could see through the face plate and what we could hear through the ear piece."
Don Cheadle found the spacesuit tremendously helpful. "It was great to be in this environment, where we had suits with lights and mikes and air. The way it sounded different inside the helmet and the way we moved was different. All those things informed my character.
Designing the helmets was a whole other challenge. Not only required to h
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