Russian space movie director says moon or Mars could be next

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky (centre), actress Yulia Peresild and film director Klim Shipenko hold a press conference on Oct 19, 2021.
Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky (centre), actress Yulia Peresild and film director Klim Shipenko hold a press conference on Oct 19, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (AFP, REUTERS) - Their movie props floated around and they used Velcro to keep objects in place but Russia's first film crew in space said they were delighted with the result and had "shot everything we planned".

Yulia Peresild, one of Russia's most glamorous actresses, and film director Klim Shipenko returned to Earth on Sunday after spending 12 days on the International Space Station (ISS) shooting the first movie in orbit in an effort to beat the United States.

The plot of The Challenge has been mostly kept under wraps along with the budget. It centres around a surgeon who is dispatched to the ISS to save a cosmonaut.

A beaming Shipenko told reporters that the task was a "huge challenge" and they had to constantly adapt to film scenes.

They shot more than 30 hours worth of footage which will later be edited down to around 30 minutes.

"We've shot everything we planned," Shipenko said from the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre outside Moscow where he and Peresild, 37, have been adapting to life back on Earth and learning to walk again.

The 38-year-old US-educated film director said cinema was ready to conquer space.

"Cinema is looking for new forms. The cosmos is also ready to welcome various experimentalists," said Shipenko, who like the actress sported the blue uniform of Russian cosmonauts.

Asked about a possible moon sequel, Shipenko told a news conference: “We’re ready. We believe space cinema should be filmed in space. If it’s about the moon, let’s go to the moon, if it’s Mars, let’s go to Mars. Why not? Why should cinema be filmed in a studio?”

He said his stint on the ISS was full of professional discoveries and added that he would never have been able to shoot on Earth what he had shot in space.

“Some scenes that I imagined one way on earth came together completely differently... People can be face to face (in space) but one of them is head up and the other is horizontal and the camera can be on a different plane, and that transforms your consciousness completely,” he said.

“For me it was a cinematic discovery, to realise scenes in a completely different way in three or four planes.”

He said no date had been set for the release but there might be advance teasers from the space segment.

If the project stays on track, the Russian crew will beat a Hollywood project announced last year by Mission Impossible star Tom Cruise together with Nasa and Elon Musk's SpaceX.

Russian state media have provided breathless cover of the cosmic film venture, latching onto a rare feelgood story at a time when business titans Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have been grabbing headlines with rocket launches and Russia’s own space programme has suffered delays, accidents and corruption scandals.

Beauty sleep in space

Peresild said she had to use Velcro tape to keep her belongings including lipstick and mascara in place, while various movie props like medical devices floated in space.

"They are so small and fly away so fast," she said.

Peresild said she was impressed by the warm atmosphere on the ISS and cooperation among international crew members and added that she loved sleeping in space.

"I never thought it was such a pleasure. It's a great thing for girls - you never have pillow marks. You look perfect," she said, laughing.

The film crew praised Russian cosmonauts on the ISS who they said were very helpful and will have cameo roles in the film.

The cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky, Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov helped adapt the scenario and make dialogues more natural, said Shipenko.

"The guys found they had acting talent," he said. "I made them find it," he said, laughing.

Peresild said that the cosmonauts had to perform a "huge amount of tasks" during the day but "they continued to work with us at night."

Shipenko directed Serf, a comedy about a misbehaving rich kid that that became the top money making Russian film of all time in the home market.

The director said on Tuesday (Oct 19) he was certain his space movie project would pay off.

"I have such expectations," he said. "Cinema can bring big money."

The cost has not been disclosed, but Shipenko said there was huge international interest.

“I think if the film goes out at a world level it will pay for its budget, and the task of this film was to do that,” he said.

The film crew's mission added to a long list of firsts for Russia's space industry after a number of setbacks including botched launches.

The Soviets launched the first satellite Sputnik, and sent into orbit the first animal, a dog named Laika, the first man, Gagarin, and the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova.