Warner Bros. continues to get bold as it gets its Oscar dance cards in place. 2011 is filled with Stephen Daldry‘s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and Clint Eastwood‘s “J. Edgar” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Now the studio is eyeing 2012, and surprisingly, has thrown a sci-fi genre picture into Academy contention.
“Children of Men” helmer Alfonso Cuarón‘s 3D sci-fi epic “Gravity” starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock just started filming in June, and WB has already scheduled the film for a November 21, 2012 release date. The move is curious considering early versions of the script, dated late 2009, written by Cuarón, his son Jonás and filmmaker Rodrigo Garcia (“Mother and Child“) displayed a fairly straight-forward action-sci-fi picture, albeit utilizing long stretches of silence. However, considering its lengthy gestating period and its new Oscar-centric date, it’s feasible the the screenplay has gone through a significant overhaul, or there is much more riding beneath the surface than we expected (and as one commenter reminds us, it could come off as “127 Hours” in space with an equally riveting third-act climax).
“Gravity” ping-ponged through the trades in 2010. Angelina Jolie was first attached and gave the project its forward momentum. She then bailed and actresses from Marion Cotillard, Scarlett Johansson, Blake Lively and Natalie Portman were loosely associated and/or rumored for the role before “The Blind Side” star Sandra Bullock stepped in. The picture seemed to be in jeopardy several times over the last 12 months, and looked nearly doomed when co-star Robert Downey Jr. had to exit the project to film “The Avengers,” but Clooney came aboard to rescue it in late 2010.
So why all the consternation over the casting? The film is an ambitious, mostly one-character piece set on a remote space station. During an expedition outside the station, only the team leader (Clooney) and his female colleague (Bullock) are left alive after an exploding satellite kills the other members of the crew, setting off a desperate race home for the latter to get to her child. Having read the script, it’s mostly a one-woman show, and with hard sci-fi action pics already a tough sell, one led by a woman adds an even trickier equation to the mix; female-led actioners are also difficult to market. But you don’t get starts much bigger than Bullock and Clooney (though his role will be relatively small) and WB are clearly believers. We’re just glad that after so much drama this one is finally and firmly moving forward. [Box Office Mojo]