Juan Solanas’ new movie Upside Down might be the most unconventional concept of the year.
Lovers Adam (Jim Sturgess, Cloud Atlas) and Eden (Kirsten Dunst, Melanchoia) are separated by a freak planetary condition: they live on twinned worlds with gravities that pull in opposite directions – he’s on the poverty-stricken planet below, and she is on the wealthy world above.
As teens Adam pulls Eden down to his world by a rope, but when the border-patrol attack them, Eden falls back to her world – apparently dead. It’s not until ten years later that Adam learns Eden is alive and working at TransWorld, a vast corporation whose towering headquarters is the only structure that connects the planets. Adam gets a job there in the hopes of reuniting with the love of his life.
I spoke with Kirsten and Jim about their unique experience being upside down.
I can’t imagine what you both thought when you first read this script. What was that experience like?
Kirsten: For me it [read] like a fairytale, and I haven’t been a part of something like that. I thought it was so sweet and so special. I knew Juan would make a special movie.
Jim: I think sometimes when you read a script and you don’t really understand it completely, that can be more exciting. When you can’t even visualize it in your mind, that can be intriguing.
So the next stage for that was to see some imagery, because I couldn’t conjure it up in my head at all. I was amazed by what they managed to achieve.
Were you able to see it in your mind, and did it match how it looked on the screen?
Kirsten: I honestly didn’t know exactly what it would look like, but Juan showed both of us mock-ups or pictures and it’s interesting because it felt real, it wasn’t too sci fi. I felt grounded in reality. It was so beautiful and it was something that I’d never seen before.
What was the most difficult scene to do, emotionally and physically?
Jim: Physically, that’s easy. They built a room on a wheel, when I flip upside down for the very first time, when I take out the weights and I’m in the storeroom. I was loose in a room and the room spun 180 degrees and I had to do a back flip and land on my feet.
That is one of my proudest cinematic moments.
Emotionally, when we were meeting on the mountaintop. When we were shooting the scene Kirsten wasn’t there, so I had to act to the ceiling basically.
Kirsten: Physically, I wasn’t really put through the ringer like Jim was. I had to learn the tango, which was fun. I had a lot of classes.
Emotionally, the hardest one was thinking Jim’s character Adam had died, because doing it I was literally lying against a foam mat and there was green screen all around.
It was such an emotional moment thinking you’ve lost the love of your life forever, with the wiring and all the logistics of it, to be emotional over and over again is hard in that kind of situation. I really had to rely on Jim’s acting to help me get those emotions up.
As actors this film seems so challenging with all the green screen and wirework, did you find it more difficult to connect with the material and each other while doing the scenes?
Jim: It was an extra challenge. Often Kirsten wouldn’t even be there visually. It just forced you to push your imagination that bit further and you had to work that bit harder to make it [real]. Because without the connection of the two characters, you’ve lost the story.
There were times when we would be shooting the scene simultaneously, but we would be on different sets, the floor set and the ceiling set, so you would be doing the scene at the same time, and that allowed for happy accidents and a bit of spontaneity.
Kirsten: It was hard because Jim and I have very few scenes to explain the relationship, explain what happens, so sometimes it was hard for me to fill in the dots just with my face. We were telling a simple but big and complicated story.