Academy Award winning actress Natalie Portman (Black Swan) is back as the title character in Lucy in the Sky. Inspired by a true story, she portrays tenacious astronaut Lucy Cole who, after returning from space, finds it difficult to adjust to a normal life, where her connection with reality is slowly unraveling.
Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) plays Lucy’s husband, Drew, and Jon Hamm portrays fellow astronaut, Mark Goodwin, with whom Lucy is enamored.
Directed by Noah Hawley (Fargo, Legion), who also wrote the screenplay, the movie opens on October 4th, 2019. Natalie Portman and Jon Hamm met with journalists at the W Hotel in Hollywood to talk about their latest venture.
Natalie, Lucy has had experiences that hardly anyone has ever gone through. What was the key to understanding her?
Natalie Portman: I think it was really about this existential crisis that Noah and I talked about a lot.
What happens when you have this experience that makes you feel more alive than ever, and have more meaning than ever? Part of that experience is realizing how small we are and how meaningless, perhaps everything we care about is in the universe.
This relationship that she has with Jon’s character is very much about that. He’s very much positing that nothing really matters; let’s just do whatever the hell we want. And she’s fighting for meaning.
She’s fighting for it does matter? I do care, I am feeling something big, even though all signs point to nothing matters. I want something to matter very badly.
Jon, what attracted you to the project?
Jon Hamm: There was so much that attracted me, starting obviously with the script which was so good and so interesting. It’s not just this story of a woman on the verge, or this love triangle, it’s not as basic as that. It was way deeper and more intellectual to me.
When I first heard about it Reese (Witherspoon, who is the movie’s producer) was attached to it. She had to fall out because of Big Little Lies 2. When Natalie became attached to it I thought, that’s even better, awesome. I thought it was coalescing into this project that was becoming greater than the sum of its parts. Everywhere I looked there was somebody whose work I really respected and enjoyed.
I thought this is an opportunity to do something interesting and fun. And there’s just not that many opportunities to do those things in Hollywood, at the studio level anymore. Those movies are awesome and fun too, but they are not necessarily for adults, or people that want to sit, think and talk about a film afterwards. It’s a quick consumption, fast-food situation. And I thought, well, this is an opportunity to do the thing that I like to do, which is sit and indulge in it for a while. I was very pleased to be asked.
Why do you think Lucy does what she does – is she mentally ill?
Natalie: It’s absolutely a piece of it but I think what’s so accurate about Noah’s guiding me through it is that it’s not one thing. I think that is true for most human behavior. There are many things. There’s how her family was when she grew up, it’s sleep deprivation; it’s the return from space and seeing things differently. It’s this issue at work with feeling gender-based discrimination and unfairness. Every person is a unique constellation of issues, to put it in space language terms.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is you and Natalie in the back of the pick-up truck. I wanted a two hour movie of just that scene.
Jon Hamm: Well, it’s coming. It’s called Lucy in the Truck. It’s early but it’s looking good, we’ve shot some of it. It was delightful, it’s a very important part of the relationship between these two characters. It’s them figuring out what each of them wants and means to one another. It’s the tipping point in the relationship where it goes from theoretical to real.
Do you think there’s a different sensibility when it’s a female that is an astronaut on the screen?
Natalie: I feel a lot of times when it’s a female astronaut they give her, her child back on earth and that’s the drama. The only drama that a woman could possibly have would be thinking about her child while she’s away.
So to have a woman who her main emotional drama is having an existential crisis was radical, and was very meaningful to me. I love those movies, I’m not trying to be critical, I just thought it was a very unusual (story).
Do you have a memorable moment throughout the process, and if you do what would it be?
Natalie: The bees were really one of the most magical experiences of my life. That was so cool to be in the middle of it and holding them so close.
Dan (Stevens) also brought his telescope every time we shot night shoots and between takes we could go look sometimes at the International Space Station which would pass right over and we could see it. It was magical.
Jon: It’s just a brief shot in the film, but there’s a scene where Natalie and I are talking on the roof on what was meant to be a space building in Houston, but we shot it in downtown L.A.
LA is quite an amazing place when you get a little bit elevated, because there aren’t that many tall buildings, so you can see forever. It was a blue sunset and the light was amazing and it was gorgeous, and we were sitting on this weird parking garage.
If you chose another career, would you both be interested in being an astronaut?
Jon: I would totally be an astronaut. It sounds like the coolest thing in the world. I would relish the opportunity to go into space.
Natalie Portman Soundbyte
Natalie was asked if she had the opportunity to speak with astronauts when doing her research – click her to listen to her answer.