Ridley Scott’s near-future space flick The Martian was one of the best films of 2015, but it was Drew Goddard’s script that really made it fly (no pun intended). So, what was the hardest scene to put together?
In a fascinating interview with Vulture, Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods, Daredevil) reveals the hardest scene in the entire script and opens up about how he finally figured out how to make it work. You don’t really realize it when watching the film, but The Martian does have a good bit of exposition to set up the stakes and what’s happening (that tends to happen when half your film focuses on a guy literally alone on an entire planet).
According to Goddard, it’s the Mark Watney-focused scene in the rover at the end of Act 2, where he’s setting up the convertible space flight, that was the toughest bit to get right. Here’s his full take on the scene:
“There’s one scene that stands out as being especially difficult. I essentially called it the “Matt sets up the third act” scene, and it’s just a monologue. We had this concept of what the third act is, which is that we’re going to launch Matt into space in a tin can. That’s it. When we explained that that was going to happen, we needed to explain why, and we needed to explain the velocity involved in what’s going to happen, because one of the things that’s hard about filmmaking is speed can be difficult. For example, if you look at race cars on tracks, you need to see them blowing past something to understand that they’re moving at a high rate. It’s perspective. The problem with launching off the surface of a planet is, we really wanted to sell how dangerous all of this was about to be. It was this exposition that I was struggling with, of just Matt Damon talking.
It wasn’t until about the tenth draft of it that I hit upon this idea of Matt saying, 'I’m being manipulated. I know they are just repeating to me ‘fastest man in the history of space travel’ over and over because they’re trying to trick me into doing it.' Frankly, it just made me laugh, but I liked that it actually gave us an arc for this scene. He starts in one place — 'I know I’m being manipulated' — and then by the end of it, he falls victim to the manipulation. It was one of those things that makes me like the character. As opposed to exposition, it became a character arc for him to say, “'right, I do like the way that sounds, let’s do it.' That gave me a guideline.”
It’s always fun to get a look behind the scenes of a fan-favorite film, and The Martian really is the sweet spot between good directing and a great script. It’s no surprise to hear just how much work went into getting it exactly right.