The Midnight Sky
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Credit: Director George Clooney on set at Shepperton Studios with David Oyelowo and Tiffany Boone on the set of The Midnight Sky. Cr. Philippe Antonello/NETFLIX ©2020

WIRE Buzz: Midnight Sky's NASA team-up; how Pixar put the soul in 'Soul''; and Amblin's Distant

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Oct 5, 2020, 2:22 PM EDT

Following his involvement with Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity, George Clooney knew just what to do for his next directorial effort, The Midnight Sky. Slated for a December release on Netflix, the post-apocalyptic project is about Augustine (Clooney), a lonely scientist living in the Arctic, who works to prevent a group of astronauts (led by Felicity Jones' Sully) from returning to Earth after a mysterious global catastrophe.

To ensure complete accuracy the production worked "with a guy from NASA to make sure that we were using some of their technology," Clooney revealed to Empire for the magazine's November 2020 issue. "For instance, the idea that the ship itself has an almost Kevlar exoskeleton on the outside — those are things that they're actually working on building now. Living, breathing ships. We thought that was a pretty interesting way to work ... Alfonso did pretty much everything perfectly in Gravity. We wanted to use all the lessons that he taught us."

Source: Netflix

Thanks to the unprecedented VFX breakthroughs on Gravity, the actor/filmmaker/producer had access to all kinds of innovative movie-making tools that simply didn't exist before 2013. "All that technology now is at the push of a button, basically," Clooney said. "So that gave us a real advantage."

The movie — which adapts Lily Brooks-Dalton's novel Good Morning, Midnight — also stars David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir. and Tiffany Boone. Mark. L. Smith (The RevenantOverlord) penned the screenplay.

How do you animate a human being's life-force? That was the big question mark faced by Pixar when the acclaimed studio set out to make Soul, a feature that — like Inside Out — plumbs some of the most abstract concepts in existence. Also chatting with Empire, co-director Pete Docter explained how the team consulted with religious figures and referenced different texts and traditions that referred to the soul as "breath."

"Computers love to do hard-edged things, like plastic," he said. "That's why Toy Story was such a natural for the first one. But vapor and formless stuff? That's really, really hard."

For real-world reference, the animators looked at the lightest solid on the planet: a NASA-developed substance known as Aerogels, which help insulate spacecrafts, including the Mars Rover. "We bought some — an inch-squared cube cost, like, a hundred bucks," Docter added. "It had this great kind of luminous quality. Like, light would hit it and bounce around in there and the edges were so fine, they almost disappeared. So that became a model for what we were trying to do."

Credit: SSPL/Getty Images & Disney/Pixar

Jamie Foxx leads the voice cast as Joe Gardner, an aspiring jazz musician, who dies after accidentally falling into an open manhole. Instead of going to the afterlife, his soul is erroneously sent to The Great Before, a place where souls gain their personalities before being sent to Earth. There, he meets 22 (Tina Fey), a life-force that doesn't see much point in being paired with a body. With some help from 22, Joe goes on a celestial adventure to return to his body, so that he can fulfill his musical dream. Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, and Angela Bassett co-star. 

Co-directed by Kemp Powers, Soul is currently eyeing a theatrical release on Wednesday, Nov. 25. Powers co-wrote the screenplay with Docter and Mike Jones.

However, that may change as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Some have speculated that Disney may decide to move it over to Disney+ for a Premier Access fee, like it did for Mulan.

Amblin's sci-fi feature Distant just got a bit more wild[ling] with the casting of Game of Thrones alum, Kristofer Hivju, Deadline has confirmed. It's unclear who he'll be playing, though.

Blades of Glory directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon are attached to direct and executive produce the film, which tells the story of an asteroid miner, who crash-lands on an alien planet. He must survive its harsh terrain in order to save the only other survivor, a woman trapped in an escape pod. Spenser Cohen (Extinction, Moonfall) wrote the screenplay, while Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Fred Berger, and Anna Halberg will produce.


 Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Naomi Scott (Aladdin) and Anthony Ramos (Hamilton) have also been cast. 

Hivju, who played Tormund Giantsbane on Game of  Thrones, will return to the world of fantasy in Season 2 of The Witcher (he'll be playing Nivellen). The actor actually contracted from COVID-19 early on in the pandemic, but thankfully, he made a full recovery.