Gravity is a British science fiction thriller and space drama film. It was directed, co-written, co-produced and co-edited by Alfonso Cuarón, and stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts involved in the mid-orbit destruction of a space shuttle and their attempt to return to Earth.
Cuarón wrote the screenplay with his son Jonás and attempted to develop the film at Universal Studios. The rights were sold to Warner Bros, where the project eventually found traction. David Heyman, who previously worked with Cuarón on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, produced the film with him. Gravity was made in the UK, where British special effects company Framestore spent more than three years creating most of the film's visual effects, which comprise over 80 of its 91 minutes.
Gravity opened the 70th Venice International Film Festival in August 2013 and had its North American premiere at the Telluride Film Festival. It was released to cinemas in the United States and Canada on 04 October 2013. The film was met with universal acclaim from critics and audiences; both groups praised Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography, Steven Price's musical score, Cuarón's direction, Bullock's performance and Framestore's visual effects. It has grossed more than US$714 million worldwide, making it the eighth highest-grossing film of 2013.
Gravity won seven awards at the 86th Academy Awards, the most for the ceremony, including Best Director for Cuarón, Best Cinematography for Lubezki, Best Visual Effects, and Best Original Score for Price. The film was also awarded six BAFTA Awards, including Outstanding British Film and Best Director. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Director, and seven Critics Choice Awards.
Alfonso Cuarón wrote the screenplay with his son Jonás. Cuarón told Wired magazine, "I watched the Gregory Peck movie Marooned over and over as a kid." That film is about the first crew of an experimental space station returning to Earth in an Apollo capsule that suffers a thruster malfunction. Cuarón attempted to develop his project at Universal Pictures, where it stayed in development for several years. After the rights to the project were sold, the project began development at Warner Bros, who acquired the project. In February 2010, it attracted the attention of Angelina Jolie, who had rejected a sequel to Wanted. Later in the month, she rejected Wanted 2, partially because the studio did not want to pay the US$20 million fee she had received for her latest two movies and because she wanted to direct her Bosnian war film In the Land of Blood and Honey. In March, Robert Downey, Jr. entered talks to be cast in the male lead role.
In mid-2010, Marion Cotillard tested for the female lead role. By August 2010, Scarlett Johansson and Blake Lively were in the running for the role. In September, Cuarón received approval from Warner Bros. to offer the role without a screen test to Natalie Portman, who was being praised for her performance in the recently released Black Swan. Portman rejected the project because of scheduling conflicts and Warner Bros. then approached Sandra Bullock for the role. In November 2010, Downey left the project to star in How to Talk to Girls—a project in development with Shawn Levy attached to direct. The following December, with Bullock signed for the co-lead role, George Clooney replaced Downey.
The problem of shooting long scenes in a zero-g environment was a challenge. Eventually, the team decided to use computer-generated imagery for the spacewalk scenes and automotive robots to move Bullock's character for interior space station scenes. This meant that shots and blocking had to be planned well in advance for the robots to be programmed. It also made the production period much longer than expected. When the script was finished, Cuarón assumed it would take about a year to complete the film, but it actually took four and a half years.
Gravity had a production budget of $100 million and was filmed digitally on multiple Arri Alexa cameras. Principal photography began in late May 2011. Live elements were shot at Pinewood and Shepperton Studios in the United Kingdom. The landing scene was filmed at Lake Powell, Arizona—where the astronauts' landing scene in Planet of the Apes (1968) was also filmed. Visual effects were supervised by Tim Webber at the London-based VFX company Framestore, which was responsible for creating most of the film's visual effects—except for 17 shots. Framestore was also heavily involved in the art direction and, along with The Third Floor, the previsualization. Tim Webber stated that 80 percent of the movie consisted of CG—compared to James Cameron's Avatar, which was 60 percent CG. To simulate the authenticity and reflection of unfiltered light in space, a manually controlled lighting system consisting of 1.8 million individually controlled LED lights was built. The 3D imagery was designed and supervised by Chris Parks. The majority of the 3D was created by stereo rendering the CG at Framestore. The remaining footage was converted into 3D in post production—principally at Prime Focus, London, with additional conversion work by Framestore. Prime Focus's supervisor was Richard Baker.
Filming began in London in May 2011. The film contains 156 shots with an average length of 45 seconds—fewer and longer shots than in most films of this length. Although the first trailer had audible explosions and other sounds, these scenes are silent in the finished film. Cuarón said, "They put in explosions [in the trailer]. As we know, there is no sound in space. In the film, we don't do that." The soundtrack in the film's space scenes consists of the musical score and sounds astronauts would hear in their suits or in the space vehicles.
For most of Bullock's shots, she was placed inside a giant, mechanical rig. Getting into the rig took a significant amount of time, so Bullock chose to stay in it for up to 10 hours a day, communicating with others through a headset. Cuarón said his biggest challenge was to make the set feel as inviting and non-claustrophobic as possible. The team attempted to do this by having a celebration each day when Bullock arrived. They nicknamed the rig "Sandy's cage" and gave it a lighted sign. Most of the movie was shot digitally using Arri Alexa Classics cameras equipped with wide Arri Master Prime lenses. The final scene, which takes place on Earth, was shot on an Arri 765 camera using 65mm film to provide the sequence with a visual contrast to the rest of the film.