Director Morten Tyldum’s sci-fi drama “Passengers” stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence as two people on board a spacecraft who awaken 90 years too early during a voyage to a distant colony planet. The ship is transporting thousands of passengers — including Lawrence Fishburne, and without spoiling too much — if you’re hoping they have contact with the curiously unknown, or discover the God gene, or take you on any kind of epic space adventure, (yeah, this writer set her expectations too high)… well, “Passengers” ain’t it.
It is, however, a cute romance drama set in space starring two of Hollywood’s hottest — JLaw and funnyman Chris Pratt, who both turned on the charm during the Los Angeles press conference ahead of the film’s release this week.
EUR/Electronic Urban Report was on hand for the event, which was hosted by Rotten Tomatoes Senior Editor Grae Drake. You can replay the press conference via the clip below.
When asked in what ways he relates to his character Jim, Pratt first explains how he’s “leaving Earth for a reason” because “men like him are no longer needed in this world of Earth.”
“He’s leaving that world for a new world where he can be a pioneer. So in that way I guess there’s part of me that longs to simply my life. Especially now we’re on this press tour and I’ve got a team of babysitters around me,” he jokes.
“I’ve become increasingly useless, Pratt adds. “Like… I honestly have no idea where my phone is right now. But if I go, ‘Phone!,’ someone will bring it to me. I don’t know if that’s a tactic to keep them employed or something, but like, I’ve become more and more of a baby. So I guess I kind of relate to that in a way, but unlike (Jim) I don’t want to do anything about it.”
Screenwriter Jon Spaihts says his inspiration for the story came from being “fascinated by the notion of the vastness of space, and the fact that it can produce a solitary experience, vaster than anything that we can experience in our lives. Just the metaphorical value of that — of how alone we are traveling between the stars.”
Lawrence gushed about having “a blast” working on this project because, “It’s really rare that you get to be so intimate with filmmaking.”
“It’s normally an ensemble. I’ve never worked with so few actors before,” she adds. “It is such a human story, there’s so much interesting conversation with Morten, with John. I was very excited to be stuck in space with them.”
Actor Michael Sheen jokes about having his legs amputated six months prior to filming in order to “try out” what it would be like playing the legless robot Arthur.
“I was so excited on my first day to walk on to the set to meet Jen and Chris, and I thought I’m going to look fairly spiffy as I walk on in my costume,” Sheen says, “and then I was given the green tights that I had to wear at all times and I knew my chances with Jen were over.”
In the film, the passengers are on board the Starship Avalon, in its 120-year voyage to a distant colony planet known as the “Homestead Colony.”
“We’re on this great, big set — this beautiful set that they built — a practical set. The Grand Concourse is four stories tall, a thousand feet long — it’s huge!,” Pratt says of the set design. “They had 8 miles of LED lights and it felt… really lonely in that way.”
The Starship Avalon is transporting over five thousand people, and two of its hibernation pods has a malfunction. As a result two pods open and the two people that awake, Jim Preston (Pratt) and Aurora Dunn (Lawrence), find that they are stranded on the ship 90 years from their destination.
“This is such a giant movie and it’s really told in snapshots,” Pratt notes. “So there’s not a lot of scenes that are more than a couple of pages long. It’s tiny little glimpses into a period of time that we’re watching these characters.”
In terms of plot, Pratt explains that, “the point of the colonization of the planets is not to necessarily branch out because we’re like, seeking to survive. Earth is still the cradle of civilization. It’s not a post-apocalyptic movie.”
There’s a moment in the film where Jim discloses something to Aurora that traumatizes her and causes her to shun and physically attack him. But they must put their difference aside in order to sort out what’s causing the malfunctions on the ship.
“It was the most original story I can remember even experiencing in a really long time,” Lawrence says. “It was the most fun I’ve ever had reading a script. It was just a total page turner. I love the story. And when you’re reading the script, you don’t have all the special effects. You don’t have this amazing ship, you don’t have all the other elements that came together to make this movie so impressive. All you have is this very human story between these two people. So I fell in love immediately with it, and Chris was already attached so I couldn’t have said yes fast enough.”
Pratt shares his co-star’s sentiments about how refreshing it was to be a part of such an original story.
“Jon painted an amazing picture with his story,” he says. “I had done some press for the last couple of movies I did and I know a lot times from the press I hear these questions like, ‘Why don’t we see original movies anymore?’ Cause I would be promoting something that was maybe a remake, or something that fell under the umbrella of a larger franchise, and I heard that question and I was like… I didn’t necessarily have a great answer to why that doesn’t happen. So when I read this scrip and realized that it was original, and it is a piece of intellectual property that’s not based on a previous title, it was like…wow, that’s really refreshing.”
Pratt further explains how “hungry” people are for original content. “They want something original. The script was so fabulous, and I was told when I read it to imagine Jen Lawrence in the lead role, and I was like….’Damn, okay.’ So I read it picturing Jennifer, and I read the whole thing and I called my manager. I was like, ‘This is amazing but is it…I mean, how possible is it that it could be Jen?’ And if it wasn’t Jen, who could it possibly be? And there was no one else that got me excited. So when she agreed to do it, it was like, ‘Oh my God. I can’t believe it’s going happen.’ ”
When asked which famous person they each would like to get lost in space with: “Well my wife is famous, so I’ma say of course my wife would be first,” Pratt says. “I would take my wife and maybe George Carlin.”
Lawrence says she would take Oprah and Beyonce on her epic space voyage, but she quickly changes her mind about Mrs. Carter after considering how “jealous” she would get of Bey after a while and “probably rip her hair out.”
“Passengers” is now playing in theaters nationwide.