“Passengers” is a film built on constrasting dimensions.
The feature film about a couple who wake up 90 years before the end of their hibernation on an interstellar flight takes place on a spacecraft large enough to accommodate 5,000 passengers. The main concourse is a looming structure that would put most malls to shame.
At the same time, the film chiefly focuses on the couple (played by Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt) and two other supporting players. Director Morten Tyldum plays out their relationship as a small speck in the cosmos.
“This is such a giant movie that is told in snapshots so there aren’t a lot of scenes that are more than a couple of pages long,” Pratt says. “It’s tiny little glimpses of these characters for whatever time we are watching them.
“It did feel more intimate than anything I had ever done.”
Pratt and Lawrence have some very personal moments, but the intimacy Pratt felt had to do with the tiny cast. In a past work, such as “Guardian of the Galaxy,” Pratt could take a breath at times and let the supporting players carry the acting load.
That was never the case with “Passengers,” as Pratt is in almost every scene.
Although Tyldum would allow Pratt and Lawrence to sit quietly and talk, Pratt felt those conversations never made the production completely feel like it was as intimate as a stage production.
“There were a few moments that felt that way, but there were also moments that were grueling where I felt like a prop,” Pratt says.
The loneliest he felt on the set was working in the grand concourse that was four stories tall, ran 1,000 feet long and featured eight miles of LED lights. The set was so large that it was necessary to tear down a wall in the soundstage where the film was shot to create a working space of 40,000 square feet.
Pratt looked at the concourse and all of the other sets – from a swimming pool to a movie theater – and described the spacecraft as being “part badass spaceship, part luxury cruise liner.”
Lawrence has also had her share of large ensemble casts, including some of the “X-Men” movies. The Oscar-winning actress has never worked with such a small cast as she did with “Passengers.”
That proved a plus because it was easier to have discussions with the director about playing the intimate moments of the movie. Those very small moments are the reason Lawrence signed on for the space cruise.
“It was the most original story I can even remember hearing about in a long, long time,” Lawrence says of what made her want to be in the movie. “You have this very human story about these two people, and I fell in love with it immediately.”
Having such a strong structure helped Tyldum find the intimacy in isolation that was the driving element of the film. His actors played out on the huge stage the points that the director wanted to make in regards to what a person needs to survive.
“This is an intimate story that also has this wide, epic scope,” Tyldum says. “It was a juggling act to take something something so private and personal and at the same time give it is this big scope of this spaceship, this world that is so unique.”