Can you talk about the characters that you play in THE MARTIAN?
Kate Mara: I play Beth Johanssen. She’s basically the hacker of the group. She’s much smarter than I am. She’s definitely the computer wiz of the crew.
Sebastian Stan: I play Chris Beck. He’s a doctor which is kind of funny to me. I can’t imagine anyone entrusting their life to me. These are all very specifically trained astronauts and my character’s background is in medicine. But they do trade off certain tasks across the day and just help each other out.
We’ve heard a lot that NASA has been closely involved with giving advice. Have you guys experienced any training?
KM: I wish! I’m sure if we had to have had it, we would have found a way but a bunch of us came straight from other jobs. I really wanted to go visit NASA with Jessica. She went right before we came out here. I was stuck in New Orleans finishing a movie there and I couldn’t make it out. But I really knew nothing about space or NASA or anything of the subject. I’ve just been trying every day to go on their website and read about women in space and the history there. I had no information to go off of. When we got here, I read the book, which I hadn’t before reading the script. I know that NASA is really involved and really supportive of the whole thing. That’s always really nice to hear because it’s very rare.
SS: I concur. (laughs) No, that’s what I heard as well. I heard they were very excited and supportive. Obviously, all of the research I’ve done was from my apartment. I didn’t get to go to Houston or JPL or any of those places unfortunately. I wish I would have had the time to do that. All of the stuff I’ve found, not surprisingly, is close to a lot of the details that are in the book. Reading the book definitely helped. I feel like we’re on a new wave of interest for NASA and space, particularly Mars. There’s a lot of campaigns going on that are independent of NASA. Popularity is rising. I feel like we’re going to see this actually happen in our lifetimes. You sort of end up pinching yourself as you’re shooting this stuff. A lot of what happens in the book follows closely these theories that you can find on YouTube.
The set seems like a really challenging environment to shoot in.
KM: Yeah. The first two days, Sebastian and I didn’t have anything in our costumes, which are brilliant and really incredibly designed but so hard to wear.
SS: I refer to it as a car. Every day there’s a part of it that works better than another. Some parts have issues.
KM: The incredible set we’re on, obviously you can’t make everything work perfectly. We need to be able to take the helmets off quickly and put them on. They’re lit perfectly. But because of that, we have some problems with all the dust getting in our eyes and not being able to breathe. There’s a lot of panic involved when you can’t breathe and you can’t see and you’re trying to stay in it. It is helping with the scenes. It’s been wearing us down.
SS: We were talking about getting here. We leave the hotel during night because the sun doesn’t rise until 7:30. We leave at 5:30, 6 a.m. We get here, barely see the day while shooting, then get into the car and it’s night again already. So it kind of feels like isolation.
KM: We constantly feel like we’re in our own little bubbles. People are watching us and talking at us and we can’t hear a thing they’re saying. All we can hear is what all the other astronauts are saying. At first it’s a little jarring but then you get used to it. Again, that helps to stay in it.
What’s it like working with Ridley Scott?
SS: For me, it’s like having a front seat education to acting. You think, “I get to go to work with these types of people” and that’s enough for me.
Do you think he gets enough credit for the performances in his films? He’s seen as a big spectacle director but he gets great performances.
KM: As an actor, I know actors that know that and recognize that.
SS: A lot of his films are very character-based. I think there’s storytelling there and a focus on character. How many amazing characters have come from his movies?
KM: That’s one of the things I love about his movies is that they are epic in scale but they –
SS: There’s always a part at the core of it that sort of grounds the whole situation. He just sees something in a way an actor likes. He sees how they shine the brightest and how to translate that to film.
What’s it like being on Mars? Is it nice to have a practical set and scenery around you rather than it being all green-screened around you?
KM: It’s crazy.
SS: Oh my God, it helps so much. It’s funny, there is some green in there somewhere but –
KM: We don’t ever see it. We were shocked when we showed up on set and found out that’s what we had to play with.
SS: Half the time, I don’t even know where the cameras are.
KM: That’s another bonus. There’s five cameras going and we all have cameras on our helmets, which, we were just told, are also going at all times.
SS: It’s cool though because it keeps the momentum going. It’s kind of like a play that way.