Floating props and little sleep: Russians describe filming world’s first movie in space

Their movie props floated around, sleeping was difficult and they used Velcro to keep objects in place but Russia’s first film crew in space said they were delighted with the result and had “shot everything we planned”.

Yulia Peresild, one of Russia’s most glamorous actors, and film director Klim Shipenko returned to Earth on Sunday after spending 12 days on the International Space Station (ISS) shooting the first movie in orbit, in an effort to beat the United States.

The plot of The Challenge has been mostly kept under wraps along with the budget. It centres around a surgeon who is dispatched to the ISS to save a cosmonaut.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, 37-year-old Peresild lamented that a busy filming schedule left little chance to enjoy the views.

“We realised only a day before the departure that we didn’t spend enough time looking in the windows,” she said.

“I had a mixed feeling. On the one hand, it felt like an eternity but on the other hand it felt like we just arrived and immediately need to return.”

Peresild and Shipenko said they were feeling fine but still were having some trouble adapting to the pull of gravity.

“We have to learn again how to walk,” Peresild said.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky (C), actress Yulia Peresild and film director Klim Shipenko following their return from the International Space Station
Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky (C), actress Yulia Peresild and film director Klim Shipenko following their return from the International Space Station Photograph: Andrey Shelepin/GAGARIN COSMONAUT TRAINING CENTE/AFP/Getty Images

A beaming Shipenko told reporters that the task was a “huge challenge” and they had to constantly adapt to film scenes.

They shot more than 30 hours worth of footage which will later be edited down to about 30 minutes.

“We’ve shot everything we planned,” Shipenko said from the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center outside Moscow.

The 38-year-old US-educated film director said cinema was ready to conquer space.

“Cinema is looking for new forms. The cosmos is also ready to welcome various experimentalists,” said Shipenko.

He said his stint on the ISS was full of professional discoveries and added that he would never have been able to shoot on Earth what he had shot in space.

If the project stays on track, the Russian crew will beat a Hollywood movie announced last year by Mission Impossible star Tom Cruise together with Nasa and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Peresild said she had to use Velcro tape to keep her belongings including lipstick and mascara in place, while various movie props like medical devices floated in space.

“They are so small and fly away so fast,” she said.

The actor said she was impressed by the warm atmosphere on the ISS and cooperation among international crew members. She said she slept very well in orbit and four hours of sleep were enough to have a good rest.

“It’s a great thing for girls – you never have pillow marks. You look perfect,” she said, laughing.

Yulia Peresild is helped to disembark after the landing of the Russian Soyuz MS-18 space capsule in Kazakhstan
Yulia Peresild is helped to disembark after the landing of the Russian Soyuz MS-18 space capsule in Kazakhstan Photograph: Russian Space Agency Roscosmos/AFP/Getty Images

The film crew praised Russian cosmonauts on the ISS who they said were very helpful and will have cameo roles in the film.

The cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky, Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov helped adapt the scenario and make dialogues more natural, said Shipenko.

“The guys found they had acting talent,” he said. “I made them find it,” he said, laughing.

Peresild said that the cosmonauts had to perform a “huge amount of tasks” during the day but “they continued to work with us at night.”

The film crew’s mission added to a long list of firsts for Russia’s space industry after a number of setbacks including botched launches.

The Soviets launched the first satellite Sputnik, and sent into orbit the first animal, a dog named Laika, the first man, Gagarin, and the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova.

With Agence-France Press and Associated Press

The Guardian

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