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Alfonso Cuarón Explains Why Robert Downey Jr. Wasn't "Compatible" For 'Gravity,' Says George Clooney Rewrote A Scene

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by Charlie Schmidlin
July 22, 2013 9:51 AM
6 Comments
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Alfonso Cuaron Sandra Bullock Comic-Con

It says a lot about director Alfonso Cuarón that, in the midst of major franchise announcements and sizzle reels at San Diego Comic-Con, his film focused on two actors in space stood as one of the most anticipated events. “Gravity,” starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, promises the director in typically fine form, and while the film weathered a nearly five-year journey to the big screen, Cuarón recently shared what made those years so useful and challenging together.

While we covered the majority of Cuarón's panel appearance at Comic-Con right here, in some follow-up comments the director touched on aspects of “Gravity” throughout its developmental years, starting with its original cast. Robert Downey Jr. and Natalie Portman were once locked in for Clooney and Bullock's roles, but as the production's technical requirements — impeccably-timed cinematography and close-quarters filming — became clear, Cuarón began to have second thoughts about his lead actor.

[It] was very clear that the technology we were going to use… was not the most compatible thing for what Robert is the best at.” Cuarón said (via HuffPo). “That is, he takes one scene and he just starts riffing. And because of the technology that we use, it's pretty much limited. We have to preprogram the film before shooting.”

A fine point, and one that Downey has often admitted himself. Meanwhile, Bullock's character, a medical engineer who holds the film's center for extended periods, originally faced casting issues herself - simply from a gender perspective. "When I finished the script, there were voices that were saying, 'well, we should change it to a male lead,'" Cuarón said (via The Verge). "Obviously they were not powerful enough voices, because we got away with it. But the sad thing is that there is still that tendency."

But no matter who was in the lead, the film's biggest feat thus part is technological, with extensive CGI and a literally three years long post-conversion 3D process proving to be an exacting toll on the cast. Yet, even though his role is smaller than Bullock's in the film, the actress reveals that Clooney still stayed more involved than he needed to be. “He’s the ultimate team worker. You never know [when] you’re dealing with someone who’s had the level of success that he has, but all he cares about is being at the table, beginning of a film, reading the script, ‘What lines are great? How can I help?’…You’re always grateful when you’re working with George because he wants everyone else to look better. He always wants everyone else to have their moment," the actress enthused in San Diego (via Shockya).

Meanwhile, Cuarón also praised the star, adding that he rewrote a scene in the film as well. “He could have just done his job and left,” the director said, adding that Clooney stay involved long after he could've taken off once his work was done.

But, for all the many changes to Cuaron's story and script (written with his son, Jonas Cuarón), the steadfast decision on Bullock's role remains one of the most exciting; from what we've seen, the actress looks to deliver a highly emotional, nuanced performance, and we can't wait to see the final result when “Gravity” opens on October 4th, following its premiere at the Venice International Film Festival.

As a quick primer of Cuarón's brilliance before then, check out the centerpiece, single-take scene from “Children of Men” involving Clive Owen and Julianne Moore in a tense getaway -- an iconic take that Cuarón revealed he meant to cut early after blood splattered the lens. Luckily, no one heard him, and later the director realized “the blood splash was the miracle.” Read his full comments about this sequence via io9.

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6 Comments

  • Joanna | July 22, 2013 8:46 PMReply

    Why would anybody rather have a shitty actor like Clooney in their movie than Downey?

  • james | July 22, 2013 9:39 PM

    That question is answered in the third paragraph of the above article.

  • Pike | July 22, 2013 1:18 PMReply

    There is no blood on the lens in the Children of Men shot you posted here along with the article. Cuaron's quote is about the even longer shot; the warfare scene in the rundown city near the end of the movie.

  • PEDRO | July 22, 2013 10:44 AMReply

    5th paragraph, 3rd line:

    "Yet, even though his role in smaller than Bullock's in the film,..."

    "Yet, even though his role IS smaller than Bullock's in the film..." - Please, correct it. Thank you.

  • dontvoteforpedro | July 22, 2013 2:48 PM

    Pedro, do people pay you to correct articles on the internet?
    I don't even know you but I imagine you are widely disliked.

  • swell | July 22, 2013 11:55 AM

    christ, shut up. being a grammar nazi is one thing, but a single typo in an eight paragraph piece? A mistype? You may as well go after "who/whom" usage and comma placement next.

    Now I'm depressed.

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