By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway co-star as space explorers hoping to find a suitable planet for mankind after Earth has been ecologically damaged in Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi action drama “Interstellar.”
McConaughey won an Oscar this year for his potrayal of an AIDS patient whose determination to live convinces him to try unconventional —and, at the time, illegal—treatments. He followed up that work with the critically acclaimed HBO series “True Detective.”
As “Interstellar” pilot Cooper, he is joined by fellow astronaut Amelia Brand (Hathaway). Hathaway, 31, won an Academy Award in 2013 for her supporting role in the big screen adaptation of the hit musical “Les Miserables.”
McConaughey and Hathaway, joined in the cast by Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain and Wes Bentley, recently spoke about working with Nolan, best known for his “Dark Knight” trilogy and mind-bending thrillers like “Inception” and “Memento,” traipsing around in heavy space suit costumes, and their thoughts about space exploration.
Q: Were there challenges of working in a space suit? Did the helmet hinder you in expressing emotions? Did the space suit change your physicality?
McConaughey: The suit was actually only 40 pounds.
Hathaway: Only 40 pounds?
McConaughey: I think a real space suit (weighs) closer to 100 (pounds). They did a lot of work on making it as light as possible, and as so it was easy to maneuver in. You couldn’t break out into a sprint. You couldn’t jump as high, no. Once you get the suit on, a lot it, at least as far as what you could express directly, was from the neck up and sometimes through the mask. For me, it was just part of the story that made sense. There wasn’t a lot of movement. It was physically more challenging (working on location for some scenes) in Iceland, wearing a space suit on a glacier, with the elements, absolutely, a couple of helicopters and 50 mph winds.
Hathaway: Yeah. I think it hindered (my performance). The first time I put it on I made up my mind that it was my favorite costume I had ever worn—and I’ve gotten some pretty spectacular ones—but this one it was the closest I’ve ever felt to being like a kid at Halloween, if you could stretch Halloween out for several months. I love that feeling. (Carrying) 40 pounds is a lot for me so it also helped that I made up my mind that I loved it because it was the only way to move forward (in it).
Q: Matthew, this is a film with strong female characters, which is great to see. As the father of a daughter, and as someone who has to go off and film movies for a living, how did that affect your approach for your character?
McConaughey: Let me say this: I’m in a fortunate position, because my family gets to come with me when I head off (to make films). It’s something I thought about, because Cooper shakes off a dream that was taken from him. He’s sitting there on a farm and that dream is sort of reintroduced to him. For me, the question of, “Boy, what if I did have to go off for a month at a time, leave the family?” was a much more minor situation than we have with Cooper in ‘”Interstellar.”
Chris (Nolan, who directed the film from a screenplay by his brother Jonathan) has a daughter (too). It was apparent to me early on that this film was about family; this was about parents and children. I think that’s obviously where the aorta of the film emotionally. Even if you’re not parents, you have parents, and you’ve been in those situations, where there’s a certain kind of goodbye, nothing as extreme as this, but it’s a common denominator that runs through this that everyone kind of understands.
Q: Did you come to this movie thinking that space exploration was nice but not that critical and did you change your mind after working on the film?
McConaughey: It was something I didn’t consider, in the vernacular of thinking, but as we evolve (we ask ourselves) “Is the new frontier out there?” And, if so, why? I just didn’t consider thinking about it that much.
One of the things that I got out of this film, is that mankind’s expectations have to be greater than ourselves, and that as Chris has said, the farther out there we go, the more we find out. (We) learn that it’s about you and me. Right here. So it’s much more a tangible idea, an obtainable thought. I’m in no way an expert on it. I can have conversations about it now that I couldn’t a year ago, before working on this film. I have a much more four-dimensional outlook in terms of where we’re going, or what the new frontier is.
Hathaway: One of my first experiences with the space program was with the memorial that was built for the Challenger. When I was in 7th grade, my class spent the entire school year preparing to launch a space ship all together. We all had our different jobs that we had to learn how to do and we learned the math that we needed and practical skills that we needed. I thought that was really cool. I think that if you take a tragedy and find the goals in it and turn it into something positive, that’s great. I’m hoping that the suspension of the space program is just that, a suspension, and that it’s not the final say in the matter, because I think we need it.
Q: Matthew, did winning the Academy Award have an effect on your career or your life? Since you’ve accomplished so much, do you have a bucket list of things you want to do? Do you want to share that with us?
McConaughey: I’ve got some things I want to do that I won’t share. They’re for me. Has it changed? Look—and this is something that Chris and I talked about early on—in our approach. We talked about being obsessed with the job that you’re doing. It could be the last one or, at least, approach it like it is, or the only one. That’s a great reminder, or a great way to go into everything. I would probably, with respect to what’s happened to me over the past couple of years, I have more of an obsession over what I’m doing at this moment. It could be the last one. I hope it’s not, but it could be.