Cause of Mars Extinction Now Threatens Earth in Terrifying Thriller “LIFE”
Columbia Pictures' upcoming Life is a terrifying sci-fi thriller about a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station whose mission of discovery turns to one of primal fear when they find a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.
Directed by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House), Life stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya. Produced by David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Bonnie Curtis, and Julie Lynn. Written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick.
The approach to Life was to make a terrifying thriller that feels like it could be in today’s headlines. “This script had such a degree of reality and a feeling of constant tension,” says Ryan Reynolds. “It begins with an air of discovery that turns to a tension that permeates the whole film as we learn more and more about this thing that we’ve put on board the ISS.”
Director Daniel Espinosa says that before he was approached to direct Life, he had given some thought to the ways his filmmaking heroes approached science fiction – Ridley Scott in Alien, Stanley Kubrick in 2001, Andrei Tarkovsky in Solaris. “I think the reason so many great directors have walked into science fiction is to work with the unknown – the fear or fascination with the unknown,” he says. “We live in a world that is quite mundane, but in space, you enter an adventure – you don’t know how it looks, how it feels, what it can do to you, where it is. It doesn’t make a sound. That’s terrifying.”
After reading the script for Life, Espinosa saw a way to draw on the work of those icons and yet make a film that would bear his own personal stamp. “This script felt more like a realistic science fiction – maybe science reality,” he says, noting that scientists have discovered proof of water on Mars, thousands of exoplanets revolving around other stars, and even waking 50,000-year-old microbes that have been hibernating inside crystals.
That gives the movie a sense of urgency, says producer and Skydance CEO David Ellison. "One of the things that was very important early on from the genesis of this project was that you could feel like you could turn on the news and hear that this happened today,” he says.
“We're not making a film that takes place a hundred years from now,” adds producer Dana Goldberg.“We very much wanted to make a film that felt more like science fact than science fiction."
“Finding life on other planets is obviously extremely exciting, and I think we could be very close to that,” says Paul Wernick, who co-writes the film with his partner, Rhett Reese. (Reese and Wernick most recently teamed with Life star Ryan Reynolds for the global hit Deadpool.) “I think that grounds the movie.”
It’s an idea that was with the film from its genesis. “Dana and I had an idea around the time period when Mars Curiosity had touched down,” says Ellison. “What if the Curiosity discovered single cell organism life on Mars and brought it back to the ISS for analysis. Then, once it was introduced into an environment that was conducive to life, it started to grow… and what if, in the way that humanity does all of the time, with the best of intentions, it was probed, which turned it hostile. This would fundamentally turn the movie into an incredibly tense, sci-fi horror movie set on the ISS, all at zero gravity."
Reese and Wernick came up with an idea for a completely original alien creature. “We had a vision for this alien whereby it began as a single-celled organism and then that cell divided many, many times, until it became a multi-cellular, complex organism that was able to navigate its environment,” says Reese. “It’s not a higher intelligence – it’s a combination of cells that are not differentiated. A human body has differentiated cells – muscle cells, nerve cells, blood cells, and all of these cells perform different functions. In this particular alien, every cell performs every bodily function on its own. Every cell is an eye cell, a muscle cell, a nerve cell, and as such, the creature is very, very adaptable.”
“It’s our worst nightmare, and the crew’s worst nightmare,” says Wernick.