Passengers Director Morten Tyldum and Writer Jon Spaihts Explain Movie’s Origins

Passengers Chris Pratt Jennifer Lawrence

PASSENGERS is not your typical love story set against a backdrop of impending doom a la TITANIC. The Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence film is actually a little more sinister and darker than what the trailer lets on. While critics are ravaging the film for that, PASSENGERS should be admired for the risks it takes and its uniqueness.  PASSENGERS director Morten Tyldum and screenwriter Jon Spaihts explain their vision for the film and Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt reveal why they wanted part of a dysfunctional love story set in space.

The spacecraft, Starship Avalon, is on a 120-year voyage to a distant colony planet known as the “Homestead Colony” with five thousand passengers in sleep chambers. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence’s characters are passengers who awake early due to a “malfunction” with their sleep chambers, but things are not what they seem.

PASSENGERS is an original story by DOCTOR STRANGE and THE MUMMY (Tom Cruise) screenwriter Jon Spaihts (PROMETHEUS). Chris Pratt signed on to PASSENGERS because it was an original piece and not an adaptation of a previous intellectual property. A common question from press to the The GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN star is why Hollywood isn’t making more original movies. “They want something original,” says Pratt. PASSENGERS for him was the answer, and having Jennifer Lawrence as an acting partner sealed the deal for him.

Working with Chris Pratt was also a huge draw for Jennifer Lawrence, in addition to the script.

“It was the most original story I can remember even experiencing in a really long time not just reading or filming myself,” says Lawrence. ‘It was the most fun reading a script. It was a total page turner. I fell in love immediately.”

Writer Jon Spaihts originated the idea for PASSENGERS. Spaihts says he was fascinated by the vastness of space and how it can produce solitude.

“I fell in love with the notion of a man stranded alone in the stars and where that would take them.”

The PASSENGERS writer referenced an important part of history to frame his story. He asked himself, what human has been the most loneliest in history. He looked to astronaut Michael Collins who stayed in orbit around the Moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the lunar surface for the first time in 1969.

“The person who's been farthest from the nearest human being in human history was Michael Collins, the astronaut in the command capsule orbiting the moon when the other two got to land on the far side of the moon. He's the farthest from any human being than any other person has ever been.”  

Passengers Jennifer Lawrence Chris Pratt 

He took the idea further and magnified the distance for the PASSENGERS story.

When Norwegian director Morten Tyldum (THE IMITATION GAME) signed on to helm the sci-fi thriller, he took the theme of loneliness a step forward.

“To me, this movie is actually about what we fundamentally need to live a fulfilled life,” says the 49-year-old filmmaker. “What is it that we as humans need? That's the interesting thing to explore. It's a story about ourselves. That's what I think we need as people. We need to be able to feel love and we need to be able to complete something in us. That’s what was important to me.”

Tyldum also wanted to explore what happens when you take away someone’s future. Jim and Aurora are faced with living their days out in space with no other human interaction.

Giving it a big scope of space was a challenge and the director says it was a “juggling act” bringing all of the above elements together.

Not everyone has been receptive to Tyldum and Spaihts’ vision with critics largely panning PASSENGERS but the European touch Tyldum brings to the movie gives it a unique take on a love story that perhaps American audiences may not understand.


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