Alice Winocour is the French director who made her directorial debut with the period psychiatry drama Augustine in 2012 and followed it with PTSD tale Disorder (2015). She now returns with her most ambitious film yet, Proxima, starring Eva Green as an astronaut – and mother – who is preparing to go into space.
ASFF: Can you outline the evolution of Proxima?
AW: It was not very long writing but it was a very long prep to get all the authorisations and be able to shoot in the military centres. [We shot] in Germany, in Cologne, where there is this centre for the European Space Agency. Also in Star City, one hour and a half from Moscow, in the middle of the forest on these military bases. And in Kazakhstan. We really shot at the exact place where all the rockets from all over the world leave. It’s basically the only place in Earth where you can leave the Earth. There are no rockets that leave Earth from Cape Canaveral. There are some launches but it’s without astronauts.
ASFF: What themes did you want to address?
AW: Here I wanted to talk about the idea of separation between a mother and a daughter, and it’s something I know very well. I am myself a mother and my daughter is the same age as the character, and of course I am a daughter. Because of that very special subject, I knew that I wanted to be the centre of the movie. I needed the film to take place in space! In the space world. Something very far away from me. Also, what was very interesting was this idea was a woman astronaut – this question of separation from the daughter could resonate with the idea of separation from the Earth.
ASFF: Is it similar being on a film shoot away from your family?
AW: Yes, it is. It’s really much more similar than you think. We don’t risk our lives, we don’t get out of the atmosphere. But being a director is like being on a mission. I always laugh when I see Matt Dillon in the film, when he says, ‘If the idea of sitting on several million tonnes of explosive is frightening to you, then maybe you’re in the wrong profession.’ I feel a director could say the same at the beginning of a shoot!
ASFF: Was there one particular role of hers that made you cast Eva Green?
AW: Many roles. I’ve been fascinated by her for a long time. I think she’s an amazing actress. I think she’s like a Tim Burton character. I’m not surprised she’s in so many of his films. She has this strangeness and at the same time, this strength. She says herself that she doesn’t belong to this planet. And I think it’s great for a character of an astronaut – because that’s what astronauts are. They don’t really belong.
ASFF: How difficult was the training for her? What about the underwater scenes?
AW: Underwater, it was special effects because it was really impossible to get into the water. The spacesuits are 150 kilos. Very, very, very heavy. But she had amazing training, waking up very early. She was trained also by Russian trainers, and they didn’t give a fuck that she was Eva Green…they were so hard on her. So it was tough. But she’s very brave and she’s also a kind of astronaut herself in that she never complains.
Proxima is in cinemas from 31 July. For more details, click here.