Creating a believable nonexistent world is always a challenge especially in the world of science fiction. Visually, you would want to create an environment that is unique, not rehashed and someplace that will allow the actors to really get into their parts instead of having to imagine what the set will look while surrounded by green screens. This is the world of production designers and one very well versed in the genre is Guy Hendrix Dyas who has worked on well-known and critically acclaimed projects like ‘The Matrix Reloaded,’ ‘The Brothers Grimm’ and ‘Inception.’
In ‘Passengers’, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt play two passengers who volunteer to travel to a distant planet 120 years away from Earth. While they would stay in hibernation for most of the trip, something goes wrong and Lawrence and Pratt awaken 90 years too soon. The ship has now become their home… in fact, their entire world. So how does one create an atmosphere that will lend to this rather sobering fact as well as lend a hand in the romance of these two passengers? That’s where Dyas comes in!
ScienceFiction.com had the great opportunity to sit down with Dyas and talk to him about how he came up with the not only the unique design of the spacecraft but also the richly detailed rooms and spaces within that micro world.
ScienceFiction.com (SF): How do you get chosen for this project?
Guy Hendrix Dyas (GD): I was very lucky. I tend to design in a little sketchbook very traditionally in pencil and sketched out designed for the ship – very loose, very rough – I sketched out the designs for the hibernation units, I did designs for the observation room and the Concord space and when I went to a meeting with [the director Morten Tyldum], he said “You’re hired.” He was a fantastically inspirational guy so I was very lucky and immediately went into design mode. I had 10 weeks to design the entire thing. I get to pretty much say, other than the vehicle which was designed by a friend of mine, I got to design pretty much everything you see in the film.
SF.com: What inspired you to design the interior of the ship the way you did?
GD: It was a wide range of things. Sony wanted something very different and they just let me have at it. My overall concept was we were going to create the interior of the ship that was going to support over 2000 people who would be travelling over 120 years to a distant planet then wake up groggy and have to spend a rehabilitation period of 4 months living on this spaceship before getting on drop ships and going down to the planet. For that reason, it’s a company, an organization, that “built” this ship so it made sense that they would create sort of a retail heaven for them to go crazy once they woke up so we were designing everything from art deco bars, from swimming pools, to store fronts… we even have a romantic 18th century romantic French restaurant, a Japanese restaurant.
SF: The design of the exterior of the spacecraft itself was different. Instead of a large body, the ship itself was segmented and connected to what looked like corridors. A bit of a compartmentalized and very different type of look.
GD: I’m so glad you noticed that! We had a lot of internal discussions about the look of the ship. Sony, among the higher echelon, were quite split as to if this was too radical of an approach. Luckily I’m a good salesperson and I was able to sell it. Looking at it, you should be able to determine the geography of the areas within the ship.
SF: The sets look so elaborate. Almost hugely encompassing.
GD: Yes, we build literally everything! All the interiors were built, physically constructed – what you see are real sets! I live and breathe my work. The script was so strong it needed a design that matched it. We wanted to see different things. I wanted a look that was futuristic but also would transport you back to Earth. These people are lonely. This really is like Robinson Caruso in space.
SF: How much did the script affect the look?
GD: The script was vitally important! It’s a relationship film set in space, it was heady and smart. For me, the excitement or the thing that got me driven to design these spaces and in turn and perhaps to create the feeling that supported a scene was the idea that these two characters have to go through huge ups and downs. High drama… they fight, they make love, there’s all sorts of crazy things that go on. So my set design supported that mood of where the characters were at the time.
SF: You sound like you really enjoyed working on ‘Passengers.’
GD:The film was a challenge but I enjoyed it. . It’s not a franchise film so it is harder these days to get a lot of support for films like this but I feel this is a special film regardless of any of the speculations. I think a lot of people will be very excited about this film.
SF: Well, you are certainly so very talented. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us!
On a routine journey through space to a new home, two passengers, sleeping in suspended animation, are awakened 90 years too early when their ship malfunctions. As Jim and Aurora face living the rest of their lives on board, with every luxury they could ever ask for, they begin to fall for each other, unable to deny their intense attraction… until they discover the ship is in grave danger. With the lives of 5000 sleeping passengers at stake, only Jim and Aurora can save them all.
‘Passengers’ will be released in theaters on Dec. 21.