Moon: interview with director Duncan Jones
Cerebral science fiction thriller Moon heralds the arrival of an impressive new filmmaking talent in Duncan Jones, the son of David Bowie. Miles Fielder meets him.
‘Me and Sam wanted to go back to the kind of science fiction we loved,’ enthuses the man-boy formerly known as Zowie Bowie, who wrote the film specifically for star Sam Rockwell, ‘which is so different from what people are seeing these days. Films like Outland and Silent Running and Alien have a very different pace and depth to science fiction films today. And those three films in particular are about blue-collar working men out in space. They’re very human-centric. That’s so different from the lantern-jawed heroes you get in science fiction today.’
Working with a relatively tiny budget, Jones struck a series of deals and took advantage of a window at Shepperton Studios during a quiet period in the midst of last year’s screenwriters’ strike. Accordingly, the set design of the moon-base and special effects used to create the lunar surface belie the budget. ‘We were making a film that referenced and had the feel of those old 1960s and 70s films,’ say Jones, ‘so we used model miniatures rather than CG. And we were able to find some of those old timers who worked on the original films – Bill Pearson, for example, who built the Nostromo for Alien. We brought all these old geniuses back together.’
Cleverly conceived and smartly executed as Moon is, the film nevertheless relies upon the central performance of its star. For much of its running time Rockwell is the only performer on screen, and the majority of his character’s interaction is with the moon-base’s artificially intelligent computer GERTY, a soft-spoken cousin of 2001’s HAL voiced by Kevin Spacey. ‘I don’t know if anyone other than Sam could have pulled it off,’ says Jones. ‘He hates the word “quirky”, but he is. He’s quirky, but he’s empathetic, too. You care about him. And with GERTY, everyone’s going to think of HAL, because that’s where AI computers started. So I wanted to play with audience expectations, and Kevin’s very distinctive voice really helped me do that.’
Winning the Michael Powell Award for Best New British Film at Edinburgh last month underlines the universal praise Moon has received. Unsurprisingly, Jones is delighted, not least because the 38-year-old has aspired to make films ever since he graduated from the London Film School around the turn of the millennium. ‘It took me a really long time to work out what I wanted to do in life,’ Jones says, ‘but when I decided to go to film school I became very focused.’
And finally, what does Jones’ father, the man who fell to Earth, think of his son’s filmmaking debut? ‘He was incredibly proud,’ Jones grins, ‘and I’m very relieved that it’s a film he loves.’
Moon is on general release from Fri 17 Jul. See review.