George Clooney and newcomer Caoilinn Springall star in the new Netflix film “The Midnight Sky.” The film just earned the distinction of being named one of the National Board of Review’s top 10 films of 2020.
Clooney and Springall recently spoke with Gold Derby senior editor Joyce Eng about how the latter star got cast, how COVID affected the post-production process and the one thing each of them would take to space if they could. Watch the exclusive webchat above and read the complete transcript below.
Gold Derby: I loved your guys’ relationship and rapport in this film and this is Caoilinn’s first movie. George, I’ll start with you. At what point during the audition did you know that Caoilinn was the one?
George Clooney: She was the last person we saw. We read a couple hundred young actresses and they were all very good but she walked in and immediately we felt like Caoilinn was the right one and then we did a little improvising outside. Remember, Caoilinn? We were running around outside of the camera and there are things that are tricky to do as an actor, any actor, which is it’s hard to be afraid, to be scared on camera, so we did some improvising, stuff like that and Caoilinn just did a great job, and we called her up and asked her if she wanted to do it.
Gold Derby: Caoilinn, what do you remember about the audition?
Caoilinn Springall: I auditioned with my twin sister and my friend and I remember when George was holding the camera and just went, “Act scared, act scared, act scared,” shouting behind the camera.
GC: I do that to every actor, by the way. Same note.
GD: (Laughs.) That’s how you cast Felicity [Jones] and David [Oyelowo] and everyone.
GC: Yeah, “Act scared.”
GD: Caoilinn, did you know who George was beforehand?
GC: Absolutely, she did. Without question. I’m a huge star, Caoilinn!
GD: You’ve seen “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” That’s the only film of his you’ve seen.
GC: Well, Caoilinn, you hadn’t seen even “Fantastic Mr. Fox” while we were working together, had you?
GD: She watched it after you hired her.
GC: I forced her to force her to watch. I have no film she can see, by the way.
GD: Well, George, this is not your typical space movie. It’s more of a rumination on life and regret and isolation and human connection and then there’s the inciting incident of whatever decimated Earth and it’s kind of implied that it’s mankind destroying ourselves. You finished shooting this before COVID but I was wondering, how did COVID affect your edit of the film as these themes became more and more relevant day by day?
GC: Well, literally, we wrapped at the beginning of February and got back to L.A. and immediately they pulled us out of the editing room and sent us home and it changed everything. We ended up taking lines out because it became clearer and clearer that what started as a meditation on the things that we’re capable of doing to each other and the things that we should be fixing suddenly became a meditation on our inability to communicate and our inability to be home and be with the people we love. So that sort of changed a lot of the tone. Certainly, with Alexandre Desplat in the score, it changed a lot of things. But that’s sort of the way films work, in a way. They take a life of their own as you move forward.
GD: There is a glimmer of hope at the end. It’s bleak, but it’s hopeful. Was that always the original ending?
GC: Yes, it was. From the very beginning, the fact that there is some redemption was always part of the film and I thought that was really important because, without the last five minutes of the film, it really is pretty bleak. But that’s the journey and I don’t think I would have wanted to do it if it didn’t have a hopeful ending because I love “On the Beach” and we put it in there as a reference because I thought this was in many ways a modern telling of it but I didn’t think I’d want to make a full dystopian “Everyone dies at the end” kind of movie.
GD: Well, you guys shot your scenes on a glacier in Iceland. So, Caoilinn, what was the worst it ever got for you there?
CS: Well, it was probably shooting inside the snowstorm because I felt like I was gonna fall over. I think I remember it was like -28 degrees, I think.
GD: George, what about you?
GC: Yeah, that was it. I mean, we needed the bad weather, obviously, because if it was all just sunny and clear, it doesn’t really help us in terms of story. So we were waiting or chasing sometimes the winds. So we shot what we could when the wind was blowing and then we’d go looking for these walls. You could see them coming towards you and everybody would tie each other together and we shot on 65[mm], handheld, so it’s a really heavy camera. The guys are holding it like this in a giant windstorm and you could last for about 60 seconds and then we’d have to cut and then run inside and I’d have to thaw out my eyelashes and stuff so I could open my eyes.
GD: Well, George, when Augustine was searching for Iris, and especially when you fell through the ice and were submerged in water, it reminded me of one of my favorite shows of all time, “ER,” and your iconic episode, “Hell and High Water,” which aired 25 years ago last month, if you can believe it. But that was a very wet episode for you because you had to save a boy stuck in a storm drain. So how did this underwater experience compare to that one?
GC: That one was wild. It was one of the weirdest shooting days ever. We shot it in Chicago and it was outside for some of it and then we shot some on a stage, they built some of it. But a lot of it was outside and we were having lunch outside. It was an October day and it was 75 degrees in Chicago. You know how they always say, “Wait a minute and the weather will change?” It was 75 degrees and beautiful, eating lunch at three o’clock in the afternoon, doing a night shoot and by the time that night came in, it was 28 degrees and snowing and I have to get in this tux and then get in the water with a helicopter over the top. It was shocking. I was so excited that it was so warm. So I remember that being a really cold, wet experience. This one, funnily enough, the water stuff we shot in a tank. I wasn’t going to fall through the water in the Arctic. My kids came to see me and they just thought I was swimming. So they think when I go to work, I just go swimming. That’s their thought of what work is. But it was easy for us. It was a lot easier, obviously. The snow stuff’s hard.
GD: So basically we’ll see you in the Olympics next year in swimming.
GC: I’ll be ready! Ice swimming.
GD: Well, your other George, your other young costar in this is Ethan Peck, who plays a young version of you and when he opened his mouth, I was like, “Whoa, that’s George’s voice.” So can you talk about the decision to cast him instead of doing de-aging and then also blending your voices together?
GC: We talked about the de-aging thing and I love “The Irishman,” but those scenes, I watched that instead of the scenes and I thought, “I didn’t want to do the de-aging thing.” It’s tricky because you know what I look like when I was 35 years old. So it was tricky. I needed somebody who had good eyebrows and Ethan read, and he was so good and look, he’s 6’3″, he’s really handsome, which made me laugh because if I’m casting somebody to play me, I’m going to cast the best-looking guy I can get, just to make me happy. But he’s a really good actor and I talked to him when we started. I said, “Look, we’re going to use Lucas Sound and we’re going to be blending our voice. It’s going to be your performance and then I’m going to loop to you to do your performance but it’ll have my voice in it, too, because my voice is pretty recognizable and he said, Great!” And the fact that he did that and the way he came on board was just spectacular. What a sweet, talented man. I’m excited to see where his career goes.
GD: He’s already young Spock.
GC: Yeah, I know, he’s got the ears already.
GD: Finally, in the movie, the astronauts can bring a memory with them to space. So what would each of you bring as your memory? George?
GC: Oh, my God, Amal and I have a ringtone that is of both of our kids laughing hysterically and every time the phone rings, I laugh. So I would take that with me, for sure. Caoilinn, what would you take with you?
CS: Well, I’d take my cats.
GC: Your mom will be thrilled to hear that (laughs).
GD: Leave your family behind, you want the cat.
CS: Put ’em in a spaceship, going up into space.