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Star Wars Was Going To Be Filmed In Space But It Never Happened

A galaxy far, far away almost had a stand-in — our actual galaxy. (Well, a very small portion of it.)

In 2016, when he was still attached to direct Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, Colin Trevorrow told a crowd at the Sundance Film Festival that he had designs on shooting scenes for the flick in actual space. (via The Independent)

Now, before you suggest that Trevorrow must have been... well, off his rocker to suggest such a thing, it may be helpful to know that it's not like no movie cameras have ever made the journey to the final frontier. Most notably, the Warner Bros. documentary Hubble 3D, which followed a group of astronauts on a delicate mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, used IMAX cameras to film space-based scenes. Of course, these were shot aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis and not just, you know, in open space — but the fact remains that movie cameras did indeed leave our atmosphere to shoot scenes that we Earthlings would later watch with our butts planted firmly in Terra-based theater seats.

Apparently hoping to add a degree of realism to a series in which ancient orders of mystical space knights fight each other with laser swords, Trevorrow informed the crowd that not only was he hoping to shoot in space, but that he had actually submitted a request to the International Space Station to haul IMAX cameras on up there and start filming scenes. Strangely, he had not heard anything in response.

"I asked the question, 'Is it possible for us to shoot IMAX film plates in actual space for Star Wars?'" the director said. "I haven't gotten an answer yet, but they've shot IMAX in space!"

While that is true, we hear that special effects houses are doing really incredible things these days, and that the starry void is fairly easily rendered onscreen with much less hassle and expense than it would take to get a film crew onto the ISS for a month or so. One could argue that Trevorrow had a strangely literal sense of what it would take to make a Star Wars movie, and that argument would be bolstered by remarks he went on to make about his intention to shoot Rise of Skywalker on film, rather than digital.

"The only place where I tend to not be able to attach myself entirely to something shot digitally is when it's a period film," he said. "There's something in my brain that goes, 'Well, they didn't have video cameras then'. Film tends to remind us of our memories, of our childhoods, the way we used to see films. I could never shoot Star Wars on anything but film because it's a period film. It happened a long time ago!"

Just... wow. We could spend the rest of the day poking holes in virtually every word of that statement, but suffice to say that a) we don't remember seeing any film cameras depicted in the Star Wars movies, ever, and b) if it was absolute accuracy Trevorrow was going for, he should have lobbied to shoot the entire film as a hologram.

Oddly, it would take over a year and a half after the Sundance panel for Trevorrow to be fired from Rise of Skywalker, to be replaced with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams. The usual "creative differences" were cited as the reason for his departure, with nary a mention of the director's "the hell with it, let's shoot it in space" phase. 

Fortunately, Trevorrow had another blockbuster franchise to fall back on: Jurassic World, the first installment of which he directed. For sequel Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and the as-yet untitled upcoming third installment, Trevorrow relinquished the director's chair in favor of co-writing the screenplays; we're going to go ahead and guess that this may be because he wouldn't quit pitching the idea of shooting certain scenes in the actual Jurassic period.

Has any mainstream movie ever had scenes shot in space?

We're poking a lot of fun here, but Trevorrow's remarks do raise the question of whether any Hollywood production has ever managed to shoot footage in actual space. The answer: no, but not for lack of trying.

In fact, Christopher Nolan happened to be sitting on the same panel when Trevorrow dropped his space bomb, and he revealed that he had actually attempted the same gambit. "Funny enough, we had that conversation with Interstellar," Nolan said. "There's incredible footage from space now."

Yep, there sure is — and in the intervening years, Nolan has pointed out that for that excellent 2014 effort, he selected the same IMAX cameras that NASA had previously used to capture real footage from low Earth orbit. But as far as actual space making an appearance in a Hollywood film, it's never happened, and it almost certainly will not anytime soon. Heck, all but the last few minutes of Gravity took place in space; if that utterly mind-blowing flick was able to portray its setting convincingly without launching Sandra Bullock and George Clooney into the cosmos, then it's a safe bet that future filmmakers can do the same.

No, unless and until it becomes cheaper to deploy space-based film crews than to simply hire a reputable CGI house, we're not likely to see any Hollywood features utilizing footage shot beyond the sad confines of our little planet. Somehow, we don't think Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker will suffer for the omission; we'll find out when the flick hits the big screen on December 20.