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Art and science

Physics and film, a match made in Hollywood

28 Nov 2019 James Dacey

“Physics at the movies” is the theme of the November issue of Physics World magazine. In this star-studded episode of the Physics World Stories podcast, Andrew Glester interviews a trio of people who have worked on – or inspired – Hollywood sci-fi blockbusters.

First up, Glester travels to MCM Comic Con in London to meet Paul Franklin, a member of the team that won the 2014 Oscar for Best Visual Effects for its work on Interstellar. Franklin is the creative director of DNEG, which has worked with director Christopher Nolan on his various other films including Inception, The Dark Knight trilogy and Dunkirk. But the conversation focuses on Interstellar and what it was like to work with science advisor Kip Thorne, a process that even led to a scientific paper about previously unseen details of black holes.

Next up, Glester is in conversation with Jill Tarter, former director of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Tarter is said to be the inspiration for Ellie Arroway, the lead character in Carl Sagan’s novel Contact, which was adapted into the 1997 blockbuster of the same name starring Jodie Foster. Tarter describes how she reentered astronomy thanks to a government scheme, and shares anecdotes about working with Foster to portray her personality on screen.

Finally, Glester catches up with Andy Weir, author of the book The Martian, which was adapted into the 2015 film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon. Weir speaks about the calculations and thought-experiments that underpinned some of the book’s plot. He admits that he never expected the story to appeal to such a wide audience and that Mark Watney – the story’s lead character – is a version of himself with all the good traits magnified.

To find out more about about physics at the movies take a look at the November special issue of Physics World, which features interviews with the actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Radcliffe.

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