Alice Winocour | Introducing

Introducing the French writer/director behind Proxima

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17 Jul 20


Alice Winocour is the French writer/director behind Proxima, a drama about a French astronaut (Eva Green) reconciling her commitment to an upcoming mission to space with the impending separation from her daughter (Zélie Boulant-Lemesle). It's her third feature as a director, having made her name with historical drama Augustine (2012), and thriller Disorder (2015), starring Matthias Schoenaerts and Diane Kruger.  She also co-wrote the Oscar-nominated Mustang (2015).

On her inspiration for Proxima…

"I've always been fascinated by space. I decided to go to Cologne, to the European Space Agency, and met some astronauts. I realised all the preparation for space was something that was almost never shown in films – usually it's five minutes on Earth then the problems happen in space. I came up with this idea of a woman astronaut who is also a mother. This idea of the separation with her daughter mirroring her separation with Earth."

On creating astronaut-training drills… 

"We didn't put Eva in the centrifuge because it would be like putting four elephants on your chest! It's already difficult for astronauts; it's nearly impossible for other people. So for things like that it was special effects, and in the swimming pool training scene we had a real astronaut because the spacesuit is so heavy – 150kg – so she couldn't have done it, but she did do a lot of protocols. What you see in the movie are the real protocols astronauts use."

On Eva Green's dedication to the role… 

"She really immersed herself in the part. We met many female astronauts together, and she underwent tough training to have the body of an astronaut. Eva was kind of like an Amazon. She was a different kind of mother that you don't usually see in films because it's something more traditionally maternal, but I think there are many different ways to be a mother in this world."

On the difficulties of casting children… 

"I saw 300 girls while auditioning for the part – it was a long process. It was important, though. At first I wanted my own daughter to play her in the movie, but she refused. She said, 'If one day I want to act in a movie, it will be with a different director. I don't want you as the director!' At first it was very hard for me to find someone but then when I met Zélie I fell in love with her."

On seeing her dream on the big screen…

"It's moving to see it now, to travel with the movie to different countries. There was the release in Russia recently, and Poland a few weeks ago. Each time it's a different experience. Even though I'm on Earth, travelling with the film I feel a bit like an astronaut."

On her keeping her feet on the ground for her next film… 

"It will be set in Paris, which is my city, and on the street where I live. I've been away too long!"

- James Luxford

Out from Friday 31 July