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Contender – Production Designer Arthur Max, The Martian

December 21, 2015 | By

THE MARTIAN

Arthur Max

Arthur Max

Ridley Scott‘s The Martian explores a man’s struggle against extreme elements for survival. Production designer Arthur Max, who is known for Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), American Gangster (2007) and Gladiator (2000), the latter two for which he received Academy Awards nominations, was on board the adventure to create the world of The Martian.

Max is a longtime collaborator of Scott’s. The two were working on another project altogether when it got postponed and then The Martian arrived on the scene. “This came up out of the blue. It was a fantastic project with a page-turning script, a great big adventure story based in rocket science,” said Max. He grew up in the 1950s during the height of the space race and spent his weekends as a child in rocketry clubs trying to make rockets fly in parks so this project especially appealed to him.

The Martian

The Martian

Max loved the assignment of working within the restraints of the story. The Martian is not science fiction fantasy, it’s not a story that allows for strange alien technology and the production designer liked this. “It’s more challenging in a way because you have to make things really work in terms of the storytelling. How does the astronaut get out of trouble? How does he make water? How does he communicate back to Earth? How does he get off the planet? It’s all driven by authentic botany, organic chemistry, rocket technology and engineering. It really has to be credible,” he explained.

As much as the film is based in reality, it still had to be visually interesting and one of Max’s major design goals was to make things stylish and inspiring looking and not totally nerdy. “Because it’s 15 or 20 years in the future, we felt free to give NASA and JPL a style upgrade. We presume there would be maybe some new materials that could transmit light and provide shielding from cosmic rays and solar rays that don’t exist to the level that they do now because we are making technological leaps in that time frame. So we could make things more cinematic and cooler looking,” he said.

Max’s favorite scenes that he worked on were the gravity wheel ones. “As they flew down the corridor, disappeared through the revolving rabbit holes, turned up in the revolving crew lounge, recreation room or gymnasium,” he said. These stylish sets were all moving and were physical as well as CGI extensions making them the most challenging to create. “They kind of give you a glimpse into what life in interplanetary space will be. NASA gave us its blessing in how the wheel would work and function. And at the same time, I wouldn’t mind living in that Italian-inspired furniture. So there was a lot of work put into how to do that set.”

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