By Piya Sinha-Roy
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Among the monster movies and fantasy films showcased at pop culture convention Comic-Con, the space thriller "Gravity" stood out from the field on Saturday with its different setting and two-person cast, as Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron took a leap into space with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.
Cuaron, 51, teamed up with son Jonas Cuaron, 30, to construct a nail-biter set in space, as two astronauts played by Bullock and Clooney become trapped in a space station after debris rips through their vessel.
"The whole film becomes a metaphor for something very grounded on earth, so you don't need to be an astronaut to identify with that. The big villain in the film is space debris, and that space debris becomes a metaphor for adversities," Cuaron told Reuters.
In a "Gravity" clip shown exclusively to the Comic-Con audience in San Diego, Clooney and Bullock are seen on a space walk with Earth in the background. Suddenly, they lose contact with ground control and are forced to try to take cover from high-velocity space debris.
The Warner Bros. film opens in U.S. theaters on October 4.
Movie studios use Comic-Con, an annual comics convention, to tease tidbits of upcoming fantasy, monster and science-fiction films and create buzz among a base of hard-core fans. More than 125,000 visitors are expected this year.
Cuaron said he and his son were inspired by the Kessler syndrome, which predicts that a chain reaction of space junk hitting each other would produce so much orbiting debris that space flight would become too risky.
Jonas co-wrote the script with his father, who built a career outside Mexico with films like "Children of Men" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."
"I think if anybody sees my other films and then sees 'Gravity,' it's a big leap," said Alfonso Cuaron, who said Jonas convinced him to rely less on dialogue and more on emotion and action.
"That was very refreshing for me, it's connecting with a younger, fresher sensibility," the director added.
BULLOCK GOES FOR ANDROGYNY
The biggest challenge, Jonas said, was creating the illusion of dealing with zero gravity and they were eager to stay true to real-life scenarios.
"Space was a great setting, because in space, we as humans are definitely not meant to be there," Jonas said. "There's no oxygen, there's no air pressure, temperatures fluctuate, so it's a situation where at any moment, anything could go wrong."
At a Warner Bros. panel at the convention on Saturday, Bullock gave the audience of 6,000 a glimpse of how she prepared to play astronaut Dr Ryan Stone.
"I wanted her to look almost androgynous in a way, because she had experienced such loss in life ... I wanted her to have a body of someone who didn't want to remind herself of what she lost, almost like a robot," the actress said.
Cuaron said this is one of Bullock's most "raw and emotionally honest" performances, and that audiences more familiar with her comedy roles in films such as "Miss Congeniality" and last month's "The Heat" would be surprised.
"Sandra knew she was going to be so exposed being alone for such long periods of time in the film, that she would be emotionally so exposed. I found that she was very courageous about it," the director said.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Mary Milliken)