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Josh Hartnett, Kate Mara on their Lockdown inspired ‘Black Mirror’ and why it’s set in an alternate 1969


(This story contains major spoilers from the Black mirror season six episode “Beyond the Sea.”)

Charlie Brooker warned that part of season six Black mirror episodes would become the bleakest yet. And “Beyond the Sea,” starring the trio of Aaron Paul, Josh Hartnett, and Kate Mara, certainly fits that bill.

In the 80-minute space saga, Paul and Hartnett play astronauts aboard a starship on a six-year mission. However, the episode is set in an alternate 1969 where technology exists for the astronauts to beam their consciousness back to Earth via a space travel link and walk among their families as a mechanical replica while their real bodies sleep in a spacepod.

But things go terribly wrong for Hartnett’s astronaut, David. In the middle of the night, a hippie-esque cult (led by Rory Culkin) invades his childhood home and brutally murders David’s free-spirited wife (Auden Thornton) and children in front of his (replicas) eyes, before destroying his replica. The scene – which mirrors the infamous Charles Manson-led murder of Sharon Tate, which took place in 1969, and the subsequent Manson Family murders – is prompted by their view that David’s “machine man” defies nature and is an abomination.

The unimaginable tragedy leads to complications. David’s replica was one of a kind, so he’s stuck in space for another four years with no connection to Earth. When Mara’s sympathetic and lonely character Lana, the wife of Paul’s distant astronaut Cliff, suggests that David borrow her husband’s link, his visits unleash a complex love triangle. David, in Cliff’s replica, pursues Lana, and when finally rebuffed, makes the vengeful decision to steal Cliff’s replica, visit Earth, and brutally murder Lana and her son; Giving Cliff the same horribly tragic hand he received.

Brooker, the creator and writer of Netflix’s Emmy award-winning sci-fi anthology series, has long maintained that he is pro-technology, recently reiterating that Black mirror episodes are “worst case scenarios” showing how flawed humans can make terrible decisions in the midst of emerging science. “Beyond the Sea” represents that, as David’s flawed choice leads to a bleak and tragic ending.

Below, Hartnett and Mara talk to The Hollywood Reporter on Brooker’s inspiration for the pandemic-era story, the specific reasons why “Beyond the Sea” was set in an alternate 1969, and the most terrible day of filming: “When you’re completely taken away from (love and connection), it’s going to atrophy your soul.” ”

Josh Hartnett and Aaron Paul (here, in the space travel capsule) with Beyond the Sea director John Crowley.

Thanks to NETFLIX

It’s been a four-year wait for season six; Charlie Brooker said the world felt a little too dystopian to do more Black mirrors and now he’s back with episodes that are somewhat a Black mirror is. What insight did you gain about what inspired him to write “Beyond the Sea”?

Josh Hartnett: When I talked to Charlie about it, and John (Crowley, director) about why Charlie wrote it, it was that he wrote it during the lockdown in response to the lockdown. He felt isolated and – he probably won’t say this – but I think he felt a little bit of FOMO (smiling) looking at the lives of other people in the world. And he thought maybe you’re comparing your own situation to someone else’s; everyone seems to have their hens on a roost and why is it always sunny in that part of England and not my part of England? That’s something people get into when they’re isolated on their social media, and I think that was a response to that feeling of separation on social media, but being with it in a way. And of course also insulation.

What really touched me, and I think he had said something about this, was the idea that love and connection are a resource where if you are completely taken away from it, it will atrophy your soul. He didn’t exactly say that, I’m a bit rambling. But I think that’s what happens to David; he is trapped on that ship and there is no chance and no hope for his future. And the only hope he has in the end is a very exciting relationship that he doesn’t know how to handle. And then it goes very, very wrong.

Charlie also said that this season has some of the gloomiest episodes to date. This one sure is. It is set in an alternate time period, but speaks to universal themes of marriage, ego, and technology. Kate, what do you think are the ultimate sins that led to tragedy for these characters?

kate mara: Well, I don’t think any sin should lead to what some of them, or anyone really, had to experience. It’s so awful. But I think the episode is really, really relevant and universal. It doesn’t matter when it takes place. I think it was just as relevant in the ’60s as it is today; the theme of connection. Human connection and how important it is for all of us to survive and love. Not just in a romantic relationship, but to feel loved and experience love. That’s what I found so fascinating about it; and then to see how these two men experience isolation and also how my character, Lana, experiences isolation in her own home. All those things that I think can be very recognizable.

Hartnett: The sins that lead to their terrible outcome. … I think that’s partly why Charlie put it in 1969. Their sin is essentially hope and optimism. Those are the things that are being destroyed by this Manson-esque murder.

Because at that time the space program was, in a sense, the great hope of the American people and the hope of humanity. It was state of the art technology at the time; people going to space meant something, like we were all going to colonize the moon or settle somewhere Jetsons future. And I think that’s why he wanted to set it, because it was right before the Manson murders. I spoke to Kate earlier that her character reminded me of Joan Didion because she had said or written at the time: The ’60s ended all optimism, all hope. All experiments ended with the Manson murders. That was it. That was the end. And I think that great experiment ended so long ago that Charlie wanted to go back to that time and re-invent why, and then, of course, have this helmet of insulation put in place.

I was grateful that the actual murders were not shown. Josh, what was it like filming the Manson-esque murder scene?

Hartnett: It was a really awful day, I must say. I think that was the worst, honestly. We didn’t have much time to shoot this so it was at the end of a very long shooting night in Valencia. We were only there for three movie nights. You have to imagine this (murder), and then John kept asking for another shot and at the end he wanted to do this spinning shot, zooming in on my face. I have kids and you just have to go somewhere you don’t want to go. I was so exhausted at the end of it. It was not fun. But that’s part of the job. But there was nothing to see, and that’s the good part; there was nothing for me to see. It was all in my head. I don’t think John shows much violence in this. I think the most violent thing that happens is when Aaron slaps me in the face rather weakly. That’s about it.

Kate, Charlie has done complicated love stories about consciousness. This one had two layers, where your man was not only another person, but also a machine. What did you think of the love triangle in this story and loving a person who isn’t defined by what they are on the outside?

Mary: I thought the aspect of love in this was so intriguing and complicated. I thought, “Aaron has a really tough job portraying both men, but he’s really a guy who feels very different things.” But for me, when we played all our scenes – because all my scenes are with him – it was easy to know what character he was playing because there’s so much more to Lana. And the other is not at all. He’s gone, in so many ways. So it was interesting and interesting themes to explore.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

Black mirror season six is ​​now streaming on Netflix.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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