This story about “One Strange Rock” first appeared in the Miniseries/Movies issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
On the surface, a mad and violent fever dream starring Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t have much in common with a 10-part science documentary from National Geographic — but the 2017 movie “mother!” and the NatGeo series “One Strange Rock” both preach the importance of taking care of the Earth, and both are from the imagination of producer and director Darren Aronofsky.
“It’s kind of funny that they came out within a year of each other,” said the New York-based filmmaker, who directed “mother!” and executive produced “One Strange Rock.”
“They’re both dealing with the same thing but from completely opposite ways — one’s a cautionary tale and one’s a celebration of our home. Personally, I like that they came out so close together.”
Aronofsky began working on “One Strange Rock” three years ago, when it was brought to his attention by former Fox Searchlight exec Peter Rice. The idea was an enormous one: In 10 one-hour episodes, showcase our planet in all its complexity.
“It was an incredibly overwhelming project in its scope and ambition, to try to combine all the sciences to create a portrait of our communal home,” Aronofsky said. “Since Buckminster Fuller, there’s been this concept of Spaceship Earth: We’re all on a spaceship together, on this pale blue dot floating in this empty void, and all the systems are connected.”
A key, he said, was to use eight astronauts as the series’ guides to the planet. “There are only about 500 people who’ve been able to leave the atmosphere and look back down on the Earth,” he said, “and all of them that I’ve talked to have the same experience: They stop thinking they’re from Iowa or the United States and start thinking they’re earthlings.”
Narrated by Will Smith, each episode tackles a different aspect of the planet, from the production of oxygen to the development of the human brain. “I feel like doing all the different sciences — astronomy, geology, biology, chemistry, anthropology — is almost like going to the table of contents in an issue of National Geographic, which has four or five stories and each story is so vibrant,” said Aronofsky, who was a huge fan of the magazine growing up in Brooklyn.
“That’s why for all of our subtitles and logos, I asked them to stick with that same yellow that’s in the National Geographic logo. It was a homage to National Geographic because it was such a significant part of my childhood.”
The director said he enjoyed the experience of working on his first nonfiction project, but mostly loved that it gave him another chance to tell stories related to his passion for the environment.
“I feel like science continues to be under attack,” he said. “It’s being politicized, and yet we live and die by science in so many ways. Putting it out there that science is great, science is cool, science is exciting, is really a part of my mission.”
Read more of TheWrap’s Miniseries/Movies Emmy issue here.