After making three “To All the Boys” movies back-to-back, actress Lana Condor wasn’t exactly anti-romantic comedy but was certainly looking for something different. Enter “Moonshot,” an original film that blends the sci-fi and rom-com genres to delightful effect.
“I had honestly just never seen anything like [it] cross my desk,” Condor told TheWrap in a recent interview about her new film. “A sci-fi-like rom-com isn’t even really a genre because it’s not really done. And I was just so curious about that genre because I love to try new things.”
Condor’s character Sophie is finishing up school on earth, writing her thesis and dreaming of the day she gets to reunite with her longtime boyfriend Calvin Riggins (Mason Gooding), whose family now resides on Mars. Sophie meets Walt (Cole Sprouse) at a party that her friends convince her to throw one night, but Walt doesn’t make the best first impression.
“I wanted to make sure that what I did was not like a carbon copy of ‘To All the Boys.’ I wanted it to be its own story. In terms of character, Sophie’s much more rigid and sterile and pragmatic, I think, than Lara Jean is. And so that was really fun for me to play.”
Unlike Walt, who flies by the seat of his pants without always thinking things through, Sophie has a solid head on her shoulders, a knack for fixing technology and a want to improve Earth’s declining state through algae waste reduction. Once these two opposite characters meet, a variation on the trope of enemies-to-lovers forms.
“I love the rom-com space,” Condor said. “I love films that are uplifting and sweet and don’t really take themselves too seriously. I think there’s like a time and place for everything, but I love when you can finish watching a movie or TV show and you [can leave] it on a good note. That’s very important to me.”
After their random meet cute, Sophie shows up in the coffeeship where Walt works (he applied to the Mars launch program 37 times but got rejected each time), but she’s more distraught this time because she’s just learned that her boyfriend got a job on Mars, making what she thought would be one year of long distance now indefinite. Walt, whose ultimate dream is to make it into space so that he can explore, convinces Sophie to buy a ticket — which costs $1 million — for the upcoming launch from Earth to Mars. Ultimately it’s not just Calvin that brings Sophie to buy the ticket, but the fact that Calvin’s family is basically her family.
“My biggest note for the script that I wanted to really make sure was known was that I did not want this movie to be a girl following a boy,” Condor said. “I just really didn’t want that. I just felt like that isn’t the narrative that I really wanted to create.”
Sophie’s relationship with Calvin’s parents brings nuance to the blooming love triangle she finds herself in with Calvin and, unexpectedly, Walt.
“We added in the aspects of how her relationship with Calvin’s mom is, arguably, just as important as her relationship with Calvin, so she’s going for the family,” Condor said. “She’s going because her adopted family is there, and I think that that really changed the narrative for me, at least because now it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, she’s literally just crossing the universe for a boy and then she gets back and basically does the same thing.’ I just didn’t want that narrative.”
The sci-fi aspects of the story necessitated more visual effects work than Condor had dealt with before (aside from her role as Jubilee in “X-Men: Apocalypse”), but that was part of the draw of the project.
“It’s a lot of green screen work, which is something that I’ve done a little bit of, but not to that full extent,” Condor said. “And I really wanted to learn how to work in that space and I really wanted that tool like as an actor, that I could have to move forward in my career.”
Condor shared that the most challenging part of filming “Moonshot” was actually a performance hurdle.
“I think the obvious answer would be like any sort of wire work or like anti-gravity work, but to be completely honest it wasn’t challenging as much as it was just learning something new,” she said. “There’s a lot of very fast-paced, heavy dialogue, walk-and-talks down the hallways of our spaceship and it’s not a real spaceship, it’s a set. The set was built beautifully and very well done, but it’s a limited amount of space. So there was a lot of very fast banter to fit into a short hallway. Technically, that was, I think, the most challenging to shoot because you really had to count and time out every step that you took, and speak very, very fast, and the dialogue is smart dialogue.”
A cornerstone for Sophie’s character is the fact that her parents died when she was young, and Condor revealed that for a scene in which she reveals her trauma to another character, she initially played it much more intensely.
“[Because] that happened to her when she was so young, that’s a huge part of what makes up Sophie,” Condor said. “Calvin’s family took her in because of it. So it’s, it’s a major, major aspect of who she is. And so there’s many different ways to play it. My instinct was — I wanted to play it a little I wanted to play it heavier than we ended up on. And I remember in rehearsals, I was like, ‘Well, this is a big deal like her parents died’ and that’s why it gives her so much motivation to cross the universe for her chosen family because she doesn’t have a family on Earth and this is a big deal.”
“The filmmakers countered with, ‘she lost her family when she was very, very young, and sometimes you meet people who have lost a loved one a long time ago, and it hurts them and it’s very sad, but because of how long it’s been, they’re able to kind of deliver that loss in almost a straightforward way,” Condor continued. “Like ‘it sucks. It absolutely hurts and it’s devastating, but I’ve lived with this for so long, and I’ve become accustomed to this loss.’ And so there’s a different delivery which is a little bit more matter of fact, and that is what the filmmakers wanted for Sophie.”
When she finally saw the film, Condor was surprised to find she agreed with the more subdued take. “I actually was quite happy with the way that it turned out. I’m surprised by how much I agreed with the filmmakers’ choice in the final picture.”
Viewers may be able to predict the ending of “Moonshot” once they reach a certain point in the plot, but because multiple versions were shot, Condor and Sprouse weren’t sure what the ending would be until they saw the film.
“That was not always our ending,” Condor revealed. “We did shoot a couple different versions of the ending. I’m very happy with the way that it ended and what was chosen. But honestly, like when we wrapped, Cole and I had no clue how it was gonna end. We were like, ‘Well, we don’t know which choice production is going to pick.’ And it would have gone, I think, three very different ways, but I’m super happy with what they picked.”
“Moonshot” is now streaming on HBO Max.