Darren Aronofsky & Ari Handel: How ‘One Strange Rock’ Can Educate Scientists & Children | THR

Darren Aronofsky & Ari Handel: How ‘One Strange Rock’ Can Educate Scientists & Children | THR

August 30, 2019 3 By Ronny Jaskolski


(drum music) – Hi, this is Marya Gullo
from the Hollywood Reporter, and we’re in studio today with Ari Handel and Darren Aronofsky. Thank you very much for
being here, gentlemen. – Thank you for having us. – You guys are the executive producers of One Strange Rock on Nat Geo. So the first question
I wanted to ask you is who is the first astronaut you ever encountered in your life? Who’s the first one you saw? – Actually the first one was probably… – [Darren] Paolo, for me. – No, Buzz. – Oh why, did you meet Buzz? – Yeah, at some event
somewhere, he got (mumbling). – Oh! – Oh, that’s pretty cool. – But the first one I met, it was Jeff Hoffman I met for this. And, but really, we
got to meet eight here. So it was like a full on
blast of astronaut power. (Marya laughs) – I met Paolo, who shot
original footage for us on the Space Station. I didn’t actually meet him, but I got to talk to him on the phone, and then do some email
conversations with him, but it was exciting because we got to shoot original footage for
the show on the Space Station. In the kinda visual language that the rest of the show was shot in. I’d say the coolest, well I
mean, they’re all amazing, but hanging out with Peggy, who has been in space for 665 days, and I like to call her
the real life Ripley, as in from the Alien movies, because she’s the person you want to defend us from aliens invading. Getting to hang out
with her has been great. – Wonderful, what is it that all of these astronauts have in common? Are there any common misconceptions that this show kinda
clears up about astronauts? – I think one thing
that I was surprised is, how they’re not jet pilots. – Yes. – And they’re not The Right Stuff version, but they really are a whole varied group of people with varied backgrounds. Biologists, doctors,
engineers, and yes, jet pilots. – [Darren] NFL players. – NFL players, right. So and then despite that breadth of experience and background, then there’s this commonality
that they all share from this experience of going into space, and what it does to them. The way, their different
relationship to the planet, their different relationship
to life support, different relationship
to time on the planet. The sunrises and the sunsets, they see 16 of those and we see one. All those things are different, and it lets them see the
whole intricacies of the earth in a special way, in new
way that changes them. – It doesn’t matter if
they’ve been in space for eight days like Mae,
or 665 days like Peggy. They all kinda have this transformation. And we talk about it on the show, it’s called cosmic consciousness,
or the Overview Effect, and it’s basically seeing
the earth as one system. Something we all kind
of understand and get, but it’s very easy to forget in our daily lives of carpooling
and taking kids all over, and doing whatever other stuff we need to do around the home. Remembering that this is one house, that we all share Mother Nature, is something they get
to witness firsthand. And I think the show One
Strange Rock tries to capture that feeling and
remind us all what’s going on. – Mm hm, and one of the
ways it captures the feeling is with the amazing footage. Can you tell me a little bit about where all of the different
footage came from? – We shot for 100 weeks. 145 countries, six continents, the hottest place on the planet, the coldest place on the planet, up on the Space Station. So we had six different crews
going on at once at all times. So a tremendous smorgasbord of incredible places on the planet. And that was kind of the initial pitch, were all of these cool things that are going on that
you’ve never seen before. So it’s very much like
looking through an episode, or an issue of National
Geographic the magazine, how you can see snapshots of
different places in the world. And different scales, sometimes it’s people,
sometimes it’s animals, sometimes it’s chemistry and microbiology. And we tried to give
that spirit to the show, but somehow unify it and connect it all, to remind us all that it’s one big system. – And what did you learn
through the process of the show that kind of shocked you or amazed you? – Every episode, there’s something
that’s just mind blowing. That there’s been this exact
amount of oxygen on the planet, 20.85% or some small fraction, but that it’s maintained this, for some reason that we
actually don’t know the reason. To all that was living on earth for 3 1/2 billion years was bacteria. To the first episode has this
whole thing about diatoms, which are these little
creatures that basically are responsible for most of
the oxygen that we breathe. What were some other things? – Well there’s endless, I mean to me, one of the big things is how connected, or how responsible living creatures are for everything that we take for
granted as being the planet. The color of the sky, the dirt, the ground, the way the rivers flow. That all comes from life. And contrapuntally, that everything in us, the living creatures, are
affected by this planet in ways that we don’t understand. So seeing how interconnected
everything is, it was pretty eye-opening. And as Darren said, every
episode has something. And I know a lot of
scientists who watch the show and say that they learn things, and I also know a lot of
kids who watch the show and are able to take
it in at the same time. So it’s nice to be able to
reach that across those divides. – At one point, they took
jellyfish into space, and the jellyfish that
were born into space, when they came back to earth, were no longer like the
jellyfish in the sea because they didn’t know
which way was up or down. So it made, it poses the question what is it gonna mean for
humans when we’re born in space? Will we still be earthlings? – Right, and there’s so many
interesting speculations about that on the show about
what it’s going to be like for the first generation of people
who are born off the earth. – That’s right. Trying to underline a little
bit, or ask the questions of how separable are we from the earth, and how reliant is the
earth on our behaviors for its ability to keep going
in the way that we’re used to? – Are there any theories
about space that you still can’t wrap your head
around or can’t understand? – [Both Men] Probably most of them. (laughing) – Like 98% of everything is dark matter but we don’t know what
it is, that’s a good one. – We also did, we had a VR
project this year called Spheres, where we try to take the audience to far off places in the universe. You know, being in the center
of two black holes colliding. Way over my head, but
really cool experience. (Marya laughing) You know, it looked pretty. – One of the things that all
the astronauts said on the show is that if given the opportunity, they would go back to space. Would you want to go to space? – Absolutely. – Absolutely, wouldn’t you? – I was gonna ask, have you been to space? – Depends on how you define space. – Yeah, exactly. (laughing) – Yes, I would too, yes, absolutely. – I think most people would. I think there’s something really
magical about that notion. I think people do want, want to break their mindset, and see things from a
different perspective. And hopefully the show
lets people do that, in a certain way even without leaving. – How did Will Smith become
involved in the project? – We knew that there was a lot of science, and we wanted to figure out
a communicator who could really sort of connect with
some of the intense stuff, and make it really exciting, and Will just seemed perfect for it because he was able to take
all of this information and really communicate it to pretty much everyone in an exciting way. And then beyond that, we were blessed, because we only had a small amount of time because of schedules to work with him. But he’s just a complete
gentleman, and totally game, and definitely one of, just an incredible actor to work with. – Last question to you. – Yes. – If people are moved by this program, and they’re moved into
the idea of conservation or protecting the environment
because of watching this show, where do they start? Where is a good place to start? – You mean in their
behaviors and in their life? – In behaviors, in their life, how, how they can help.
– The first thing they do is to vote for people
who believe in science. That’s the most important
thing you can do. And to tell everyone you do. Science has become political, but it’s not political. Science is a way of observing the world, and then turning those observations into conclusions of how things work, and then you can invent things like cell phones and healthcare, and all of these other things that have just changed
our lives for the better, since the scientific method was discovered and has been used. So, yeah, there are people for many different reasons now
sort of cherry picking science. And we saw, you know,
Galileo they stuck in prison for a long time for
looking up at the stars. Now people are sort of voting and making choices not based on science. So I think that’s the first
thing is just to make sure whoever you’re voting,
whoever represents you, believes in science. – You know NASA doesn’t just send spaceships out to Mars
and to Venus and take pictures. One of the big things that
they’ve always done is they put satellites around this planet, and they study the planet
closest to us, which is this one, to understand how it works. And that part of it, NASA, the one that monitors
and looks at this planet, the one that gives us all the information that’s in this show,
that part has been cut. Because people… – They don’t want that information– – They don’t want to know
because it’s going to say things that aren’t gonna let them buy and sell some of the things they
wanna buy and sell. So, allowing science to inform us and to be the vehicle for appreciating
beauty and understanding, that’s a key component. And then just try to live with respect and awareness of the complexity
and the beauty around you, would also very be a good thing to do. – Yeah, but that’s the small contribution, but governments are
what’s going to save us. And being part of the Paris Agreement was a huge step forward, and now that we’re the
only country on the planet that is not part of the agreement just tells you something that’s going on. Why has every other country
agreed with it except for us? – Mm hmm, yeah. Well, thank you for an informative and really visually stunning
and kind of mind changing, a game changer of a show. – Thank you. – Thank you very much, nice to meet you. – Nice to meet you too. – Pleasure. – Thank you.