Passengers Screenwriter on Space Science & Interstellar Love Stories


Screenwriter Jon Spaihts reveals that, after brushing up on his space-travel science for “Passengers,” he might be ready for a return trip to the mystical side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for a second “Doctor Strange” movie.

RELATED: REVIEW: Passengers Soils Its Escapism With Repulsive Reveal

At the premiere of “Passengers,” the big-budget sci-fi romance starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence that Spaihts penned, the screenwriter revealed to CBR that he has “several” sequel storylines in mind for a second film featuring the Master of Mystic Arts in the form of Benedict Cumberbatch, and there’s some longtime favorite character who might make their big screen debuts.

CBR: Tell me the genesis of “Passengers” for you. Where did it start with you?

Jon Spaihts: I was looking for optimistic sci-fi. I wanted to create an antidote to the overdose of dystopia that I think Hollywood has given us in science fiction. So I was looking for a future that had problems but also had promise and wonder, and offered aspiration and dreams coming true as real possibilities.

Tell me about the research side of it and getting your science and technology right, and the amount of technological steps ahead of where we are right now.

I dug deep. Even though the sci-fi in this movie is more in the background and the foreground is a human story and a story about characters interacting. But it was very important to me that I know how the starship worked.

So I studied fusion reactors. I studied Bussard ramjets and other devices for harvesting propellant as you fly through space, ion drives that make the ship go, the rotary speed that a big spinning ship would need to attain to create one Earth gravity, the whole deal, how quickly you could stop and restart that rotor in the event of an emergency, things like that.

And I think all of that stuff, even if it never becomes the foreground action of the movie, informs the film, and I think the audience can feel the reality of that world if you’ve done your homework.

It’s obviously a human story at the core, so tell me about Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. When they were cast and came aboard, what did that mean to you to see them in the roles that you wrote?

It was really several blessings in a row. First of all, they are among the biggest stars in the world, and when you’re a lowly screenwriter hoping to get your movie made, that means it’s going to happen, which is your greatest dream.

But I also think they’re extraordinary talents. They were perfectly suited to the roles. They understood the characters, they deepened and elevated and made them more than I ever could have made them on the page, and then on top of that, they as people have a genuine and infectious chemistry that just makes the love story play. You’ve got to pull for that love story if this movie is going to work, and I think you do.

Following the success of “Doctor Strange,” do you want to return to that world and tell another story?

Oh, I would return to that in a heartbeat. Doctor Strange was my favorite hero growing up. I read mountains of his comic books and his guest appearances in other stories. He was always my favorite. So yes, I would go back in a heartbeat.

Do you have another story already percolating in the back of your head?

I have several. There are a few big villains that I would love to see him meet, and there are various schools of magic that I’d love to see him explore. So I’ve got a little list, I think, of my greatest hits that I would love to walk into Marvel and talk about.

His disciple Clea is a potentially interesting character to throw in the mix with the doctor and Christine Palmer. Is that a character that you’ve looked at closely?

We did. She’s a tricky character to interpret because her uncle is a kind of fire-headed omnipotent god and she’s kind of a hot babe who studies magic. That’s a tricky relationship to bring out of a comic book and on to a movie screen.

But she’s a really compelling character as a foil, a love interest, a colleague of Doctor Strange’s, and she always carries with her that width of mystery as to whether she is human, and how human, and what that means for his relationship to her. So we might find a way to introduce her to the story.

Does the character of Nightmare appeal to you?

He’s one of the big ones, yes, absolutely! There’s sort of a zombie apocalypse Shuma-Gorath elder god scenario. There’s a kind of unreliable reality Nightmare movie that could be made.

There’s a few great things, and of course Mordo is out there, as embodied by the extraordinary Chiwetel [Ejiofor]. He can come back and bring a world of hurt at any time.

Thor Ragnarok Hulk
Avengers: Endgame Originally Had Hulk Fight Banner in Ragnarok's Arena

More in Movies