x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

The Social Network producer's new film goes lunar

As the producer Scott Rudin announces that his next film will have a lunar theme, we take a look at the history of moon-related movies.

Scott Rudin, the legendary producer whose latest film The Social Network is currently riding high in the Oscar prediction lists, has announced the star of his next project - the moon (well, moon rocks, to be exact).

The new film is to be based on a soon-to-be-published novel by Ben Mezrich. Based on a series of true events, Sex on the Moon looks at the former Nasa intern, Thad Roberts, and his failed attempt to sell $21 million (Dh77m) worth of rare moon rocks, with the help of three friends, in the summer of 2002. A 600lb safe containing rocks collected from every Apollo mission (the first of which was in 1969) was successfully stolen from Nasa's Johnson Space Center lab in Houston, where the rocks were kept locked up to prevent contamination. Roberts was eventually caught after trying to sell the precious rocks through the website of a mineralogy club in Antwerp, Belgium. Roberts was sentenced to eight years for his part in the theft with three other conspirators also convicted. In a stroke of luck - if not for the criminals, then for Rudin and his scriptwriter at least - the rocks were recovered on July 20, the 33rd anniversary of the first landing on the moon.

Presumably Rudin will be hoping that this next movie collaboration produces as fruitful a result as the last - Mezrich also wrote the 2009 novel The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, which was used as a basis for the plot of The Social Network.

But there's another auspicious precedent for the project. While this one might be earth-bound, moon-related films have an illustrious history. The black and white French film Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon) is considered to be one of the first sci-fi movies made, and inspired the award-winning video for The Smashing Pumpkins' 1996 hit single, Tonight, Tonight. The 14-minute silent feature, which was made in 1902 by the acclaimed French filmmaker, Georges Méliès, was supposedly based loosely on novels by the noted sci-fi authors Jules Verne and HG Wells.

Fast forward to 1968, and the moon made an appearance in another film that was a hit with cinema audiences and, eventually, critics. It may not have been nominated for that many Oscars (and was snubbed in the Best Picture category) but Stanley Kubrick's seminal sci-fi 2001: A Space Odyssey is regularly named as one of the best movies ever made. Epic in length, at more than two hours, the movie initially received mixed reviews from critics.

As with most things that were created ahead of their time, A Space Odyssey has since gone on to become one of the most revered movies in film history, and is said to have had a lasting influence on the likes of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, among others.

Of course, both of these films were made before man had actually walked on the moon. Later films told the story of the space race, including Apollo 13, which starred Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton, and was one of the most successful films of 1995. Based on the true story of Nasa's failed attempt to land one of its spacecraft on the moon in 1970, the film made more than $350 million at the box-office, and was nominated for nine Academy Awards.

Most recently Moon, the 2009 film directed by Duncan Jones - David Bowie's filmmaker son - and starring Sam Rockwell, won the Bafta for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer at last year's ceremony. It told the story of an astronaut trying to keep a grip on reality during a three-year solo moon mission

In any case, we think the tale of robbery at the hands of several Nasa interns will be safe in the hands of Rudin and his team. So long as they shoot for the moon, the worst they can do is land among the stars.