Interview: Duncan Jones

We talk to Moon director Duncan Jones.

PHdmWddidVJtgkMoving on to the actual filming process, we thought the scale model work was very good and quite refreshing to see. Did you choose those because of budget restrictions or as a creative choice?

It was a combination of things. Budget had a part to play but, also, at the start of this film we trying to make something that paid homage to the films of the Seventies and Eighties, and there was some fantastic model work done during that period. If you look at Jim Cameron’s Aliens, some of the model work in there is as good as anything coming out today, even with the best CG. If it’s done well it will look great, because it’s real. I had done some work in commercials where we did as much as we could in-camera and then enhanced it with post-production, so that’s kind of the route we took with this. We shot as much as we could with model miniatures, and then we added digital extensions such as mountain ranges in the background, lighting and lens flare. But I think the more you can put on film in the first place, the easier it becomes to make it believable and give it a real sense of reality.

One of the things that fascinated us was what we assume was split-screen work with the two Sams and the table tennis scene in particular. There’s a sense of interactivity between the two that just looks brilliant…

I guess one of things we wanted to do over the course of the film was show off on a technical level as much as we could. And the idea of twinning, which is the name of the effect of having one actor play multiple parts, is something that’s been done for ages but we knew that there were certain things we could do, even on our lower budget, that would be really impressive and hopefully push that effect further than it had been done before. The table tennis scene was one of those, but was actually one of the more simple ones. It used something called dynamic matte, which is where instead of having a stationary split-screen; you have a split that is moving over the course of the shot. But what we did which was technically the most impressive was where you have a two-shot of Sam playing both characters and you can actually see both on-screen at the same time and have one physically touch the other. That’s the shot that nobody has pulled off before, and we did that a couple of times. It’s that shot in particular that sells the illusion and makes the majority of the audience totally accept the fact that these are two different people.

So we’ll have to wait for the DVD/Blu-ray special features?

Well the DVD will illuminate it a bit, but basically what you do is show Sam playing one side with his arm tied behind his back. And then when he plays the other character you have a stand-in come on to play the arm, as a sort of one-armed performance, which then gets stuck onto the body of Sam.

Now that Moon has been successful enough to turn a profit, what kind of opportunities does that give you to make more films?

Well I don’t know if you’ve heard but we’re trying to put a project together called Mute. It’s another science fiction film that takes place in sort of the same timeline as Moon. So you can imagine that this is a completely separate story going on in the same universe. It’s set in a future Berlin and it’s very much a love letter to Blade Runner, which is my favourite science fiction film. And it will certainly have the same gritty, urban feel as Blade Runner, but will be a very different story about a barman who loses his girlfriend and goes up against some very strange characters in a future Berlin.

What kind of stage are you at with that?

The script is finished and has gone out to actors. Stuart Fenegan and I are furiously flying about the world, finding bits of money here and there to try and get the film together and that’s kind of where things are right now. But it’s a difficult time, not just for us, but also for everyone in the film industry trying to make independent films. So we’re trying to work out whether this will be an independent film or whether we’ll have to get in bed with a studio, but we’re in a very good place. Moon has gone down very well and there’s hopefully a lot of faith in us to deliver what we say we will.

Well we think if Moon is anything to go by, you’ve done very well to really take a low budget film and capture the public’s imagination.

I think in the UK in particular, there hasn’t been so much opportunity for home grown British sci-fi to be made. So I think there was an awful lot of good will and I’m very pleased that it looks like we’ve delivered something that people can be proud of as a British independent film. And if we can keep doing that and grow our films each time, that will be a great place to be.

PHkLKkkpJnjOokThere are rumours that Moon will be developed into a trilogy. Is there any truth to that?

No there’s not. In fact, that’s a bit of miscommunication. The next film that we’re going to do, Mute, is in the same universe. And I think when people first heard that they assumed that it would be a sequel. But it’s not a sequel. What will happen, though, is that Sam Rockwell will come back and do a cameo in his role of Sam Bell in Mute. But it will very much be a background piece of action.

And which Sam Bell will it be?

Oh, I can’t tell you that!

You’ve also been attached to an Escape From The Deep project. What can you tell us about that?

Yeah, it’s not science fiction but is an amazing true story about a United States submarine in world war two. The script is being written by the same guy who did the research and wrote the book, Escape From The Deep. And, without giving away too much, it was this true story of a submarine called USS Tang, which was doing a massive amount of damage to the Japanese navy and, on its very last sortie, its very last torpedo misfired and actually went in a big circle and the submarine sunk itself. The story is about the guys on that managed to escape. And it’s one of the most amazing, dramatic stories and an incredible true story.

Is that something you’re hoping to do after Mute or is it a case of wait and see which gets picked up first?

I think it will be wait and see. As it stands right now, I’m still waiting to read the script but I’ve read the book and loved it and I’ve met Alex Kershaw, who wrote the book. He’s a very nice guy, very talented and I’m sure he’ll do a great job. But at this stage, until I’ve read the script… You know, all films are based on the quality of the script, so I wouldn’t want to make any commitment until I knew the script was good.

Finally, we recently learned that you used to work in videogames. Is that true?

Yeah, it is, absolutely. When I was finishing off film school, one of things I was doing in order to pay the rent and earn money to create short films was that I worked at a company called Elixir Studios, which was part of Eidos. I worked on the abysmal Republic that came out of that company, but it was a massive learning experience for me and I met some incredibly talented, cool people and I wouldn’t have swapped it for the world. I mean, I’m a huge computer gamer myself so that was a great experience for me. In fact, I’ve been very much in contact with certain elements of the gaming industry recently, so I’m sure that our paths will cross again.

Can we expect a Moon videogame then?

Ha! I’m not sure about that unless they want to make a little iPhone thing.

This article originally appeared in the print edition of SciFiNow, issue 34. To buy a copy of the magazine or subscribe, go to, or call our subscriptions hotline on +44 (0) 844 844 0245.