The brand new “space race” is heating up – and while you may think its mission is to get to the Moon or even Mars, this race has slightly less lofty but nonetheless exciting goals: to be the first to shoot a commercial movie in space.
Back in May last year, NASA confirmed it would be working with Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise to film a movie on the ISS after the Internet was aflutter with rumors. Cruise, who famously does all his own stunts, was to be the first actor to kick ass in space.
Not to be outdone, Russia piped up that it too was planning to film a movie on the ISS and was on the hunt for its leading lady, someone who could not only act but fulfill the physically challenging requirements necessary for real cosmonauts and astronauts navigating the space station.
Now, it looks like it has found its star and plans are going ahead, with the announcement actor Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko have been chosen to fly to the ISS to start work on the movie with the working title Challenge, said to be a space drama focusing on a female surgeon's mission to the ISS to perform surgery on a cosmonaut too ill to return to Earth, according to Russia's RIA news agency.
The kicker? Roscosmos announced the film crew is scheduled for flight on October 5, this year – the same month Cruise and co. are said to be aiming for.
Though it's not known exactly when Cruise's team – backed by NASA and SpaceX – is scheduled for launch, with Roscosmos getting dibs on the first week of October, it's highly unlikely team Hollywood will beat them to it, meaning Russia has likely won this round.
In November last year, Russia announced its search for "more than just an actress – we need a real superhero", a role that had serious physical requirements including being able to run 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) in 3.5 minutes or less, swim 800 meters (2,625 feet) freestyle in 20 minutes, and dive from a 3-meter (10-foot) springboard with a good technique.
Acting experience wasn't strictly necessary, but Peresild has appeared in both popular Russian TV series and movies, and though she may not be a household name outside of Russia, if Roscosmos beats NASA and SpaceX to the ISS to shoot their movie, she will forever be known as the first actor to shoot a movie in space – and the person who beat Tom Cruise to it.
Shipenko appears to know his way around a space station already. His most well-known movie Salyut-7, a historical space epic about the real-life 1985 Soyuz T-13 mission to dock with and retrieve the uncrewed Soviet Salyut-7 space station after contact was lost, won best feature film at the 2018 Golden Eagle awards in Russia.
This won't be the first movie shot in space though, as footage filmed by Richard Garriot (whom IFLScience spoke to recently) during his time aboard the ISS in 2008 as a private citizen became the 8-minute long Apogee of Fear. However, it will be the first time a full crew including actors, directors, and trained camera people will shoot a movie in space.