Was Felicity Jones pregnant during ‘The Midnight Sky’ shoot? Here's how George Clooney reacted when she told him
Felicity Jones dropped a major bomb mid-way through the shoot and George Clooney was in for a rude shock when she rang him
A spectacular saga adapted from Lily Brooks-Dalton’s 2016 novel ‘Good Morning, Midnight’, George Clooney's ‘The Midnight Sky’ elucidates a mysterious global catastrophe after which Arctic-stationed scientist Augustine Lofthouse (George Clooney) attempts to warn a deep-space astronaut Sully (Felicity Jones) and her crew of the dangers of returning home.
One of the first choices for the role of Sully, the production wanted Felicity Jones from the start. Clooney, Jones and the rest of the crew shed light on an interesting aspect as the cast slips out secrets in an interview from the press junket. “Felicity was wonderful in ‘The Theory of Everything’ and all the things she’s done,” Clooney exclaimed. “There’s something gentle about her, but you believe she’s incredibly capable of playing someone who is running comms on a two-year space adventure. Her league is much higher than that. She can handle it.”
The 37-year-old actress came on board and seemed like just the perfect fit. “I was very touched by ‘The Midnight Sky’ when I read it,” Jones said. “I found it very moving and was equally moved by the book. The story got inside me and I couldn’t stop thinking about Sully and her friends on the spaceship. That they were floating in nothingness, trying to find meaning and connection appealed to me creatively at that moment. I wanted to go deeper into Sully, understand who she was.”
How did George Clooney find out she was pregnant?
Jones dropped a major bomb mid-way through the shoot and Clooney was in for a rude shock when she rang him. “So while we’re shooting in Iceland, Felicity calls me up and says, ‘I’ve got a little surprise for you,’” Clooney recalled, relishing the story. “And we’re like: Okay, great. Great.” Jones was three months pregnant.
Married to 43-year-old director Charles Guard since 2018 after dating him for three years, the news first came out when Jones stepped out in a long black velvet gown with white bows for the premiere of her new movie ‘The Aeronauts’, starring Eddie Redmayne. Their son was born in April 2020.
What was Clooney's reaction? “There was nothing to say to that except it’s exciting, it’s great news, and we’re really thrilled for her,” he added, sincerely. “But it’s a challenge for us.” Meanwhile, Jones remembered, “When I found out I was pregnant it added to my connection to Sully, somehow the idea of a new life within me gave playing Sully more urgency. It made being part of a story exploring the end of the world more profound."
"Speaking to George, he was open to finding ways of making it work, he felt like he still wanted me in the role and that he could figure out ways of adapting the physical work to ensure my safety, and we would CGI the bump.” The story was then altered to suit the pregnancy. A softer, romantic side of Sully will also be seen in the movie as she is shown to be in a relationship with Commander Adewole (played by David Oyelowo) and pregnant with their baby girl.
How was the story altered?
After considering extensive body double work with digital face-replacement technology, as well as careful costuming, tummy-strapping and camera framing, a deeper rethink was needed. “So I knocked on Grant’s [Heslov] door,” Clooney said, “and I sat down and realized: I think the character is pregnant, you know? They’d been on a two-year trip in space. Things happen. It’s been known to happen before. I think if we acknowledge it from the very beginning, we can make it part of the story. It would make it more poignant in many ways if we accept it.”
“And I was like, ‘That’s a really good idea,’” Heslov recalled, still impressed. “It just changed everything. Everybody took a sigh of relief. Making the change had all these great unintended consequences which deepened the story. It adds a layer that wasn’t there originally. Kismet really paid off for us.”
“I started out doing improv,” Clooney explained. “And one of the rules in improv is: You never say ‘no’ in a scene. You never deny it. Because it stops the improvisation. And so the secret to this was saying, ‘Okay, if she’s pregnant, then what are we doing?’ How are we going to make it part of the story and make it actually effective? We worked very hard at that. By the end, I think it worked spectacularly.”
Did it change ‘The Midnight Sky’ core?
“It opened up some things that we hadn’t even considered, relationship-wise,” screenwriter Smith said. “In the novel, Sully was much more of a loner, a little colder. So Felicity’s pregnancy gave us the opportunity to expand and dig in and have a different dynamic, which the actors really pulled off. It turned out to be a plus.”
“George and his producer Grant came to me and said actually I think we should make Sully pregnant in the story — he felt it could really add to the narrative of the film. Jones agreed, “We felt like it could really bring something to Sully’s character and her comrades on the ship.” Sully’s pregnancy creates a poetic counterpoint to a bleak story about a dying Earth. There needs to be a way forward for a future that is already in the process of being born.
For Jones, “Beyond the moment they found themselves in, there was something they all had to fight for — this new life. It didn’t feel like a huge change to how I was playing Sully but just gave more poignancy to what she was doing and somehow, more focus. Also a greater connection with her and Adewole, which were some of my favorite moments to play.”
Was shooting safe for Felicity Jones?
For stunt coordinator Paul Herbert, this meant finding a solution that prioritized Jones’ comfort and security. Apart from many moments of zero-gravity weightlessness inside the Aether, Sully goes on an extended spacewalk during one of ‘The Midnight Sky’ action scenes.
“When we heard Felicity would do as much of the spacewalk as she could, the first thing that came back to us was that we weren’t allowed to lift her on wires,” Herbert recalled. “So we developed a polearm with a seat on it that would give her support so we could still lift her and float her around on the set.” Talking about her experience, Jones said, “It’s definitely been an experience dealing with space suits and pretending you’re in zero gravity. Very early on in the shoot, there’s a climb up this ladder into one of the higher levels of the spaceship, and that was carefully plotted with the stunt team — and great fun to do.”
Sully’s pregnancy also yielded a deeper dimension to other characters, especially during an intimate moment with Tiffany Boone’s Maya, during an ultrasound checkup. “When Tiffany is holding hands with Felicity and listening to the heartbeat—that’s stuff you can’t really direct or write or fix,” Clooney gushed. “It just requires a really wonderful actress to listen.”
Interesting, isn't it? Excited to watch the film? Did you know George Clooney was hospitalized after suffering from pancreatitis during the filming? Reportedly, he lost 30 pounds “too fast” for his role? The 59-year-old actor, who also directed the new Netflix movie, revealed that he “wasn’t taking care” of himself as he dropped the weight.
‘The Midnight Sky’ releases globally on Netflix on December 23, 2020. Catch the 125-minute movie once it drops at exactly 3.01 am EST.