Spaceman Director Johan Renck Discusses Working With Adam Sandler

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Following the success of HBO’s miniseries Chernobyl, director Johan Renck has an exciting new film now available on Netflix. Spaceman, which is based on the acclaimed novel Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfař, features a stellar cast led by award-winning performers Adam Sandler and Carey Mulligan as Czech astrophysicist Jakub and his very pregnant wife Lenka, respectively.




Also along for the ride is a lovable alien voiced to perfection by Paul Dano and The Big Bang Theory star Kunal Nayyar as the liaison between the space-bound Jakub and planet Earth. We recently caught up with Renck to learn more about Adam Sandler’s grueling work in the leading role, how the end result blends film genres, and Renck’s upcoming Saddam Hussein drama starring Barry Keoghan.


‘Genre-Bending’ Nature of Spaceman

Spaceman

Spaceman

Release Date
March 1, 2024

Director
Johan Renck

Runtime
1hr 47min

Writers
Jaroslav Kalfar , Colby Day

Studio
Netflix, Free Association, Stillking Films, Tango Entertainment (III)

Read Our Review

Between the outer space look, Sandler’s stuntwork, and the raw, emotionally intense scenes throughout, we were curious which aspect of Spaceman was most challenging for Renck to pull off. He explained:


“It’s an interesting word for me because I want things to be ‘challenging’… If you don’t make it difficult for yourself, otherwise, you’re making content, you know what I mean? So, ‘challenge’ is a word that has only positive ramifications for me. But one of the challenges is, obviously, the genre-bending aspect of it all because it’s not a sci-fi film, per se. It doesn’t follow that vernacular in any sense or form, and it was not intended to… And that was the stuff that I very much enjoyed, kind of putting together the idea of not following the rulebook of what something that may or may not be perceived as science-fiction film is.”

Indeed, “genre-bending” accurately describes a thought-provoking feature like Spaceman. “This is ultimately a story about a disintegrating marriage, and the loneliness and our own kind of trials and tribulations on both ends of that, why these things happen,” said Renck, detailing why it’s more than just sci-fi fanfare.


“No one in this film is necessarily bad or good or anything like that. It’s just a human experience, our own motivations, our own wants and needs, and the fact that we tend to, at times, prioritize those ahead of those that are around us.”

Renck has been vocal in the past about Adam Sandler’s performance, even calling it “phenomenal” in one interview. We were curious about which aspect of the versatile actor’s turn was most impressive to Renck. “He’s hanging in these harnesses, and with your own body weight, hanging an artist — that takes a toll permanently, after 30 days of doing that, you know? The pain is real,” Renck told MovieWeb. He elaborated:


“I do remember, on a couple of occasions, how he would do a very subtle, tender thing. The camera’s right up there. I see every aspect of how that performance is sort of being pulled off by him against tennis balls. But the minute I yell ‘cut,’ I see his face just contort in pain because he allows himself to put down all that. And to act like that, so delicately, so beautiful, and so authentically to a tennis ball when you were in tremendous pain — that is pretty impressive. I got to say, it’s something I don’t think I can even understand how you do because pain is a horrible thing.”

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Upcoming Saddam Hussein Film


Going from Chernobyl to Spaceman, two wildly different projects, we were curious if Renck had his heart set on any particular realm of cinema — or television — for future endeavors. “This is guesswork for me,” he said. “But I do think that I am interested in doing things that I haven’t done before. I remember after Chernobyl, I got inundated by requests on movies about Gorbachev, Russia, all that kind of stuff. And I had zero interest — sort of ‘been there, done that,’ you know? And so, having done this, anything that sort of is close to that has no significance to me. I’ve been there, I’ve sort of gotten that out of my system to some extent.”


Even though Chernobyl and Renck’s next film, a Saddam Hussein-centered feature starring Barry Keoghan, are both in the vain of telling a real-life saga, Renck was quick to note that they probably don’t share any similarities outside of that notion. “The Saddam film is very different because it’s almost like a version of prison drama,” he told us, elaborating:

“It’s a film about Saddam Hussein’s last six months in prison, and a relationship develops with the 12 young American soldiers who are guarding him. So it’s like a reverse Stockholm Syndrome thing, right next to the horrors of the Iraq invasion and all the issues pertaining to that. So you have a backdrop for all of it based on that. It’s very different to anything else I’ve done. So I think, for me, the path you go through is being honest to yourself, what interests you and why it interests you.”

Spaceman is now streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.


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