Gravity blasted into Venice this morning winning huzzahs from the press and upping buzz on the Lido ahead of tonight’s official opening. Helmer Alfonso Cuaron, stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, co-writer Jonas Cuaron and producer David Heyman took the dais for a press conference this afternoon to discuss the challenges of filming a movie set in a weightless environment. There was also talk about Syria, satellites — and even a Ben Affleck as Batman reference.

Related: Venice Film Festival: ‘Gravity’ Exerts Strong Pull At First Screening

Alfonso Cuaron said the idea for Gravity was borne from a script his son Jonas had written about two characters stuck in a hostile environment and their journey though adversity. Cuaron said that at the time, adversity was “very present in our lives” so they used it as a point of departure. The satellite debris that destroys Bullock and Clooney’s space shuttle became “a metaphor for adversity.” Bullock’s character, Dr Ryan Stone, has also experienced a tragedy back on Earth that has turned her into “a machine that was a factory for her brain.” A thrust of the narrative is her evolving from someone with no reason to live, to someone who wants to live.

Much of the film is Bullock on her own and the actress said she spent most of her time in a 9’x9’ lightbox or “hanging from 20 foot ceilings.” She called the film, “Physically and mentally, the craziest, most bizarre, challenging thing” she’s ever done. “But you find what you’re made of because if you don’t do it, you’ve destroyed a beautiful story.” Setting the film in a zero-g environment created a big challenge – or as Cuaron termed it, a “mindf***” – because the actors had to learn a whole new set of physics. There were scientific advisers to help. “The actors had to get used to how things act and react in zero-g with no resistance.” The animators also had to learn new rules. “It was the worst case scenario of animation and the worst case scenario for live action film,” Cuaron said.

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