The Russian film crew that travelled to the International Space Station to film scenes for the first movie shot partially in space returned to Earth safely on Sunday. The milestone will potentially give Russian film industry a small win over Hollywood, which also aims to shoot a movie on the ISS featuring Tom Cruise in the future.
On Saturday, actress Yulia Peresild, director Klim Shipenko, and Oleg Novitsky — a real-life cosmonaut who’s been on the ISS since April and also played a part in the movie — headed back to Earth on a Russian Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft. They landed with no incidents in the Kazakhstan desert at 10:35 a.m. local time after a roughly three-hour trip.
In total, Peresild and Shipenko spent 12 days in space filming scenes for their movie The Challenge, in which Peresild portrays an operating surgeon who prepares for a flight to the ISS to save an ailing cosmonaut’s (reportedly played by Novitsky) life.
“The descent vehicle of the crewed spacecraft Soyuz MS-18 is standing upright and is secure. The crew are feeling good!” the Russian space agency Roscosmos, which is part of the joint film project, said on Twitter, according to a translation by AFP.
In fact, the crew sort of had to feel good, because they weren’t done filming. The film crew on Earth got right to work while Russian officials helped Peresild, Shipenko, and Novitsky out of the MS-18 capsule. The New York Times reported that a producer could be seen shouting instructions on the livestream of the landing provided by Roscosmos and NASA.
“Guys, please, let us do some shooting,” the producer said. “Please, do not do any filming on your smartphones. Do not take any videos, because right now, this is actually the future end of the movie.”
That end apparently featured at least four takes of a scene in which an actor greets Novitsky and then proceeds to approach Peresild to kiss her hand. In one of these takes, Peresild looked over to Novitsky and winked with a smile, the Times stated. The crew will now take part in a 10-day rehabilitation program to help them recover from the effects of living in space.
Although The Challenge is a drama movie, it’s unlikely that the film crew expected to experience real drama while aboard the ISS. On Friday, the ISS was tilted out of its position during a test of the MS-18’s engines, which fired longer than expected. Thankfully, Russian and NASA officials managed to correct the ISS’s positioning in 30 minutes.
The scenes may be shot, but battle for the first movie filmed in space isn’t over yet. Although Russia is ahead of Hollywood in the race, it still needs to actually finish the film.