This time, the ‘Legion’ star won’t be the most psychologically afflicted member of the bunch.
Each new casting announcement for Noah Hawley’s feature film debut, Pale Blue Dot, is a reminder that an intriguing yet undeniably unnerving movie is headed our way from the mastermind behind FX series Legion and Fargo. According to The Hollywood Reporter, now Hawley is reuniting with his Legion star Dan Stevens for the movie.
The cast of Pale Blue Dot already consists of Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm, and Zazie Beetz. Together, these absurdly talented actors will headline the sci-fi romance that centers on isolated astronauts who find solace in one another when the process of reintegrating themselves back into mundane society proves impossible.
Pale Blue Dot is ultimately about relationships – those built and fractured by circumstances that are difficult to control. Loosely based on an unsettling true crime story of a NASA captain who drove 900 miles to kidnap a romantic rival, the film’s plot will center on Portman’s protagonist, who descends into isolation as she loses a connection to her family.
Stevens will play her husband, an officer in the US Navy who also worked as a contractor at NASA. Portman’s character, based on Lisa Nowak, begins an affair with a fellow astronaut (Hamm), but her situation gets dicier when he starts a new relationship with a trainee (Beetz) and she spirals further downwards.
In the hands of a director less ambitious and unique than Hawley, Pale Blue Dot could easily devolve into a heedlessly melodramatic movie. Yet coming from the man responsible for some of TV’s most delightfully mind-bending offerings in recent memory, Pale Blue Dot is most likely going to take an unexpected turn, or several.
Although the psychological aspects of Pale Blue Dot will undoubtedly be given ample screen time, Hawley’s personal affinity for tragedy may rear its head, too, especially considering the sheer intensity of the story. As Hawley once told The Wrap in a discussion about Legion, he is immediately more drawn to making tragedies than dramas, and that absolutely applies to the love quadrangle in Pale Blue Dot:
“Tragedy is different from drama. Tragedy has elements of the preventable to it, this idea that were a different choice to have been made, or events to have unfolded differently, we wouldn’t be in this mess, but we are. What makes it tragic is it was avoidable.”
Having a fantastic cast full of notable names definitely doesn’t hurt an ensemble piece like Pale Blue Dot, but Hawley’s proclivity for oddness and dark comedy definitely keeps his narratives from feeling stagnant. Add those to the fact that he is a self-proclaimed fan of portraying human suffering and it’s a cocktail for a demanding narrative.
Hawley has proven himself to be a master of manipulating ostensibly simple concepts into much more complex affairs. That’s how Legion turned out to be a refreshingly arty superhero show that doesn’t care to be boxed into genre conventions, and how Fargo is able to break narrative boundaries with its persistent absurdist social commentary. Pale Blue Dot already sounds like the perfect marriage of the eerie realness and fraying psychology that Hawley is well acquainted with.
As far as Legion reunions go — alongside Stevens, Legion writer Brian C. Brown co-penned the script for Pale Blue Dot — the excitement stems from the fact that these people just work so well together. When Stevens was first cast as the mentally elastic David Haller on the show, Hawley couldn’t stop singing his praises. So perhaps the most unexpected thing about Pale Blue Dot may be that Stevens might not portray a particularly afflicted character this time around.
His role as a cheated-on husband sounds a lot less cerebral compared to the psychological tests that await the rest of the characters. He could be more emotionally driven in a traditional sense, which certainly recalls the kinds of roles the actor was most known for in the past (e.g. Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey).
Of course, with a protagonist who suffers from hallucinations, there could still be a few atypical acting challenges for Stevens to discover. Perhaps his character will have his own psychological puzzles to work through when trying to decipher his wife’s newfound distance from him.
But with three strong personalities already in place for the core love triangle, it’s more than likely that Stevens will play a noteworthy but ultimately secondary character navigating through these astronauts’ plights.