'Contact' asks the big questions
July 10, 1997
Web posted at: 6:06 a.m. EDT (1006 GMT)
From Correspondent Michael Okwu
(CNN) -- Explaining the concept behind the upcoming movie "Contact" is as difficult for the movie's makers as it is likely to be for Joe Public. This is no intergalactic shoot out.
"It has a lot of really big questions," says actress Jodie Foster.
"I read the script at my desk at home and it took about eight hours to read it," intones actor Matthew McConaughey.
"I describe it as where science meets faith," adds actress Angela Bassett.
"It would be a movie about what would happen if something like this really happened," offers director Robert Zemeckis.
Well, you're not the only one. "Contact," based on the best-selling novel by the late astronomer Carl Sagan, is not your typical close encounter with little green men action-thriller.
The film centers on Foster's character, Ellie Arroway, an astronomer who's dedicated her life, at the risk of her reputation, to prove the existence of intelligent life in the universe.
When contact becomes possible with a civilization 25 light years away, Arroway is willing to risk her own life to go meet them.
Science vs. religion
"I think it's worth a human life, don't you?" says Foster's character of the chance to answer some of life's big questions.
Foster, the person, is not sure she could be so noble.
"I think Ellie's much braver than I could ever be," Foster says. "She is someone who will die knowingly and happily in order to know what the meaning of the universe is."
McConaughey plays a religious scholar, government advisor and Foster's love interest. The two character's interests clash when Foster's astronomer is considered for the job of interstellar representative.
"I really got fired up with some questions I've been asking for a long time," McConaughey says of the film's plot. "I think we're finding out what the two of us agree on -- her with her science and me with God."
The reported $90 million film's aim is actually two-fold -- to raise questions about the tension between science and religion while tackling the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
"What they really examine (is that) really good science fiction is our own humanity and it resonates back to us," Zemeckis says. "It's not just about speculating about fantastic events."
Still, that didn't keep Foster from asking the now departed Sagan the really big questions.
"(I'd ask) 'Do you have an image of what aliens would be? Come on, something's got to pop into your head,'" Foster says. "He would say 'squid!'"
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