Russia’s biggest TV channel has launched a competition to find a woman to star in what it hopes will be the first feature film shot in space.
Partnering with Russian space agency Roscosmos, Channel One aims to find a leading lady for the movie – provisionally titled “Challenge” – which will begin filming at the International Space Station (ISS) in October 2021.
And in a space race for the 21st century, the project is vying to pip movie star Tom Cruise to the post after he announced he would be teaming up with NASA and Elon Musk‘s SpaceX to film the first narrative feature outside the Earth’s atmosphere at around the same time.
The casting announcement for the role says a “a real superhero” is required for the part, someone who wants to “go to the stars… at the same time as becoming a big international star”.
While the successful applicant does not have to be a professional actress, she does have to be aged between 25 and 40, stand between 150 and 180cm tall, weigh between 50 and 70kg and have a “chest girth” of up to 112cm.
She is also required to have a clean criminal record.
Additionally, she must be pretty fit, and able to run 1km in three and a half minutes or less, swim 800m freestyle in 20 minutes and dive from a three-metre springboard with an impressive technique.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, only Russian citizens will be considered.
As part of the initial screening, each applicant must also send a screen test in which they read Russian poet Alexander Pushkin’s famous letter from Tatyana to Eugene Onegin in his 1833 novel.
A shortlist of 30 candidates will be drawn up following face-to-face casting, and then narrowed down to two with a series of physical, medical and psychological tests.
Two women will eventually be trained up as “cosmonaut-researchers” – one for the lead role, and the other as an understudy/stunt double.
It is understood that a supporting male actor will also be selected and sent to space, but in a separate process to the public female casting.
General Director of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin described the project as “a kind of space experiment” and said the winners would be prepared for any situations that could “unexpectedly arise on board the station”.
They will spend three months training in basic knowledge of space, spacecraft and the ISS at Cosmonaut School. Three more months of practice will follow.
They will be drilled in weightless flights using vestibular training and a centrifuge, and survival training on the off-chance of an “abnormal splashdown landing”.
Applicant have also been warned they have to be prepared to sleep in a ISS-issue sleeping bag and wash their hair with just a couple of drops of water, leave-in shampoo and a towel.
Female astronaut and deputy of the Federal Assembly of Russia Elena Serova said: “If the applicant is married, then there will be little time left for a family, and the environment, believe me, is quite demanding.”
It takes around six years to train a professional astronaut to go into space, although the entire preparation to go into orbit for the movie will be undertaken in less than a year.
During the flight into space, astronauts travel at around 17,000 mph and orbit the Earth 16 times a day once on the ISS.
While details of the plot are yet to be released, CEO of Channel One Konstantin Ernst said the script was currently being written with the help of Roscosmos in a bid to make it true to life.
He said: “This is not science fiction, this is a very realistic version of what may happen in the near future.”
Filming in space will last 10 days, and in addition to time on set, actors will also have to work out for two hours daily, using barbells, a squat machine or a treadmill.
The Russian movie is also up against other competitors in the push to film in space, as in addition to Tom Cruise‘s as-yet untitled $200m (£150m) Universal Studios project there is an American reality TV series in the works too.
Using a similar selection process and training schedule, Space Hero Inc plans to send a civilian to the ISS in 2023 and broadcast it live around the world. It is said to involve the biggest prize ever awarded on American TV.
The International Space station is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory, 250 miles (400km) above earth.
A multinational collaborative project, it hosts five participating space agencies including Roscosmos and NASA.