Originally created 06/28/99

Mir: The movie



MOSCOW -- For nearly two years, a Russian director has dreamed of sending actors into space to film the tale of a cosmonaut's stubborn refusal to follow orders to abandon the Mir space station.

Now, with Russia actually planning to abandon Mir, Yuri Kara said Friday he will finally get his chance.

Russian space officials have decided to leave the Mir unmanned after the current crew returns in August, then lower the station's orbit and let the Mir burn in the atmosphere early next year.

But they might send another crew up for a few days early next year to prepare the station for lowering.

Kara told a news conference Friday that if a new crew does go up, his actor will be among them, the Interfax news agency reported.

Russian Space Agency spokesman Sergei Gorbunov said two other crew members -- actual cosmonauts -- would act as cameramen, while Kara would direct the filming from the mission control center on the ground.

In Kara's film, the Russians are also abandoning the Mir. But a renegade cosmonaut refuses to leave, saying he would orbit the Earth for the rest of his days. Ground controllers decide to send up a woman to lure him back.

Only one actor would go to Mir. Space scenes involving other actors would be shot on the ground or aboard a transport airplane in a free-fall, to imitate weightlessness, Kara said.

Kara first announced plans to make a film aboard the Mir nearly two years ago, but the project appeared to grind to a halt when Russian officials decided recently to abandon their beloved station because of the lack of money for its maintenance.

Now, the film project seems on again, and the timing of the shooting scheduled for February makes the plot almost merge with reality.

Kara refused to specify the costs of the project, but said they will be comparable with those of the $200 million "Titanic" -- the most expensive movie ever made. Earlier, Kara mentioned much lower figures.

The announcement comes at a time when the Russian Space Agency is desperately looking for the up to $250 million a year needed to keep the Mir operating.

Kara's film project is one of the fund-raising schemes that space officials have been considering. Kara didn't say what share of the film's budget would go to the space agency.

Vladimir Steklov, an actor cast to play the renegade cosmonaut, is under going 900 hours of training at Russia's cosmonaut training center outside Moscow, Kara said.