“The thought was, the more we can do it for real, the more realistic it feels,” reasons Harper, who from the outset wanted the experience to put the audience inside the basket. In order to accomplish that, as much filming as possible was captured in the air - even down to the most death- defying scenes, including one where Amelia (Jones) climbs up the outside of the balloon.

Completing stunt work at height required a leap of faith from Jones, who found herself reunited with her Rogue One: A Star Wars Story stunt double, Helen Bailey, and after weeks of stunt rehearsals and training with an expert aerialist, the actress was ready to take her performance to the skies; climbing the replica balloon’s ropes at 2,000 feet, and pulling herself up from the basket and onto the hoop.”

“The most important thing you need to know is that Amelia goes through many more physical extremes than James,” quips Redmayne. “Felicity’s physicality is formidable in this film; she is so hardcore and robust that it puts me to shame. [She] was sort of swinging up and down in the ring!” Redmayne remembers. “From my point of view it was quite terrifying, but she seemed at ease with it!”

“I would try and do as much as possible, myself, probably to my own detriment!” she says. “I think actually both of us were covered in bruises!” Would Redmayne have given it a shot too? “There’s something so euphoric about it” he answers carefully. “Balloons have always been an object of fascination.

He recalls: “We were flying over Oxford one morning and people would be looking up and waving at us. “The element of not knowing where you are going to land, of having to throw yourself slightly into the void, is why people find them so mesmerising. When you are landing a balloon, you just look for a field with a gate and hopefully no livestock and wish for the best!”

“Yeah, it’s an amazing experience. And you have no idea what’s going to happen once you’re up,” Jones mirrors. “It’s a bit like a metaphor for life, you never know where you’re going to land or what’s going to happen, so you really are at the mercy of the elements. “This could be a new way of travelling - you could ‘get the gas air balloon’.”

‘It’s a film about hope and feeling that anything is possible...’

More than just incredible stunts and hypnotic flights, however, the process left both actors with a sense of awe about both humanity and our planet. “Even though it’s set in the 19th century, we’re in a world in which we’re all looking down at phones and at computer screens,” muses Redmayne, who is currently filming Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial Of The Chicago 7. The Aeronauts for me is a film about the freedom and the wonder of looking up. It’s a film about defying expectation and refusing to be boxed in by society,” he concludes. “So it felt like a kind of lovely hopeful feeling.”

“It’s a film about hope and feeling that anything is possible,” asserts Jones, who has lent her voice to 2020 release, Dragon Rider. “In these times, which are increasingly becoming more complicated and worrying, it’s great to have a film that is about optimism and to remind people that humans are capable of great things when they put their minds to it. You do leave it, hopefully the audience will feel, on a bit of a high,” she finishes. “There’s a classic Hollywood ending in some ways and there’s real joy in it and adventure - we definitely need a bit of light- hearted relief at the moment.”

By Gemma Dunn, Press Association. The Aeronauts is in cinemas now. | 53

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