In 2006, following the critical success of "Children of Men," Universal Pictures and director Alfonso Cuaron paired up for the expensive space epic, co-written by Cuaron's son, but after worries began to trickle down the studio ranks as to how exactly you market a film like "Gravity," Universal parted ways with the project.
The next positive sign that the film would was getting closer to a greenlight was Robert Downey Jr. attaching himself as the male lead in early 2010, but the film still needed that female lead that carries most of the film. Angelina Jolie had always been eyed for the role but a deal could never be worked out and finally in the summer of 2010, Jolie passed and leaving the studio and Cuaron back at square one.
Warners tested several leading ladies and at one point was very high on Blake Lively. After working with her on "The Town," the studio was looking at her for almost every female-driven project it had in 2010, including "Gravity", which to several insiders at the time seemed like an odd choice given how young Lively was and the fact that the main character was suppose to have a daughter in the film too.
WB eventually moved off the idea and set its sights on Natalie Portman following her Oscar win for "Black Swan," but the actress was looking to take a much needed break (and was also eventually sidelined with an a pregnancy) leaving "Gravity" in the same state that its main character: grasping for life.
Enter Sandra Bullock.
Coming off an acting hiatus herself, Bullock, who won an Oscar for WB's "Blind Side" in 2010, was looking for something that would challenge her and top WB execs along with Cauron and Heyman saw the opportunity and moved fast to land her.
Finally, "Gravity" was ready for lift-off but there was still one more hurdle to deal with: Iron Man. Since production was forced to move because the search for the main character took so long, Robert Downey Jr. was forced to exit the long-gestating project because of "The Avengers" and "Iron Man 3" scheduling conflict.
What would seem like a blow to most films ended up working out with George Clooney's schedule opening up just as the film was expected to commence production. The short shoot for his character ended up working out for Clooney's schedule and Warners signed him just in time for the first quarter shoot in 2011.
In an age where films are constantly being bad-mouthed if there is any delay in development or production, "Gravity" is a case where a studio's confidence and patience with not only the project but the filmmaker paid off in a big way.
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