Russia to Send Actor, Director to Film Movie in Space as Tom Cruise Prepares for Flight

In a race to take human interaction with space to a new level, Russia is preparing to send an actor and director to the International Space Station for filming of the first feature movie about space shot on location.

After a medical and creative selection, the State Commission recommended actor Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko as the primary crew for the film. The expedition is planned to launch in the fall, and Peresild and Shipenko, as well as a backup crew, will begin training in June.

The movie's tentative title is Challenge, according to the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities, the Russian agency responsible for the space program. A "large-scale scientific and educational project," as Roscosmos describes it, the film will include several documentaries about the rocket and space industries and specialists involved in manufacturing launch vehicles, spacecraft and infrastructure on the ground.

"The project will become a clear example of the fact that spaceflights are gradually becoming available not only for professionals but also for an increasingly wider range of those interested," Roscosmos said.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is launched on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station on April 23 at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman have partnered with SpaceX and NASA for a film to be shot at the space station. Photo by Joel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images

At the end of 2020, Russia launched an open competition to select the lead role in the film. Professional actors were given preference, and 20 finalists were announced in March. After a medical review of the finalists, Peresild came out on top. Alyona Mordovina was chosen as the backup lead actor.

Peresild began her career in 2003 with the television series Land and has 44 credits on IMDb.

Roscosmos partnered with Channel One, Russia's biggest TV channel, for the Challenge film, and a casting announcement said "a real superhero" was required for the leading part. Given the logistics of going into space, the actor had to meet certain height and weight requirements as well.

The filming of the movie will take place on the International Space Station, and if it stays on schedule, it could beat Americans to the space-filming punch.

In May, news broke that director Doug Liman and actor Tom Cruise will travel to the International Space Station to create Hollywood's first feature film shot in space. They had partnered with Elon Musk's SpaceX and NASA on the logistics before Cruise was set to go.

The two haven't publicly released a date for when they'll start shooting their movie, but the Space Shuttle Almanac, which tracks space launches, tweeted that records appeared to indicate the filmmakers were looking at an October launch. In January, Liman told Collider that it's not "just some abstract idea" and that the insurance aspects have been worked out.

"From the first conversations that we've had about the you insure it has been a central part of the conversations," Liman told Collider. "So we wouldn't be talking about this movie if we hadn't figured out a way to navigate the insurance component.... Insurance is going to dictate whether that actually is possible."

Newsweek reached out to SpaceX for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.