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A Lot of the Sound Effects in Ad Astra Were Just Tommy Lee Jones's Voice

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Brad Pitt in Ad Astra, searching for his... Dad Astra. (Sorry.)
Brad Pitt in Ad Astra, searching for his... Dad Astra. (Sorry.)
Image: 20th Century Fox

Need something to listen to this weekend? I have a suggestion.

Ad Astra, James Gray’s striking spacefaring epic about lost fathers and lost hope, was a rich, well-made film. Recently, the Hollywood Reporter sat down with Gary Rydstrom, the Academy-Award-winning supervising sound editor, designer, and rerecording mixer on Ad Astra to talk about the lush audioscape of the film. That interview, shared in podcast form as part of THR’s Behind the Screen, is a fascinating look at the complex sound design that went into the film.

Turns out, there was a lot going on under the radar, so far as the sound goes. In perhaps the most interesting example, many sound effects in the film were created using dialogue from other parts of the film.

“It was Tom Johnson who mixed with me. It was his idea to take dialogue from Tommy Lee Jones from later in the movie, and loop it, and play it as sound effects,” Rydstrom explained. This was an attempt, he said, to get inside the mind of Brad Pitt’s aloof, quiet character, and an attempt to create a sonic world for the film that “combines realistic and kind of point-of-view subconscious, subliminal sounds.” For instance, “In the beginning we are hearing bits of dialogue from the future in the movie, played as these weird modern tape loops.”


The voice manipulation goes even deeper than that, Rydstrom said. “I would stretch it sometimes into ambiances. Simple things like the tonal roar of inside the space ship as Brad Pitt is approaching Neptune is a bit of Tommy Lee Jones’s dialogue stretched into an endless tone.”

Seems like Pitt’s character might be a little obsessed with his dad. Just maybe. By the by, the whole 20-minute podcast is worth listening to, and is my recommendation for your weekend listening. Check it out at the link above. 


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