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Monday, 21 February, 2000, 18:27 GMT
Mir movie set for lift-off
Mir Space Station
Mir could soon be in a starring movie role
Russian movie actor Vladimir Steklov is confident he will soon be making cinematic history by starring in a thriller aboard the Mir space station.

The Russo-British production team of The Final Journey want to put Steklov, 52, on board the ageing Mir space station - which has been dogged by breakdowns and repeatedly patched up.

Hollywood stars Gary Oldman and Sean Penn will star in the film on Earth, alongside Steklov and fellow Russian actors Mikhail Ulyanov and Leonid Korolev.

Steklov said he began training two years ago, and he expects he will join cosmonauts Sergey Zaletin and Alexander Kaleri for the 45-day mission.
 Vladimir Steklov
Steklov has been training for two years
The Russian Space Agency has not yet given the final go-ahead for the actor to join the mission, due to blast-off on 31 March.

But the agency's Alexander Gorbunov expressed his optimism for The Final Journey.

"This flight will focus huge attention on the space station, and of course this attention may attract extra funding and sponsors, which naturally are essential for the station's existence," he said.

Speaking on Russian public television, Russian director Yuri Kara said the project was "a normal step for the third millennium". He added: "In this third millennium of course, as mankind develops, films will be made on the Moon and on Mars."
Gary Oldman: Starring on Earth
Kara's previous directing credits include the Russian movies The Master And Margarita and Night With Stalin.

For The Final Journey, he plans to work from mission control, watching the action on a big TV screen. Meanwhile, Steklov's fellow cosmonauts will be doing the filming on board Mir.

Steklov said such ventures would soon turn science fiction into science fact.

"It's not the case that the song Apple Trees Will Blossom On Mars is just a lyrical song and all the rest is fantasy - no, it'll become reality," he told the Russian TV channel.

The thriller, in which a renegade cosmonaut refuses to return to Earth, is based on a book by celebrated author Chingiz Aitmatov called The Mark Of Cassandra. Its budget is estimated at $40m to $60m.

British producer John Daly is working on it with Kara. Other sequences are being filmed at various locations down on Earth.

Filming of The Final Journey is expected to be finished by 2001 - a third of an Earth century after another classic space film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

See also:

17 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Mir to be turned into hotel
04 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Space station at 'moment of truth'
03 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Cargo spacecraft docks with Mir
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