Meetings with Joss Whedon (Avengers Assemble), Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy) and Ron Howard (Angels & Demons) are something Sean Carroll calls a ‘cool hobby’. Since moving to Los Angeles, his knowledge of theoretical and astrophysics has contributed to keeping the science we see on our screens factually accurate. I had the opportunity to hear him talk on my first day at the Cheltenham Science Festival.
Carroll's passion for the physically possible has extended from keeping the release of antimatter from creating an unlikely explosion from occurring in Angels & Demons, to preventing a movie from pushing characters off the edge of a flat planet to kill them off during a fight scene.
Even Gravity, a film he commends for being scientifically accurate, cannot escape his eye for improvement. If consulted, he would re-make one particular iconic moment - where George Clooney is pulled away from the space station by a mysterious force. In his more dramatically accurate scene, he would have both Clooney and Sandra Bullock float away together and let Clooney push Bullock back towards safety.
I thoroughly enjoyed his interview, where he also talked about his experiences in Hollywood and stories relating science to the real world. A favourite of mine was when a friend of his took a team from The Big Bang Theory around a real Caltech lab, to see lasers blocked by index cards and orders of untidiness recognised by practicing scientists around the world - creating possibly the most accurate representation of a physics laboratory on television to date!
Carroll offered a final great piece of advice to aspiring Hollywood science advisors - move to Los Angeles. But don’t be under any impression the job pays well, his flirtation with the film and television industry has only earned him a 'rather comfy sweatshirt and a bottle of wine’. Job aside, it’s not bad for a helpful hobby in Hollywood.