Australian actress Abbie Cornish, who has starred in films including Sucker Punch, Limitless, Bright Star and RoboCop (2014), stars alongside Gerard Butler and Jim Sturgess in the disaster thriller Geostorm. Cornish plays U.S. Secret Service agent Sarah Wilson, the love interest to White House staffer Max Lawson (Sturgess). Aided by a team of astronauts and scientists, Max and his scientist older brother Jake (Butler) race against the clock to save the world from a network of climate-regulating satellites which have malfunctioned, unleashing all manner of freak weather upon the earth. As if this wasn’t enough to contend with, Sarah and Max uncover a conspiracy to assassinate President Andrew Palma (Andy García), who has the kill codes to shut down the satellite.
In this interview, Cornish talks about her preparation for the role, working on a large-scale blockbuster, filming in New Orleans and what audiences can look forward to when they watch Geostorm in cinemas.
What drew you to Geostorm? Do you like working on this kind of large canvas?
ABBIE CORNISH: I like working on different kinds of films. I had wanted to do another big movie; my last one was Robocop, which was a great experience. That kind of storytelling on a grand scale really brings out the child in me. It’s mesmerizing, watching everybody pull together this gigantic movie.
I loved Geostorm as soon as I read the script. I think films like this are wonderful for all ages to see in the cinema. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, or your gender, or age; this is a purely entertaining, epic, exciting, fun movie. You could take your grandma to see this movie or you could take your little nephew.
I also loved my character, Sarah Wilson, who’s a well-rounded woman and a really great role model. She’s feminine but at the same time she’s strong, sensitive and tough. Sarah is a lover and a fighter; sexy and real. I’m pleased that the character on the page is the woman you see on the screen.
Sarah is also an American Secret Service agent. Did you meet with any former Secret Service agents or do other research?
ABBIE CORNISH: I did as much reading about the Secret Service as I could before production began, but the most valuable information came from a Secret Service agent I met with. I learned it’s a job that’s so much bigger than I’d imagined. I appreciated the trust, respect and communication that helped me understand that world and position. In the film there are moments where we have fun, but it was important to me to honor the Secret Service and its agents, within the context of an epic action-adventure film. I think the agents who see Geostorm will give it a thumbs-up.
Tell us about Sarah’s relationship with Max, played by Jim Sturgess.
ABBIE CORNISH: That relationship is confined because Sarah and Max work at a high level in professional environments – including the White House – so it was a challenge to make it light and fun. We found a way to do that through the banter between the two characters.
Jim and I became friends, which helped bring the characters’ relationship to life. We were always laughing and having fun, which translates onto the screen. That helped make the dynamic feel real and tangible. It grounds it a bit more.
Can you point to favorite moments in the story?
ABBIE CORNISH: My favorite action beat is when Sarah locates a shooter during a huge convention attended by thousands and thousands of people, and where the U.S. president, played by Andy Garcia, is making a speech. The chaos is heightened, and we see Sarah yell into her earpiece, ““I need help. I need backup. There’s a shooter. We need to get the president safe.” The sequence is so much fun, action-packed and exciting. I also got to do some cool fight stuff and maneuvers with the gun. When I saw the film, I caught myself yelling, “Yeah! Get ‘em. Go girl!” – even though I knew what happens. I love how Sarah takes the initiative, comes up with a plan, and just rolls with it. Even though she’s a top Secret Service agent, you can see that Sarah is a little anxious about the decision she’s made in the moment. But at the same time, she’s empowered and making a good call.
I also enjoyed a more intimate scene, where Sarah and Max are discussing the possibility of getting married. It’s really sweet, loving and light.
You filmed most of Geostorm in New Orleans. Do you have any connection with the city?
ABBIE CORNISH: I really love it. This was the first time I’d been to New Orleans and it resonated with me straightaway. I love music, so walking down the street and seeing people playing such incredible jazz – it just blew my mind. It’s such a vibrant city. I felt very connected to the people there, too. During production, I lived in New Orleans’ Garden District, in a little cottage, across the road from a small French pre-school. I was there for four months – and I didn’t want to leave. I loved making the movie, as well as the city, the people and the culture. We all had a great time, on and off set.
What do you hope audiences take away from Geostorm?
ABBIE CORNISH: I want people to have an entertaining, fun experience. We’re living in a time when we watch a lot of entertainment on our computers, televisions, and other devices, and I think that’s great; I love technology and technological advancements. But I also love going to the movies with friends and family members. I hope that Geostorm encourages people to go to the cinema and watch a movie of epic proportions on a big screen. This is pure entertainment – and such a ride. I am excited for people to go on that ride.
Geostorm opens in Singapore on 12 October 2017.