Behind the scenes of Supernova

Releasing in cinemas on 25 June 2021, Supernova follows Sam and Tusker: a couple of twenty years who are dealing with the challenges of Tusker’s diagnosis with young-onset dementia.

We caught up with writer and director Harry Macqueen to discuss the inspiration behind the film, and the experience of filming amid dramatic Lake District locations – including land we care for at Crummock Water.

In the film we encounter Sam (Colin Firth) and Tusker (Stanley Tucci) travelling across England to the Lakes in their campervan, visiting friends, family and places from their past. Two years after Tusker’s diagnosis, time together is the most important thing they have. As the trip progresses however, their individual ideas for their future begin to collide.

Filming in the Lake District

While the heart of the film is the emotional journey of Sam and Tusker’s relationship, Supernova also draws deep significance from their physical journey through the raw and dramatic landscapes of the Lakes.  

‘Every time I go to the Lakes I’m in awe of its variety and its vastness,’ said Harry. ‘It seems to be an almost constantly shifting landscape, so easily moulded by weather and light. No day feels the same.

‘When I had decided that Sam and Tusker’s story was one that would unfold on the road, it seemed like the perfect place to take it. I wanted to utilise the beauty and the drama of the landscape to underscore the narrative, and investigate how the characters responded to it too. It’s an awe-inspiring place but also a brutal and unforgiving one, which is fitting for this kind of story.’

" I wanted to utilise the beauty and the drama of the landscape to underscore the narrative, and investigate how the characters responded to it too."

Locations used for filming included some of the land we care for at Crummock Water. In Supernova, this landscape became one of the important places from Sam and Tusker’s past that they revisit during their road trip, as Harry explains:

‘Crummock Water represents a place that reminds Sam and Tusker of the beauty and longevity of their love for one another. The landscape gave us both a dramatically beautiful view and, crucially, a certain calmness.’

Harry Macqueen on location at Crummock Water
Harry Macqueen on location at Crummock Water
Harry Macqueen on location at Crummock Water

The stories behind Supernova

The original inspiration for Supernova came from the personal experiences of the film’s writer and director, Harry Macqueen. ‘After having spent time with someone who was living with, and then died from, a type of young-onset dementia, I decided to try and learn more about it,’ he explained.

‘I spent over two years volunteering for several charities and the Dementia Research Centre at University College London, and during that time I met many families who were living with dementia in varying forms. I spent a lot of time with several of them over a long (and ongoing) period, which has been a profoundly moving experience in so many ways. It was these people and their stories that inspired Supernova.’

With more than 850,000* people in the UK living with dementia, the struggles that Sam and Tusker face are ones that will resonate with many of us.

Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth filming Supernova in the Lake District
Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth filming Supernova in the Lake District
Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth filming Supernova in the Lake District

The power of nature

The importance of the natural landscapes in Supernova reflects the impact that nature can have on our everyday lives. For many of us, having a connection to the outdoors and access to green spaces is a vital source of comfort, rejuvenation and inspiration.

‘I grew up in inner city Leicester so getting out of the city was always a big part of our family holidays,’ said Harry. ‘My dad adored nature and taught me a huge amount about all things flora and fauna. It’s a huge part of why my films tend to take characters out of urban environments and into nature – echoing the sense of freedom and release I feel when I leave town. 

‘It always felt to me that placing Sam and Tusker in this wild, bucolic landscape surrounded by all the wildlife, forests and mountains that go with it was fitting because of this innate sense of emotional and physical freedom. There’s no doubt that spending time in nature is a wonderful, inspiring thing.'

*Statistics courtesy of Alzheimer's Society. For support, information and advice about dementia, please visit Alzheimer’s Society’s website.

Video

Watch the trailer

Get a taster of Sam and Tusker's story, which releases only in cinemas from 25 June.