Published August 11, 2011
Brace yourselves! The Discovery Channel is out to make jaws drop with their long-in-the-making film series “Curiosity,” designed to explore a range of envelope-pushing universal issues.
But it’s not just brainiacs doing all the talking. Hollywood types are lining up around the block to host the groundbreaking episodes. For example, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal is on deck to delve into the nature and function of the female orgasm.
"We wanted to make a film about female sexuality in particular, which has often been more debated than male sexuality, which is pretty straight forward. Maggie has been in edgy, independent movies specifically about sexuality, in 'Secretary' for example, but she's also been in broad, big blockbusters like 'Batman.' Just when we were starting production on this film, she was finishing shooting a movie about the invention of the vibrator in the 19th century,” Simon Andreae, Senior Executive Producer of “Curiosity” and the West Coast Senior VP of Development and Production, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “I asked if she would be interested in collaborating with us on a film that explores the nature of female sexuality and whether the female orgasm helps in conception, how it evolved, why it's there, what it means, and so on, and she was immediately fascinated."
Gyllenhall is not alone. "Eli Roth for example, he's making a film with us about the nature of evil," Andreae said. The horror film director's segment airs the night before Halloween, and was inspired by his work directing the 2005 slasher “Hostel.”
“I was asking him about the origin of 'Hostel' and how he came up with the idea for that movie… he began to wonder why it was, that some of us – or by extension, all of us – had a little dark piece of our heart that somehow would be engaged by and enjoyed the possibility of doing harm to others,” Andreae said.
The "Curiosity" team also often links its Hollywood hosts to their well-known film roles. Bill Paxton, a star in James Cameron's blockbuster "Titanic," has also dived on the famous shipwreck four times. He will host an episode that attempts to piece together how one of the greatest engineering marvels of the world was destroyed on its maiden voyage by frozen H20.
"Then there's another really fun one with Robin Williams that we're doing about 'How Do Drugs Work?' He obviously has a personal history there, but since time and across all cultures for many reasons, humans have taken body-altering and mind-expanding substances for religious purposes, recreational purposes, social purposes, but what do they actually do to our minds and bodies?" Andreae continued. "We're also making films about whether the human mind and body is now so far removed from the circumstances in which it evolved in a pre-civilized era [that] we find it more difficult to cope in a modern world with Blackberries and computers and markets and all the rest of it. So there, we're making a film called, 'Were We Better Off As Cavemen?' with Morgan Spurlock."
The "Supersize Me" documentary maker takes a tribe of 21st century humans back into the Paleolithic environment, strips all participants of their modern-day privileges, gizmos and gadgets, and observes as they seek to survive.
In the "Curiosity" episode “How Will the World End?” starring Samuel L. Jackson, synchronicity played a part. “He arrived at the shoot he said, 'I guess you guys came to me because the end of the world will coincide with my birthday?' and I said, 'What are you talking about?' and he said, 'Well, my birthday is on December 21, when the Mayan calendar predicts that the world will end.' We had no idea,” Andreae said. “We went to him because he's obviously a fascinating and deeply powerful presence who is capable of straddling both the light and the dark, and also, a wonderful narrator. So he said, 'Just remember, this is why I thought you came to me, and if the world does go down on December 21, 2012, please remember to ask everyone to sing Happy Birthday to me!'”
And if Sunday’s series premiere is anything to go by, expect at least a few firestorms to be ignited.
The debut episode entitled "Did God Create the Universe?" illuminated world famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking’s theory that the universe was brought to life not through religious means, but through pure science. Combining cutting-edge CGI with extensive scholarship, Hawking argued his case by tracing the ancient discoveries of Artistocus and Galileo to the scientific breakthroughs of Einstein.
However, the Hawking-inspired film has since attracted heat from his many detractors.
"Steve Hawking claims we don’t need God, because the universe can be explained entirely by the laws of physics. But apart from God, how can we make sense of the existence and properties of the laws of physics? How could such laws exist apart from a law-giver, and how could we know that they apply everywhere at all times? The Christian world view can make sense of these things,” Dr. Jason Lisle, planetarium director at the Creation Museum, told us. “God upholds the universe in a logical and consistent way that can be at least partly understood by the human mind. Thus, the Christian world view provides a rational foundation for science. However, Hawking is left in the embarrassing position of having no logical justification for the methods and procedures of science. He must borrow concepts (like universal laws of nature) from the Christian world view while simultaneously denying the Christian God."
With a minimum of 60 "Curiosity" episodes planned over the next five years, this kind of controversy is likely a taste of what's to come.
"After we all decided to do the show, a body of experts and interested parties was brought on board to speak to leading universities and other academic institutions about what they felt were the biggest, boldest, broadest questions," Andreae added. "The viewers are in for a big, thrilling ride that will engage their hearts and satisfy their minds."
“Curiosity” airs on the Discovery Channel Sunday, 8 p.m. ET/ PT.
- Deidre Behar contributed to this report.