The 'La La Land' star and director head to space in 'First Man,' tracing the life and legacy of Neil Armstrong and the 1969 moon landing
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As Ryan Gosling sat in a spacesuit, bathed in blue light and strapped into a capsule modeled on the specifications of the Gemini 8 spacecraft, he became acutely aware of how claustrophobic the 1966 mission into Earth’s orbit must have been for its astronauts, Neil Armstrong and David Scott. “It’s really hard in a film to convey just how small these capsules were and just how terrifying it was hurtling through space in these,” the First Man star said.
The Gemini 8 mission was just one of the milestones leading up to NASA’s 1969 manned moon landing, the event that inspired director Damien Chazelle to turn his sights to outer space for his new film, re-teaming with his La La Land lead Gosling, who plays Armstrong. “There’s actually a tendency now to take some of these things for granted and forget just how difficult and unlikely and really risky and dangerous and crazy the whole endeavor was,” Chazelle explained of the stakes.
Armstrong died in 2012, but his family stepped up to help Chazelle recreate the astronaut’s life. Gosling met with Armstrong’s sister, June; Chazelle even managed to get the blueprints to Armstrong’s house so that he could build it to scale. “It was amazing to watch Neil’s kids, Rick and Mark, come into the house they had grown up in and see the level to which the crew was working to get this right,” Gosling said.
Chazelle shot the earthbound scenes first before moving on to the more challenging and tightly orchestrated flight sequences, which featured scale replicas of the capsules and LED screens playing footage of space to re-create what the astronauts would have seen out of the windows. “It takes hours to get to see a little piece of usable footage, and sometimes the whole day goes by without anything to show for it,” the Oscar-winning director said.
In another exclusive still from the film, Gosling’s Armstrong sits with Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll) and Michael Collins (Lukas Haas) at a NASA press conference for the now-famous Apollo 11 mission that took them successfully to the moon. “Even though they were the three selected to be on this historic mission, there were 400,000 people who had made this possible,” Gosling said. “They were the final ones to execute it, but you get a sense from the astronauts that no one wanted to be the one that was the weak link.”
See exclusive stills from First Man and the film’s trailer above. It comes out in theaters on Oct 12.