The piece of advice that actor Ryan Gosling and director Damien Chazelle must be following is, “Make no small plans.” It seems fitting as their second collaboration, after coming off the Academy Award winning La La Land is First Man, an adaptation of James R. Hansen’s massive biography of astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. Sporting a modest budget of $60 million, the film is being touted as a major Oscar contender for Universal Pictures and it may very well prove to be a multiple winner as it tells an inspiring story with nary a touch of cynicism or spin.
In Chicago recently on the first stop of a nationwide promotional tour, Gosling and Chazelle talked about not only the challenges they face making the film, but their inspiration as well. With the clout to make anything they’d like at this point in their careers, I asked them why they decided to tell Armstrong’s story.
“It was piecemeal really,” he said. “I started with some great archival footage that some of the astronauts themselves would shoot inside these capsules and immediately that opened my eyes to a new way of shooting space travel. We think of space travel, because of the movies, as being high tech and spacious, with 2001 being the benchmark for all of that. But these were capsules that were the size of Volkswagens, these were things hurled on the tops of missiles that looked like something out of the machine age not the space age and these were people stuck inside of them looking through grease-stained windows, not being able to see. The analog nature of all that shows how scary that must have been, how claustrophobic that must have been. That speaks to the risk taking and the heroism that was involved. Again, this was not technology that had been perfected, this was stuff that was being made up as they went along.”