This will mark the second opening-night Venice bow for Chazelle. His previous film, “La La Land,” kicked off the fest in 2016 before cruising into the awards season and tying the all-time Oscar nominations record. Chazelle ultimately won the best-director prize at the Academy Awards, while Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” walked away with best picture.
A Universal Pictures release, “First Man” stars Ryan Gosling as astronaut Neil Armstrong in the years leading up to the Apollo 11 moon-landing mission of 1969. Claire Foy (Netflix’s “The Crown”) also stars as Armstrong’s wife, Janet Shearon. Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke, Corey Stoll, Ciaran Hinds, Christopher Abbott, and Patrick Fugit fill out the rest of the cast.
“The hook was to think of it less as a biopic but as a mission movie, and to think of landing on the moon as this insane, once-in-history mission that I think we have a hard time even fathoming as a society now,” Chazelle told Variety as he was gearing up to tackle the project in early 2017. “In other words, we take it for granted, I think. At least kids of my generation, you grow up, you know that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, you see the picture, it’s all very gleaming and you see the American flag and you feel proud, and that’s kind of it. You accept that it happened. But the challenge or the hope with this would be to try to play a little bit of a rewind and put you in a mindset where it hasn’t happened yet, and it’s the most insane thing that a group has ever come together to do.”
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Other recent Venice openers have included “Downsizing,” “Everest,” “Birdman,” “Gravity,” “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” “The Ides of March,” and “Black Swan.”
The 75th annual Venice Film Festival runs Aug. 29 – Sept. 8. Guillermo del Toro, whose Oscar-winning film “The Shape of Water” premiered in Venice last year, will head the festival jury.