“Good hair. A strong head of hair is important. And Damien is half-Canadian, so that helps as well,” actor Ryan Gosling joked when asked what he looks for in directors at Wednesday’s press conference for Damien Chazelle’s “First Man,” which opens the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday evening.
Gosling, who stars in the movie as astronaut Neil Armstrong, said Chazelle had both “First Man” and La La Land” already in mind when they first met years ago. “Both films lend themselves well to the big screen” and aspire to create a spectacle for audiences, said Gosling, who was on hand in Venice with Chazelle and his co-stars Claire Foy and Jason Clarke, and screenwriter Josh Singer.
Gosling, who was Oscar-nominated for his performance in “La La Land,” praised Chazelle for his great “instincts to know what people want to see” and “ability to bring people together and unite them.”
Chazelle was asked whether he saw “First Man” as a patriotic film and a testament to the greatness of America. An upbeat Gosling jumped in to give his take as a non-American.
“Full disclosure: I’m Canadian,” Gosling said. “I think that what Neil achieved was widely regarded as a human achievement, and that’s how we chose to view that. Neil was extremely humble. He deferred the focus from himself to the 400,000 people who made the mission possible. He repeatedly said he was just the tip of the iceberg. He didn’t view himself as an American hero, and we wanted the movie to reflect Neil…[and] honor the way Neil presented himself.”
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Chazelle concurred: “As a half-Canadian, half-French, I agree with everything Ryan said.”
This marks the second opening-night Venice bow for Chazelle. “La La Land” kicked off the festival in 2016 before sailing into the awards season and earning Chazelle an Oscar for best director.
“First Man,” a Universal Pictures release, chronicles astronaut Armstrong in the years leading up to the Apollo 11 moon-landing mission of 1969. It will be released Oct.17.