×

‘First Man’: Astronauts’ Wives Just as Heroic as Their Husbands, Says Neil Armstrong’s Son

“This is a big movie,” writer-director Tony Gilroy told a crowd gathered for a screening of “First Man” on Wednesday night at New York’s Whitby Hotel. “Whether you end up loving or hating this film, you’re going to want a drink after.”

The 2-hour 21-minute opus, starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, chronicles NASA’s journey to the moon and the myriad hurdles — both emotional and technical — encountered before the successful landing on July 20, 1969. “This film is both intimate and grand, and it’s too bad that you don’t have seat belts, because its very intense,” Gilroy added before the lights dimmed.

Due out on Oct. 12, Gosling is supported in “First Man” by Claire Foy as Neil’s wife of 38 years, Janet Armstrong. The role is a stark about-face from her turn as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s “The Crown,” making it a clear bid for Oscar gold.

“I think that might be one of my favorite movies…ever,” Ben Stiller told his seat mates, including his daughter Ella, as the credits rolled.

Guests then carried on to the nearby Monkey Bar where the eatery’s signature bites and plentiful martinis circled the room, and the Peggy Siegel-curated group of screen fixtures mixed with Academy voters and a selection of key members of the “First Man” team. Among them, Foy, director Damien Chazelle, and screenwriter Josh Singer.

“What everybody now knows is that this guy is a seminal filmmaker,” Singer told Variety of Chazelle. “There’s nobody really doing what he’s doing right now, and whatever mission he’s on, I want to be on too. He had this idea of how to make this story visceral and convey how hard this really was, and what we found is that there was all sorts of loss and failure along the way. I was struck by [the astronaut’s] ability to take on challenges and the willingness to sacrifice, which we as a nation and a civilization don’t necessarily have today.”

The film is indeed done in Chazelle’s signature high-intensity style, first experienced in 2014’s “Whiplash” starring Miles Teller, but with its $60 million budget, the pressured moments were rendered in the form of rattling, larger-than-life space craft, rather than a pulsing, perspiring symbol. “First Man” also comes chock-full of unflinching accuracy, not only when it came to the NASA-approved terminology, but also Armstrong’s personal life thanks to first-hand input from the Armstrong family themselves.

“I think Dad has been mischaracterized over the years, because he’s been called reclusive and all kinds of things, which just aren’t true,” Armstrong’s youngest son, Mark, told Variety as he sat with friends in a corner banquette surveying the crowd. “He was a quiet guy, but he had a great sense of humor. He was social, and interesting, and fun-loving, and played with his kids, and I think you see that in the film.”

Mark also emphasized who how “heroic” the astronauts’ wives were.

“They had all of the worry and none of the control,” he said. “They had to run the household, raise the kids, and pay the bills, all while their husbands were away. My mother was an independent, strong woman, but so were a lot of the wives, and they gave up a lot to make these missions a success. I was six years old during the Apollo 11 mission, and I remember things like our family meeting in the dining room and I’m just really pleased that the filmmakers cared enough to do all of this in a way that’s authentic and frankly wanted to get me more involved. I really felt like the more that I put into the movie, the more I saw my input being well-received  and incorporated into the film. It’s just a good feeling.”

More Film

  • BAFTA Backs BIFA’s Unconscious-Bias Training for

    BIFA’s Unconscious-Bias Training Rolls Out to BAFTA Voters, Wider Industry (EXCLUSIVE)

    The British Independent Film Awards is opening up its unconscious-bias training to BAFTA voters and, more widely, to anyone who judges the work of others in the film and TV business in the U.K. With the makeup of award-nominee and -winner lists under close scrutiny, BIFA introduced its unconscious-bias training last year. Its voters, jurors, [...]

  • Instinct

    Carice van Houten's 'Instinct' Picked Up By Films Boutique (EXCLUSIVE)

    Berlin-based international sales agent Films Boutique has picked up psychological thriller “Instinct,” starring Carice van Houten, who received an Emmy nomination Tuesday for “Game of Thrones,” and Marwan Kenzari, recently seen in Guy Ritchie’s “Aladdin.” “Instinct” has its world premiere on the Piazza Grande at the Locarno Film Festival next month. “Instinct,” the directorial debut [...]

  • If Only - Ginevra Elkann

    Locarno Announces Edgy Mix of Promising Premieres

    Italian director Ginevra Elkann’s directorial debut, “If Only,” about kids with divorced parents, will open the 72nd Locarno Film Festival, its first edition under new artistic director Lili Hinstin, who has assembled an edgy mix of promising titles from young auteurs and more established names. “If Only” and the fest closer, iconic Japanese director Kiyoshi [...]

  • Jody Madden Replaces Craig Rodgerson as

    Jody Madden Replaces Craig Rodgerson as CEO of VFX Firm Foundry

    Jody Madden has been upped to CEO at U.K.-based VFX outfit Foundry. She steps up fromchief product officer and replaces Craig Rodgerson, who joined the company in late 2017. Foundry was bought by U.S. tech firm Roper Technologies earlier this year in a £410 million ($509 million) deal. The London-based business provides software and technology [...]

  • The Lion King

    ‘The Lion King’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Walt Disney Pictures claims the top spot in spending with “The Lion King.” Ads placed for the remake had an estimated media value of $5.64 million through Sunday for 1,290 national ad airings on [...]

  • Beyonce poses for photographers upon arrival

    Beyoncé Releases Music Video for 'Spirit,' Her 'Lion King' Soundtrack Contribution

    Beyoncé fans are stampeding across the web veldt to get a look at her just-released music video for “Spirit,” the original song she co-wrote and sang for the “Lion King” soundtrack. The track is also included on the companion album she executive-produced and will release Friday, “The Gift.” Clips from the computer-animated film are interspersed [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Jennifer Lopez Takes Down Wall Street Crooks in New Trailer for 'Hustlers'

    According to Jennifer Lopez, basic pole dancing movements all revolve around a few foot positions. But as she tells her stripper student Constance Wu, it’s not just about the dancing. In the new trailer for “Hustlers,” Lopez and Wu swindle a number of high profile Wall Street clients in an effort to bring their white [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content