This Isn't Just the Story of the Moon Landing, It's the Story of a Marriage; Director Damien Chazelle and Stars Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy Discuss First Man, a Film about Neil Armstrong's Journey to the Moon and Explain to LAURA HARDING Why They Wanted to Focus on Armstrong's Home Life Just as Much as His Mission

Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales), October 14, 2018 | Go to article overview

This Isn't Just the Story of the Moon Landing, It's the Story of a Marriage; Director Damien Chazelle and Stars Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy Discuss First Man, a Film about Neil Armstrong's Journey to the Moon and Explain to LAURA HARDING Why They Wanted to Focus on Armstrong's Home Life Just as Much as His Mission


Byline: LAURA HARDING

MOST people know the talking points about the 1969 Moon landing - the famous words uttered by Neil Armstrong, the image of the American flag being planted on the surface.

What is less well known is the impact the race to the Moon had on the people left behind on Earth.

But the real cost of human achievement has long been an area of interest for director Damien Chazelle, who has explored the idea in previous films La La Land and Whiplash, and who turns his attention again to this subject for his new film First Man.

"Neil always insisted there was nothing special about him," Damien says.

"He said he was just one of many, and circumstances enabled him to be the first man on the Moon. There was this normality to him."

That normality is a crucial component to the film, which reunites Damien with his La La Land star Ryan Gosling in the role of Armstrong, and which explores the astronaut's home life and family tragedy, as well as the sheer force of will it took to get him to the moon.

"Before I began work on First Man, I knew the textbook narrative of the mission to the Moon, the success story of an iconic achievement... but little else," the director adds.

"Once I started digging, I grew astounded by the sheer madness and danger of the enterprise, the number of times it circled failure, as well as the toll it took on all involved.

"I wanted to understand what compelled these men to voyage into deep space, and what the experience, moment by moment, breath by breath, might have felt like."

But the domestic angle was just as important and Damien says: "This was a story that needed to hinge between the Moon and the kitchen sink, the vast expanses of space juxtaposed against the textures of quotidian life and the Armstrong family's most intimate, guarded moments.

"My hope was that this approach could highlight the heartbreak, joy, lives lived and lost in the name of one of history's most famous goals: setting foot on the Moon."

For Ryan, the role gave him a chance to learn more than the headlines.

"I think as soon I learned what the Moon was, I learned that somebody named Neil Armstrong walked on it," the actor adds.

"He was synonymous with the Moon but I realised, after reading James Hansen's book First Man, that I knew very little.

"On an emotional level, I was surprised to learn just how much loss Neil and his wife Janet experienced before and during those historic missions.

"On a practical level, I don't think I fully appreciated how dangerous those missions were.

"How claustrophobic and frail those space capsules were, how primitive the technology was by today's standards.

"I've always been interested in the extremes of a story but what is unique to this story for me is just how extreme those extremes can be. …

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This Isn't Just the Story of the Moon Landing, It's the Story of a Marriage; Director Damien Chazelle and Stars Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy Discuss First Man, a Film about Neil Armstrong's Journey to the Moon and Explain to LAURA HARDING Why They Wanted to Focus on Armstrong's Home Life Just as Much as His Mission
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