Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Damien Chazelle at Kennedy Space Center for 'First Man'
CAPE CANAVERAL — As NASA celebrates its 60th anniversary in October, the stars of the upcoming Neil Armstrong biopic "First Man" aligned at Kennedy Space Center on Sunday.
During a media event at the spaceport's press site near the Vehicle Assembly Building, star Ryan Gosling talked about the film and his takeaways from NASA, Apollo 11 and Armstrong's legacy.
"He's an extremely layered person," Gosling said of Armstrong. "It was very important to his family that they share every story that they could that would help add some context to that."
The film, set for its theatrical release Oct. 12, portrays Armstrong's life through the 1960s to include the Gemini and Apollo programs and, ultimately, the first lunar landing, the 50th anniversary of which will be observed in July. It's based on the official biography "First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong" by James Hansen, who also attended the media event at KSC.
The film's generated positive reviews and in August, it opened the Venice Film Festival in Italy.
Gosling recalled that one of Neil Armstrong's two sons, Mark Armstrong, provided him with a flash drive of an oral history by his parents before filming – something that became immensely helpful.
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"It was the greatest gift," Gosling said. "He even read all my lines for me and sent them to me as he thought his dad might do them."
The Armstrong sons, meanwhile, were also present at KSC on Sunday and spoke about their contributions to the movie.
"It's nice that the film sets the record straight on who he was and let people get to know the real person," Mark Armstrong said of his father. "I don't think they've had that chance before."
While there have been other films about the July 20, 1969, lunar touchdown and the astronauts involved in Apollo, "First Man" also delves into the emotional toll on the families involved.
In the early stages of the film's development, Neil Armstrong's eldest son, Rick Armstrong, reached out to screenwriter Josh Singer ("Spotlight").
"We came away feeling pretty good about what they were trying to do," Rick Armstrong said. The brothers then became an invaluable source for the movie, offering personal stories and close contacts to friends of the Armstrongs during that time period.
"There's no way that we can ever know exactly how Janet and Neil behaved all the time," said Gosling's co-star Claire Foy, who plays Janet Armstrong in "First Man." "These people that were so cherished, it's a huge responsibility to their memory and also to the people who survived them, who loved them so much. You want to do them justice."
Accuracy for the film was paramount — that's where NASA historian Bill Barry plays a role. Barry previously consulted for another NASA-inspired film, "Hidden Figures," in 2016. He gave the "First Man" cast and crew orientations at KSC and Johnson Space Center in Houston, which is where crews did some on-site filming.
During a tour at JSC, he said Gosling asked him, "'What do you think is going to be the hardest thing to do in this movie?' I said, 'Ryan, you've got the toughest job. How do you play Neil Armstrong?'"
According to Barry, the actor nominated for an Academy Award for "La La Land" cocked his head and said, "Yeah, I'm working on it."
Armstrong's sons believe Gosling accomplished that mission.
Sangalang is a digital producer at FLORIDA TODAY.
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