Down to earth role in First Man

Maroochy Weekly - - LIFE - WORDS: SEANNA CRONIN

CLAIRE Foy has swapped jew­elled crowns for the life of a housewife in her lat­est film role.

The ac­tor, who por­trayed Queen Eliz­a­beth II to crit­i­cal ac­claim in Net­flix’s The Crown, stars op­po­site Ryan Gosling in First Man, a look at the life of as­tro­naut Neil Arm­strong and the 1960s space race that led him to be­come the first man to walk on the Moon.

Q: How did you ap­proach play­ing Janet Arm­strong?

A: Janet was Neil’s wife and her story isn’t par­tic­u­larly known but she is ob­vi­ously in­te­gral to his story and his do­mes­tic life. The usual story we get told is the as­tro­naut’s story – the story of the hero, the story of manned space ex­plo­ration. So, like most peo­ple, I’d never re­ally thought about the fam­ily I sup­pose. And so I saw Janet as the leader of that fam­ily and I think it’s very easy in that set-up, in a 1960s Amer­i­can house, to think that a man would be lead­ing the house­hold.

He is the bread­win­ner, the one who goes to work – but it’s Janet who is the one who is keep­ing it to­gether. So I did lots of re­search but sadly she passed away quite re­cently.

I would have loved to have met her – not to probe her or any­thing but just to sit with her be­cause I re­ally think she was very in­ter­est­ing and an amaz­ing woman. She ex­pe­ri­enced some­thing so sin­gu­lar, some­thing that so few peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence, and I have a huge amount of ad­mi­ra­tion for her and the in­cred­i­ble job she has done bring­ing up her boys.

Q: Did you meet Janet and Neil’s sons?

A: Yes, Eric and Mark. There was a cer­tain amount of trep­i­da­tion be­fore I met them. You sort of feel that they might think ‘Who are you com­ing in and telling the story of my mother? You are not my mother’ but they were just so lovely with me. I think it helped that I’m a mother my­self and I wasn’t there to say ‘How did this feel’ and ‘How did that feel?’ I didn’t want to do any of that. I just wanted to know some of their mem­o­ries of their Mum and Dad. And they just have such pos­i­tive, lovely things to say about them. We had chats and they were able to give me an in­sight into what daily life was like.

Q: Did you en­joy work­ing with Ryan?

A: I hated it (laughs). No, I loved it. He is a ge­nius – a very ta­lented man. He is in­cred­i­bly bright, in­cred­i­bly open to the process of film­mak­ing and he loves col­lab­o­rat­ing and he loves to know what peo­ple are think­ing. And it’s so in­ter­est­ing watch­ing him and (di­rec­tor) Damien to­gether and how they would re­ally ex­cite each other with an idea and just do it – like there was no kind of sec­ond-guess­ing. It was ‘That’s great, let’s do that!’ I loved it. I was given so much free­dom. And I felt very, very safe with Ryan. He is such a lovely per­son and so funny.

Q: The film also touches on Neil’s grief at los­ing his daugh­ter

A: Yes, Janet and Neil lost their daugh­ter when she was very young. And peo­ple have said to me ‘Do you think that’s why Neil went to the Moon? Do you think that is true?’. But no­body knows and Neil never spoke about any­thing – but his si­lence after Karen’s death is a sign it­self that ob­vi­ously it was some­thing too painful to deal with. And peo­ple who have been into space say that it is the most spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause you look down at the Earth and you think ‘My God, we’re so small but we are so beau­ti­ful’ and how can that not make you think about the per­son that you loved most? So it’s about loss and it’s about how he ex­pe­ri­ences loss and you can see how it ric­o­chets through the fam­ily.

PHOTO: DANIEL MC­FAD­DEN

STARS: Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy in the movie First Man. Sup­plied by Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures.

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