In­side man

Total Film - - First Man -

For­mer Nasa train­ing chief Frank Hughes worked on Gem­ini and Apollo mis­sions, and con­sulted on First Man. He shares his ex­pe­ri­ences…

I joined Nasa in 1966.

I was 22 years old. the space race was in­tense, but at the same time, it was mar­vel­lous. We had an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to do things that no­body had ever done. the best ad­ven­ture any­body could have.

I worked five days around the clock

on the real apollo 13 res­cue mis­sion. I would go into a con­fer­ence room and put my head down, get a cou­ple of hours of sleep, and then wake up and go back. My sec­re­tary went to buy me some un­der­wear and a cou­ple of shirts. We had a place to shower so we didn’t get too ripe.

Work­ing on First Man

we’re deal­ing with a bunch of very good ac­tors, and they had to look like pi­lots, like they’d been do­ing this for years. all of the as­tro­nauts would come to me and say, “What was [the real per­son] like?” be­cause I had known all these char­ac­ters.

What I said to Ryan Gosling,

and what he had fig­ured out on his own, amal­ga­mated into a re­ally good rep­re­sen­ta­tion. It’s amaz­ing that some­times I felt like I was in a séance, with some of these good friends who came back.

Dur­ing the run-up to the Apollo 11 mis­sion

I in­ter­acted with Neil arm­strong ev­ery day. We were play­ing soft­ball, we would go to lunch, and so on. He had a very dry sense of hu­mour. I knew his kids as rug rats run­ning around, but now they’re in the movie, in the mis­sion con­trol scene.

In the con­trol cen­tre scene,

the ac­tors started to cel­e­brate. Ev­ery­body cheers and claps and is shak­ing hands. But then they’re also do­ing high fives and chest bumps and all these kind of things. and they stop and I say, “No, no, no.” Let’s go back to the hand­shakes, and maybe a hand on the shoul­der, and a lit­tle more deco­rum.

In space movies,

there’s a mix be­tween the tech­nol­ogy and the drama. If we fly a space­craft and do it the way we plan, it’s bor­ing as hell – which is the best kind of space­craft. that’s how it is. In these cases, when you put it to­gether, the drama has to still be there.

Apollo 13 did a great job on the hard­ware.

On the other hand, ev­ery­thing you saw in Grav­ity, with the ships get­ting blown up: that’s not a physics les­son. the best thing about [Grav­ity] is it’s the best view of what Earth looks like from or­bit; you see what an as­tro­naut sees.

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