Neil Armstrong biopic ‘got it right’
What you don’t know about First Man Neil Armstrong
The Neil Armstrong biopic First Man had its first Toronto Festival screening Sunday afternoon at the Space-Age Cinesphere, introduced by director Damien Chazelle and three very special consultants — astronaut Al Worden, command module pilot on Apollo 15, and Armstrong ’s sons Rick and Mark, the latter of whom praised the film’s accuracy: “I’m here to tell you that they got it right.”
The 135-minute film chronicles not only the triumph that was the first lunar landing in 1969, but the personal travails of its mission commander, who lost a daughter to cancer in the 1960s, and defied death in his neartragic Gemini 8 mission and in a crash of a lunar lander simulator unkindly known as “the flying bedstead” by the astronaut corps.
It’s an audacious piece of filmmaking, full of foreboding but also triumph, and anchored by strong performances by Ryan Gosling as Armstrong, and Claire Foy as his redoubtable spouse, Janet.
The movie has a total of 10 festival screenings ahead of its Oct. 12 general release date. In the meantime, here are some things you didn’t know about Neil Armstrong ’s trip to the moon:
1 The first thing he did on the lunar surface was litter
Five minutes before Neil Arm- strong left the lunar lander, Buzz Aldrin handed him a kitchenstyle white trash bag known as a jettison bag or the Space Age short form “jett bag.”
Inside were food wrappers, human waste and other unwanted debris. He chucked it overboard, and later kicked it under the lander. His first photo from the surface shows it on the ground.
2 But before that, Communion Aldrin, a devout Catholic, wanted to commemorate the moon landing with thanks to God, but NASA was still smarting from an atheist backlash from the previous Christmas, when Apollo 8 astronauts had read from the book of Genesis.
So while Aldrin took out Communion wafers and wine, Armstrong watched silently, while his colleague merely transmitted his wish that everyone “give thanks in his or her own way” for their landing.
3 We’ll never be sure exactly what his first words were on the moon Everyone remembers the quote: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” But it makes more sense if he’d said, “That’s one small step for A man,” that is, him. Otherwise, man and mankind mean essentially the same thing; humankind. Linguists have argued that Armstrong ’s Ohio accent made the “a” hard to hear on the crackly transmission from 300,000 kms away, while scientists have scrutinized the recordings without consensus. What’s clear is that no one’s going to change it now; the version without the “a” is history.
4 The first moon rocks he collected were bought for less than $1,000
A few years ago, space enthusiast Nancy Lee Carlson bought a bag labelled “lunar sample return” at a government auction for $995. It had been stolen by a museum curator, recovered by NASA and mislabelled; it was in fact the “contingency sample” first collected by Armstrong in case he and Aldrin had to leave in a hurry. NASA tried to take it back from her but a judge ruled she’d bought it fair and square. She later sold it for $1.8 million. Here’s betting she kept a little bit of the moon for herself.
5 That footprint? Not Armstrong’s The famous image of a footprint on the lunar surface was taken by Aldrin of his own footprint, ostensibly to document how deeply their boots compacted the dirt. In fact, Aldrin took very few images of Armstrong, so most of the photos from the Apollo 11 mission don’t show the first man on the moon. Armstrong is, however, clearly reflected in Aldrin’s helmet in another famous photo.
6 He may have been first, but his stay was the shortest
Scientists were worried about the dangers of being on the moon, so Armstrong and Aldrin had a single excursion of just
2 1/2 hours, never straying more than 100 metres from the lander. The second landing featured two moonwalks of almost four hours each, and by the final mission the astronauts made three seven-hour excursions, travelling several kilometres away from the lander in the lunar rover.
7 Armstrong once sued his barber for selling his hair
The astronaut was furious when, in 2005, he learned that his longtime barber, Marx Sizemore, had sold some of his hair clippings to John Reznikoff, a celebrity hair collector whose follicular assembly includes strands from Lincoln, JFK and Napoleon. The barber agreed to donate the $3,000 he made to charity.
8 Aldrin lobbied hard to be the first man on the moon
He had an argument — on previous missions, the secondin-command did the spacewalk while the commander stayed inside. But the counter-argument was that this was a landing, not a spacewalk. And it was cinched when they realized that Armstrong would be closest to the hatch, in bulky spacesuits that wouldn’t let Aldrin squeeze past him.
Canadian actor Ryan Gosling stars as astronaut Neil Armstrong in Damien Chazelle’s newest effort First Man.