3/7/2017 Update: the film will now be released on October 12, 2018 by Universal.
With “La La Land” already expected to storm the Oscars with a slew of nominations, and maintaining its pole position status as the Best Picture frontrunner, a couple of things are clear: Director Damien Chazelle, who first turned heads with “Whiplash,” is no flash in the pan; and secondly, he got along swimmingly with his cast. So much so that he’s ready to reteam with Ryan Gosling.
Cooking up for a while now, Variety reports that Chazelle and Gosling are now locked and loaded to make the Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man.” And they’re not the only big talent involved. The Oscar winning co-writer of “Spotlight,” Josh Singer, has penned the adaptation of James R. Hansen’s biography “First Man: The Life Of Neil A. Armstrong” which will tell the historic story of getting the first man on the moon. Here’s the book synopsis:
When Apollo 11 touched down on the moon’s surface in 1969, the first man on the moon became a legend. In First Man, Hansen explores the life of Neil Armstrong. Based on over fifty hours of interviews with the intensely private Armstrong, who also gave Hansen exclusive access to private documents and family sources, this “magnificent panorama of the second half of the American twentieth century” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) is an unparalleled biography of an American icon.
Upon his return to earth, Armstrong was honored and celebrated for his monumental achievement. He was also—as James R. Hansen reveals in this fascinating and important biography — misunderstood. Armstrong’s accomplishments as engineer, test pilot, and astronaut have long been a matter of record, but Hansen’s unprecedented access to private documents and unpublished sources and his interviews with more than 125 subjects (including more than fifty hours with Armstrong himself) yield this first in-depth analysis of an elusive American celebrity still renowned the world over.
In a riveting narrative filled with revelations, Hansen vividly recreates Armstrong’s career in flying, from his seventy-eight combat missions as a naval aviator flying over North Korea to his formative transatmospheric flights in the rocket-powered X-15 to his piloting Gemini VIII to the first-ever docking in space. These milestones made it seem, as Armstrong’s mother Viola memorably put it, “as if from the very moment he was born — farther back still — that our son was somehow destined for the Apollo 11 mission.”
For a pilot who cared more about flying to the Moon than he did about walking on it, Hansen asserts, Armstrong’s storied vocation exacted a dear personal toll, paid in kind by his wife and children. For the forty-five years since the Moon landing, rumors have swirled around Armstrong concerning his dreams of space travel, his religious beliefs, and his private life.
In a penetrating exploration of American hero worship, Hansen addresses the complex legacy of the First Man, as an astronaut and as an individual. In First Man, the personal, technological, epic, and iconic blend to form the portrait of a great but reluctant hero who will forever be known as history’s most famous space traveler.
It’ll be an interesting project for Chazelle, his first working from a script he didn’t write himself, and his first movie based on a true story. And it’ll be interesting to see what flourishes he brings to the material, especially following two movies where he showed off some pretty stylized filmmaking. But maybe this is the challenge for Chazelle: to try and make something slightly more aesthetically sober.
Perhaps we’ll soon see, as production is expected to kick off in early 2017, and I would imagine that Universal would want it ready for next year’s awards season, if possible.