It’s quite a leap for director Damien Chazelle and actor Ryan Gosling to go from their Academy Award-winning La La Land into outer space, as they team up again to tell the story of the first man on the moon.

The film focuses on the legen­dary Neil Armstrong and the years leading up to the Apollo 11 flight. It is based on First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen. The screenplay, written by Josh Singer, examines the highs and lows – both physical and emotional – of the mission which ended in triumph, while still also being  fraught with danger.

This is done while taking an intimate look at the effects on Armstrong and his family, his NASA colleagues and the US itself as the frontiers of outer space were conquered.

With Gosling in place in the title role, he is joined on screen by The Crown’s jewel Claire Foy as Armstrong’s wife Janet, a woman dealing with the enormous sacrifices asked of her.

First Man reveals intimate insights into the global hero’s private life and previously unknown character-defining moments. Han­sen built a career writing and teaching about space and history.

In the year 2000 he reached out to Armstrong to ask if he could write his biography – a request the astronaut initially declined politely. After a while, and with some encouragement from his family, Armstrong acquiesced. Eventually he also gave his blessing, before passing away in 2012, for the making of the movie.

“What we know of Neil is as this one-dimensional, iconic symbol,” muses Hansen. “But he was a living, breathing, three-dimensional human being.”

Reveals intimate insights into the global hero’s private life

That in mind, it was crucial to the production team not simply to tell a story about a hero of whom people the world over may have seen many pictures and interviews, but to explore what drove him, his family, and his colleagues at NASA to ac­complish the unthinkable.

The film’s producers Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen had been developing First Man for some time. When they met Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle the final pieces fell into place.

“We told Damien about the character in the story, and he fell in love with it and came aboard to help us. From there, it all moved quickly,” recalls Godfrey.

“Damien wanted to treat the story like a thriller,” adds Godfrey. “He wanted to defy expectations about what it took to successfully land a man on the moon, and put you in the shoes of what it would have been like at the time – with all of the technological barriers facing these guys.

“We forget that when they were trying to put a man on the moon, we didn’t have the technology we had today,” Bowen says. “We hoped to put the audience through that experience and show the detail that was required by thousands of people working toward one goal. If any of them messed up, it would end in failure.”

“Before I began work on First Man, I knew the textbook narrative of the mission to the moon, the success story of an iconic achievement, but little else,” Chazelle says.

“Once I started digging, I grew astounded by the sheer madness and danger of the enterprise – the number of times it circled failure, as well as the toll it took on all involved. I wanted to understand what compelled these men to voyage into deep space, and what the experience – moment by moment, breath by breath – might have felt like.”

Yet, First Man was to be more than just about the mission. Chazelle wanted to explore Armstrong’s home life and bring to the fore the vast expanses of space juxtaposed against the textures of quotidian life.

“I chose to shoot the film in verité, playing fly-on-the-wall to both space missions and the Armstrong family’s most intimate, guarded moments,” says Chazelle. “My hope was that this approach could highlight the heartbreak, joy, lives lived and lost in the name of one of history’s most famous goals: setting foot on the moon.”

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