Ryan Gosling plays Neil Armstrong in the new movie from Universal Pictures called First Man that tells the story of the sacrifices America took to get a man on the moon. On this week’s Extra Butter with Xilla Valentine we took a look inside the movie and found out that there is a little Easter egg that pays homage to Catherine Johnson and the computers in the film.
At first watch, I didn’t see the ladies of Hidden Figures in this film, but after watching there is a brief scene where you can see a group of African American women in the background during Neil Armstrong’s trip to the moon. Director Damien Chazelle spoke on the subject saying, “Hidden Figures, which I love as a film and the book that it’s based on, is mainly actually about an earlier period than this movie, it’s about the mercury period.” He continues, “It’s right when Neil was first joining in so we weren’t able to look at that chapter from Neil’s perspective during the years of this movie, but it was important… But Catherine Johnson and her colleagues were working at NASA up to the later missions that we see in this movie. So it was important to certainly acknowledge that.”
Another standout scene is when Leon Bridges, who plays Gil Scott-Heron in First Man performs Gil’s iconic Whitey On The Moon poem. Which he wrote because millions of dollars were being spent on exploring outer space while Americans and most importantly minorities continued to face problems on the ground. Damien beautiful captures that moment in his film. He recalls the moment he discovered the track.
Damien says, “It’s a wonderful encapsulation as a song of a lot of the feelings that were being engendered by the space program at that time. Which are really understandable feelings, you know? This was a time in history where poverty was on the rise, there were immense problems within all the cities across America. A lot of homegrown problems and of course the government at that time was putting a lot of money into sending rockets to the moon.”
Damien goes on to discuss how it wasn’t a giant celebration to get a man on the moon like the history books would like you to believe, but rather the country was having a real debate about whether we should go to the moon or not.
I also got to chat with Claire Foy who plays Janet Armstrong, a wife having to raise two kids as her husband risks his life every day for his job. She ends up stealing the entire movie as one of the brightest stars in the film. Her performance is breathtaking and sure to get Oscar buzz. Foy was honored to get the role because she got a chance, to give voice to Janet Armstrong because at the time she couldn’t speak for herself, but the real-life Janet had a lot of input on this film, along with her it really gave heart to the film. Claire goes on to say, “I felt like that was the undercurrent of the movie because these voices were so true and so real because (the screenwriter) Josh Singer was so inspired by them. It was a real honor but also an ‘i better not ruin it'”
First Man is truly one of the best movies of the year with wonderful performances by Claire Foy and Ryan Gosling, definitely worth checking out if you get a chance. It is in theaters everywhere this Friday, October 12, 2018.