“He said he could recommend somebody to look at my hair,” Stoll told a press conference at the Toronto Film Festival on Tuesday while on hand to tout the Ryan Gosling-starrer about the Apollo 11 moon landing. Aldrin, who landed on the moon July 21, 1969 — stepping on to the surface after Neil Armstrong — visited the First Man set on the last day of production.
Stoll and fellow castmembers during the TIFF press conference didn’t address earlier criticism surrounding First Man not showing the planting of the American flag on the lunar surface. Aldrin had tweeted photos of himself standing on the moon, planting the flag, along with a number of hashtags, including “ProudToBeAnAmerican” and “OneNation.”
Stoll instead paid homage to Aldrin, and the rest of the NASA astronauts and program. “It’s a huge responsibility,” he said of playing Aldrin. “I don’t think the movie pulls punches, it’s not sentimental, but I could rest comfortably knowing this is the best-researched movie I’ve ever been part of.”
First Man, written by Josh Singer (Spotlight), stars Gosling as Armstrong, the astronaut who became the first man to step onto the moon, and recounts the preparations for the historic space flight as well as the trek itself. Claire Foy appears as Armstrong’s wife, Janet, while Lukas Haas plays astronaut Michael Collins.
Rick Armstrong, one of Neil Armstrong’s two sons, who was in Toronto to tout First Man, said his father refused any overture from writers or filmmakers to tell his story until Jim Hansen approached him and eventually wrote First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, on which the movie is based.
“Jim came to him with an approach that was more technical in nature. I don’t think he envisioned a movie, but consented to that. And he did 60 hours of interviews with Jim,” Rick Armstrong told the presser. “I do think he’d be pleased with the result.”
Brother Mark Armstrong, underlining how his father was understated in nature, pointed to an answer he once gave on how he felt when NASA asked him to lead a mission to the moon. “I was pleased,” he said.
“I just want to congratulate you for the great work you did,” Mark Armstrong added, while surrounded by the director and cast of First Man on the Bell Lightbox stage. Chazelle, who launched the Venice Film Festival this year with First Man, before arriving in Toronto on its opening weekend for another premiere, recalled coming together with Gosling to discuss possibly collaborating on the Armstrong movie before they ended up doing La La Land together.
“Right from the get-go, I knew I wanted to work with [Gosling] on this,” Chazelle said. For his part, Gosling said he didn’t know much about Armstrong, before taking on the role.
“As soon as I learned what the moon was, I knew a man named Neil Armstrong walked on it. But I knew very little about him. And as soon as I met with Damien, he said he wanted to uncover the man behind the myth,” Gosling said.
The Hollywood actor dismissed a question at the presser on his Oscar prospects following his star turn in First Man. “I would be doing Neil a disservice to make this moment about me. I appreciate you asking, but it’s better to talk about Neil. The honor was to be involved with this film and make a great film,” a self-deprecating Gosling said.
Universal will release the film stateside Oct. 12.