Al Reinert, Oscar-Nominated 'Apollo 13' Screenwriter, Dies at 71

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Al Reinert

He received an earlier nom for 'For All Mankind,' a documentary admired by 'First Man' director Damien Chazelle.

Al Reinert, a newspaper reporter on the NASA beat who went on to receive an Oscar nomination for his Apollo 13 screenplay, has died. He was 71.

Reinert died on New Year's Eve at his home in Wimberley, Texas, after a battle with cancer, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Survivors include his wife, actress Lisa Hart Carroll; she played Patsy, the best friend of Debra Winger's character, in Terms of Endearment

Reinert earned his first Oscar nom for producing (and directing) the feature documentary For All Mankind (1989), which used footage shot by astronauts during the Apollo moon missions that had never being seen by the public. It was his first film.

Brian Eno contributed music, and the film won two documentary prizes at the Sundance Film Festival. The Criterion Collection calls it a "radical, visually dazzling work of cinema."

"Tom Hanks told me it's not a documentary," Reinert told the Chronicle in 2015. "He said it's an art film. And in a way he's right. I didn't know any better at the time. I'd seen films with astronauts talking, and they just didn't do anything for me."

According to the newspaper, Reinert recently received a letter from First Man director Damien Chazelle, who said he had asked his crew on the Neil Armstrong biopic to watch For All Mankind for inspiration. 

Reinert and William Broyles Jr. turned Lost Moon, a 1994 book written by astronaut James Lovell about his ill-fated 1970 Apollo mission, into the screenplay for Apollo 13. Hanks portrayed Lovell in the 1995 drama that was directed by Ron Howard.

Reinert also wrote two episodes of the 1998 HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, hosted by Hanks.

A graduate of Texas A&M, Reinert started off covering crime at the Chronicle before he segued to the space program in the 1970s. He went on to spend many years as a contributing editor to Texas Monthly magazine.

Reinert also wrote and directed the documentaries An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story (2013) and Audubon (2017). He was working on a doc about the International Space Station called Above It All at the time of his death.