Teasing Kyle Chandler and Bonding Over Barbecue: 'First Man' Cast Reflects on Favorite Moments From Filming

The First Man Premiere-J100418F-0071_0093R_COMP-H 2018
Alex J. Berliner/ABImages

Eight stars from the Neil Armstrong biopic — including Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy — dish on the most memorable recollections from the film shoot.

Roger Chaffee 

I had a panic attack while shooting the fire scene, and Jason Clarke, bless his heart, kind of held my hand and talked me down. We were in these spacesuits, and we were in a practical-sized capsule that was completely made to scale. It took 20 minutes just to get the three of us into this thing. They strap you down. You can't really see. There was no air movement. We were sweating. It just got to a point where I was losing my breath. My body was really hot. The respect I have for astronauts to be able to stay in one of those capsules for days on end, if not weeks, or in a space station for months at a time blows my mind because I about lost my mind after nine hours. Isaac [Klausner, producer] came up to me at the end of that day and was like, "Bet you never do a space movie again."

Jim Lovell 

I became really close with a bunch of the guys that played the astronauts because we had so much downtime together. But Ryan [Gosling] was playing this incredibly famous introvert, and it was really important for him performance-wise to maintain some of that introvertedness and distance even when we weren't shooting. He's also the star of the movie, number one on the call sheet. You carry a certain sort of responsibility. But what I was most impressed with — he certainly did it with me and I observed it with everybody else —he made sure that every single actor who came on set got at least a moment of acknowledgment and recognition. He made sure to make sure that every person felt valued. I thought that was a really classy thing to do.

Janet Armstrong

Olivia [Hamilton] and I really bonded. We were the main female characters in the story, really, and we had a lot of inside scenes together. There was one scene where we were in the kitchen, just us two, the whole time. The whole night, for like 14 hours, while all the guys were outside. We went slightly mental. We just kept emptying and reloading the dishwasher over and over and over and over and over again, singing the same song.

Patricia White 

Damien [Chazelle, director of First Man and Hamilton's husband] and I have barbecues at our house sometimes, and Claire [Foy] came over with her mother and her daughter. That was really bonding because we got to play with her daughter in the rain. Getting to know someone's family — the fact that she would be so willing to integrate that and introduce us to her mother and child — definitely made me feel bonded to her in a new way. Just to have some time off-set to play as individuals was great.


Elliot See 

We were all staying at one hotel down in Atlanta, and there were a lot of nights spent checking out new places to eat, that kind of thing. It was a great sense of camaraderie and film legacy. I was there with Ciaran Hinds, Kyle Chandler, Shea Whigham and Pablo Schreiber. Me and Pablo are sort of a younger generation of actors. But we had Shea Whigham, whom I've worked with before, and he's like an old, grizzled curmudgeon. Ciaran Hinds is a fucking legend. And Kyle Chandler, whom I literally accidentally called "Coach" a couple of times. I couldn't help it. I was like, "Yeah, you got it, Coach." He's like [in Chandler's voice], "Don't you ever do that to me again. You hear?"

Neil Armstrong 

There was a scene with Jason Clarke that was meant to be a simple walk-and-talk on a warm summer night. Instead it was below freezing, and we were riddled with a host of technical difficulties. We started with a Steadicam, went to a golf cart, maybe a wheelchair. At a certain point, anything with wheels got called in. But Jason, through sheer tyranny of his goodwill, helped us make that scene focused and emotional.

Joe Walker 

I was there on the very first day and the last day of shooting. This was on the last day. I'll never forget it. [Director] Damien [Chazelle] had cut together a bit of a trailer for the crew to see, so they could see the fruits of their labor. Here we were in the middle of this desert with this makeshift TV. It was a monitor of some sort playing what essentially was a trailer to this movie. It was stunning. It was a great experience for everybody because it was such a visual proof of everything that everyone had suspected that they were working on was in fact truly remarkable. I remember thinking, "Wow, this is an incredible film. How lucky I am to be in it." I felt so lucky to be there for everyone to absorb that moment on such a momentous occasion because picture had just wrapped. It was a great sense of bonding with the whole crew. Stealing glances with Ryan [Gosling] and Damien and sensing, "Look at that. Look at what we've done."

Mike Collins 

One time I came back from craft services and Ryan [Gosling] was just hanging in the spaceship. I was like, "Oh shit, you're still in here? What are you doing?" He was like, "Just taking it in. You know." In a really cool, sweet way. It's just like, damn, this guy. He's really, really in it. Another time Al Worden came. He was the command module pilot on Apollo 15. We both had to perform transposition and docking, but I don't know how to do that. So I'm like, "Hey, Damien [Chazelle, director]. What should I touch?" Up comes Al, like, "Oh, well, when I was up there, I just did this and this." He showed me exactly what he did to go to the moon. Ryan saw that moment happen, and he took a photo of it. He seemed embarrassed to take a picture, but he didn't want to impose on my moment with Al. That really shows you how lovely he is.

Gus Grissom

When we ended up on the crash pad, when we're dying in Canaveral, that was intense. We sat there for several hours before we even began to film in a very, very tight space. I'm not great in confined, tight spaces. Jason [Clarke] really helped me through that. I definitely needed it. Everything that you see in there is felt and real. We were having some trouble with some of the cameras because it was so tight, and [director] Damien [Chazelle] wanted it as realistic as possible. All of that organically fed in. When you hear me talking about how "this is Mickey Mouse shit," saying, "How are we gonna get to the moon if we can't get going?" All that was born out of that.

This story first appeared in a November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.