'Whiplash' Director in Talks to Pilot Neil Armstrong Biopic (Exclusive)

Young Neil Armstrong - H 2014
AP Images

Young Neil Armstrong - H 2014

'The Fifth Estate' writer Josh Singer is in talks to pen the Universal project

Damien Chazelle, who directed the Sundance sensation Whiplash, is settling on a studio project ahead of his indie darling's October release.

The filmmaker is in talks to direct First Man, a biopic set up at Universal that tells the story of Neil Armstrong, the astronaut who became the first man to set foot on the moon.

Additionally, Josh Singer is being tapped to pen the script, which adapts the book First Man: A Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James Hansen. Hansen had full access to Armstrong's family as well as NASA when he wrote the tome.

The move brings a new bounce to the project, which has been around for more than 10 years and was at one point set up at Warner Bros. with Clint Eastwood attached to produce and direct.

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Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey of Temple Hill Entertainment, coming off a nice opening weekend with The Maze Runner, are producing.

Armstrong was a Navy bombing pilot, flying 78 missions before the age of 23. He was also a test pilot in the 1950s and '60s, pushing his experimental planes literally to the breaking point. He slowly moved over to astronaut work in the '60s, rising through the ranks to lead the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

Chazelle’s Whiplash began life as a short, winning the 2013 short film jury award at Sundance. Chazelle then took the acclaim and parlayed that into financing, returning to Sundance a year later with a feature starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons and got a distribution deal from Sony Pictures Classics. This time, his film won the audience award and the grand jury award. Whiplash, which also won the grand prize in Deauville, France, earlier this month, is now set to open in limited release Oct. 10.

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First Man, however, won’t be Chazelle’s next film. That is likely to be La La Land, a musical set up at Lionsgate that has Teller and Emma Watson attached to star.

Singer wrote The Fifth Estate, the story of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. He also wrote Spotlight, the story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the Catholic church sex abuse scandal that is in preproduction, with Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams to star.

Chazelle is repped by WME, Exile Entertainment and Hansen Jacobson. Singer is repped by WME, Anonymous Content and Lichter Grossman.

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