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TIFF 2018: Ryan Gosling And Damien Chazelle Take Us Behind The Scenes Of First Man

2018 Toronto International Film Festival - "First Man" Press Conference

image credit: emma mcintyre / getty

Stunning for both its technical achievements and its emotional achievements, First Man has been a frontrunner on the festival circuit this season, taking over the Toronto International Film Festival with its accurate and honest portray of Neil Armstrong’s life and infamous moon walk.

First Man throws audiences straight into the cockpit with Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his fellow test pilots in NASA’s astronaut program. With each takeoff they risk death, which bonds them in camaraderie, but at home Armstrong maintains his taciturn pilot logic that tears at his relationship with his wife, Janet (Claire Foy), and their sons. When he’s called on to join NASA’s Apollo 11 mission to the moon, Armstrong gets ready for what might be the ultimate glory—or the ultimate sacrifice.

“My big worry before tackling this movie—more so than space sequences or the set pieces—it was my first time tackling a subject matter that wasn’t my own experience. Everything I had done up until then I’ve written myself and largely paralleled with my own experiences and here I knew I had to reach outside of myself,” said Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle (La La Land).

Chazelle and Gosling spent time on Armstrong’s farm in Ohio before shooting, getting to know his family, friends, and colleagues in order to accurately portray the characters to truly uncover “the man behind the myth.”

“Once I started to learn about Neil and his wife Janet, this incredible life was really deserving of the tribute Damien wanted to pay to it,” said Gosling. “It was an incredible opportunity but it was an enormous responsibility… You could feel how much love everyone had for Neil and Janet and their legacy.”

Chazelle talked about how there are two ways to look at a hero: standing back and gazing upwards, or drawing closer and seeing the heroic acts through the hero’s eyes. He said that while Armstrong is a very internal person, supplementing his emotions into his work, it’s the story behind his moonwalk that makes him a great American hero.


“All of the characters in this are so rich and we’re lucky enough that there’s so much information [about these characters] to ground ourselves,” said Kyle Chandler who portrays one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts Deke Slayton.

Although the film is about the astronauts’ incredible journey, it’s just as much about the women behind the men.

“To get to play a woman that is strong and on the team and not in the shadows but also shows to be a vulnerable character is definitely what attracted me to the role,” said Olivia Hamilton who plays Pat White, wife of astronaut Ed White, and friend of Janet.

Foy went on to say that this story hasn’t been told in this way before because nobody had previously thought to look past the astronauts work and see what was going on behind the scenes at home with their families.

“The humanity of the men who were going wasn’t that important to anybody; nobody really wanted to know that they had lives and had arguments with their wives,” said Foy. “It takes a real filmmaker to shine the light on that and say that that’s the real story.”

Catch First Man in theatres October 12. Check out the trailer below:

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