Mr. Neil Armstrong’s biopic film takes off


First Man (2018) is a biopic film tracing the life of American astronaut Mr. Neil Armstrong and his journey to becoming the first human to walk on the moon.  Mr. Damien Chazelle directed and released the film October 12.  The movie accentuates the sacrifices of time, money, and safety that the nation and Mr. Armstrong made to fulfill one of the most dangerous missions in the history of space travel: the Apollo 11 mission, according to  Sacred Heart Greenwich junior Piper Van Wagenen is one of Mr. Armstrong’s grandchildren. She had the opportunity to participate in the making of the film.

Viewers gather in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. at the movie’s opening night.  Courtesy of Piper Van Wagenen ’20

Mr. James R. Hansen is a professor of history at Auburn University and was a friend of Mr. Armstrong, according to  In 2005, Mr. Hansen wrote “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong,” a biography which includes several personal interviews with Mr. Armstrong, his immediate family, and numerous colleagues, providing a deep and personal account of his life, according to

“First Man was filmed to display NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon while focusing on Neil Armstrong and his life throughout the process,” Piper said.  “I thought the movie turned out to be, for the most part, representative of my grandfather’s personality and of his various professions.”

Most notably, the film stars Mr. Ryan Gosling as Mr. Armstrong, Ms. Claire Foy as Mrs. Janet Armstrong, Mr. Corey Stoll as Mr. Buzz Aldrin, and Mr. Kyle Chandler as Mr. Deke Slayton.  While First Man is a strong film telling a story vital to the world’s history, it has struggled to compete with popular films such as Venom (2018) and A Star Is Born (2018), according to The New York Times.

Thus far, First Man has earned $77 million worldwide, but cost roughly $60 million to make and more than $10 million to advertise, according to The New York Times.  In comparison, A Star Is Born has made over $263 million worldwide, according to

A possible reason for the lack of success following the release of First Man is Mr. Chazelle’s choice to not include a scene where Mr. Armstrong plants the American flag on the moon.  Mr. Chazelle did not include this scene because he believes that people take the moon landing for granted, according to CNN.  

Mr. Gosling, however, defended the director’s choice.  Gosling joked he had “cognitive bias” as a Canadian actor commenting on the American event, according to CNN.

Mr. Ryan Gosling and Piper Van Wagenen ’20 at the First Man premiere at the National Air and Space Museum.  Courtesy of Piper Van Wagenen ’20

“I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that’s how we chose to view it,” Mr. Gosling said, according to CNN.  “I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero.  From my interviews with his family and people that knew him, it was quite the opposite.”

Mr. Hansen also agrees with Mr. Gosling.  He believes that the film was discretely patriotic, and he understood Mr. Chazelle’s decision to omit the scene.

“[P]eople just hear this one thing, and they don’t understand why it was done the way it was done and how other elements of the movie are unbelievably patriotic and American,” Mr. Hansen said, according to  “It’s just a reflection of our time as these things become politicized.”

Mr. Chazelle recreated the famous moon landing in Atlanta, Georgia during the fall of 2017, according to  During the course of filming First Man, Piper traveled to Atlanta to attend the set, meet the cast, and play an extra in one of the scenes alongside Mr. Gosling and Mr. Chandler in the film.  Piper was pleased with the outcome of the film, regardless of the controversy following the flag planting scene.

“There were a good number of scenes that were fictionalized for the purpose of drawing the viewer’s attention to a secondary plot within the movie,” Piper said.  “Overall, Damien and everyone who worked on the movie did a great job.”

Featured Image Courtesy of Piper Van Wagenen ’20