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Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy Say Making First Man Was Inspiring

Interview: Ryan Gosling plays moonwalker Neil Armstrong and Claire Foy his wife.

Oct 09, 2018

By: Lynn Barker

First Man reminds us that, in 1969, NASA accomplished the impossible. America put men on the moon. The first human to touch foot on the lunar surface was Neil Armstrong, an unassuming, humble test pilot turned astronaut who gave us the immortal words “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for Mankind”.

Neil (Ryan) is ready to board the spacecraftNeil (Ryan) is ready to board the spacecraftCourtesy of Universal Studios

Now Neil and his brave accomplishment are portrayed by Ryan Gosling from La La Land and Bladerunner 2049.  Ryan tells reporters that he was awed by his whole experience making the film. Playing Neil’s long-suffering and supportive wife Janet is actress Claire Foy whom you might know as the young Queen Elizabeth on TV’s “The Crown”.

What do these two celebrated actors have to say about the real life people they play and how their sacrifices changed our world? Here is the interview.

Q: It’s been almost 50 years since Man first walked on the moon. What are your thoughts when you think about that and now that you’ve done the film?

  • Claire: I asked my mom about it. She watched the moon landing as it was happening and I tried to get an understanding of what it was like pre and post that achievement. And she just said that no one thought that we could do it. We were underestimating our own ability I suppose. I have grown up knowing that we were capable of doing that and it would be nice in my lifetime if we could have an achievement that was for all Mankind again. Something purely positive would be really nice.

Neil (Ryan) and Janet (Claire) ArmstrongNeil (Ryan) and Janet (Claire) ArmstrongCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: You are so right. Ryan, when you look up at the moon now, has your perception of it changed?

  • Ryan: Yeah. Now I think of it as only three days away which I can’t help but think about now, this incredible shift in this thing that was once unknowable.

Neil Armstrong is a loving dadA loving dadCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: What was it about director Damien Chazelle's ideas for this film that excited both of you?

  • Claire: Damien is a very exciting person and I loved the idea that he had which was to tell the personal side of the story and to highlight how treacherous these missions were. Also to investigate it from the point of view of a person who was not necessarily someone you would make a movie about. Neil was a very ordinary person.
  • Ryan: I think what was exciting was how many exciting elements there were to it. It wasn’t just one, it was so rich on every level. (He had) the film start under the wing of an X-15 and shoot up in the atmosphere to having it end on the moon. As a pure experience alone, it was exciting and Damien’s instinct was to just focus on Neil and Janet Armstrong and their family and understand the personal sacrifice involved for them.
  • And, on a larger level, this achievement made everyone (understand) what we were capable of.  If there was a collective interest to accomplish one impossible thing, we could (do it).

Janet anxiously watches TVJanet anxiously watches TVCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: Claire, did you enjoy learning about wife Janet and the family?

  • Claire: Without examining him as a person and his family and the people he’s surrounded by, you wouldn’t be able to understand the man. They suffer a great tragedy that I can’t imagine any family would ever recover from, but out of that comes this extraordinary decision and bravery in him.

Suiting up for the big flightSuiting up for the big flightCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: Ryan, how was your experience making the film special?

  • Ryan: Seeing the Apollo 11 capsule, those visits to NASA, just sitting in these carefully reconstructed capsules, having astronauts that were involved in those missions talking to me in my ear through the scenes, it was a very, very surreal process, an opportunity that I still can’t believe I got to have.

Janet considers the danger Neil is inJanet considers the danger Neil is inCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: What inspires you most about the Armstrongs and what will inspire audiences when they see the film?

  • Claire: I was inspired by their perseverance to live really. They’d just had such tragedy and pain and struggle and yet they were able to get through their life as a family and as individuals and lead pretty extraordinary lives and I find that amazing.
  • Ryan: I think when you learn about just what they were enduring during these missions and the amount of loss that they had experienced, they were people who lived their lives out of their own self-interest for a higher ideal. That’s always an inspiring story but when you learn about them specifically and who they were as people, it’s even more inspiring.

Neil and Janet support each otherNeil and Janet support each otherCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: Ryan, do you think Neil was especially brave?

  • Ryan: it takes a certain kind of person to knowingly get into a plane that has never been flown and push it to its breaking point so that you can find its weaknesses and improve it, I think that says something about Neil. In this specific flight that he took, he takes it to such an extreme that his life is really in jeopardy.

Reporters hound JanetReporters hound JanetCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: Claire, what did you learn about the Armstrongs’ (Janet and Neil’s) relationship?

  • Claire: They’re very different people, Janet and Neil. I think Janet is very gregarious and outgoing and loves having people around. She’s a very open person. From her friends I learned that she will drive 600 miles to see her friend because they need her. Neil is very different. He’s not introverted but he has so much going on in his mind that he doesn’t need to look out so much so he doesn’t need to be so social. I think that’s what he sees in partner Janet. She carries the load. She takes care of her end of business.

Neil's young son worries about himNeil's young son worries about himCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: Ryan, did you and the cast gain more respect for those early astronauts?

  • Ryan: I think our respect just grew by the day as we were trying to wrap our heads around the technical and emotional obstacles that they were dealing with on a regular basis. Also, I think we all benefitted from this perspective that space exploration had given them.

Neil narrowly escapes a test plane crashNeil narrowly escapes a test plane crashCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: Claire, what does Ryan bring to the role of Neil?

  • Claire: Neil didn’t do what everybody does which is try to make everyone else feel great about themselves. Or if there is an awkward silence, try and fill it. I think, innately, Ryan, as a person is kind-hearted and generous and warm. I think that’s just naturally what he brings to the (degree) where I’m playing Janet in a scene and supposed to be really angry with him and I’m just not (she laughs). He’s really nice.

Q: Why is Neil’s story so compelling?

  • Claire: This is the story of a man who was just extraordinary and only one other person knows what that experience (walking on the moon) at that time was like for him and that’s (astronaut) Buzz Aldrin. The film isn’t about just the mission, just getting to the moon or just the space program, it’s about Neil as a human being and what it means for a human being to make such extraordinary strides for humankind and what pushes him to put his life at risk for the rest of humanity.

On set with director Damien ChazelleOn set with director Damien ChazelleCourtesy of Universal Studios

See First Man in theaters Friday, October 12th!

Tell Us What You Think?

Have you studied the first moon landing in school? Did you ever think of growing up to be an astronaut or scientist who explores other worlds? Are you a fan of Ryan Gosling or Claire Foy? We want to hear what YOU think. Leave a comment or talk about it on your Kidzworld profile page! Your feelings count!