By BAZ BAMIGBOYE FOR THE DAILY MAIL
Claire Foy is getting into the space race.
The award-winning actress has been cast by Damien Chazelle, whose hit film La La Land took six Oscar statuettes (including best director for him), in his new movie First Man about the glory — and turmoil — surrounding Nasa’s efforts to put an astronaut on the moon.
Ryan Gosling, who played the jazz player and composer in La La Land, will portray Neil Armstrong, the first man (of the title) to set foot on the moon. And I can reveal that Claire will play his wife, Janet.
‘For Heaven’s sake, indeed!’ Claire exclaimed, when she talked excitedly to me about the prospect of working with the acclaimed film-maker.
She noted that Janet was ‘front and centre’ in the astronauts’ wives group, but she and her husband were also incredibly private people. She won praise, Claire told me, for handling the media storm surrounding the lunar landing ‘very well . . . outwardly’.
It’s early days, so she has more background work to do on Janet, whose marriage to Neil ended in 1994 after 38 years. He died in 2012 aged 82.
The film will focus on the years from 1961-69: looking at Armstrong, his family and Nasa’s determination to put a man on the moon before the Soviets.
Claire told me she’s ‘very interested to find out what the space agency wanted the wives’ image to be’ and she made the point that although Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins (the often forgotten third man) blasted off in Apollo 11, ‘the wives and children were all taken with them, in a weird way’.
First Man is based on James R. Hansen’s powerful book, which drew on 50 hours of taped conversations with Armstrong. It was the most he ever spoke about his place in history, because he loathed the fame that came with taking that giant leap for mankind.
Janet Armstrong once said: ‘Silence is Neil’s answer. The word “No” is an argument. He is a very solitary man.’
Those who knew Armstrong well traced his insistence on privacy to the death of his young daughter, Karen, from pneumonia after suffering from an inoperable brain tumour. He joined the space programme soon after the tragedy. (The Armstrongs also had two sons.)
HAVING auditioned via Skype ‘as you do when you live in London’, Claire flew to LA to see Chazelle in person, though they had met during the Golden Globes weekend in January, when she won best actress for her portrayal of Elizabeth II in Netflix drama The Crown.
The actress said she could imagine the Queen being brave enough to go to the moon — but not her. ‘I can barely get up in an aeroplane, so putting me on a rocket would be a disaster!’
Her most recent picture, Breathe, a heartbreaking story of love and British stoicism directed by Andy Serkis, in which she stars with Andrew Garfield, will open the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival on October 4. It goes on general release on October 27.