Damien Chazelle’s La La Land follow-up moved away from the vivid song-and-dance numbers in the City of Angels to the dramatic personal journey of astronaut Neil Armstrong that led to his legendary steps on the moon in First Man. While Armstrong didn’t live to see the day to offer his opinion on Gosling’s portrayal, fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin has seen First Man and he reportedly wasn’t impressed.
According to a tweet by IndieWire’s Anne Thompson, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin “doesn’t like the film.” The 88-year-old, who was the second man on the moon, was portrayed by Corey Stoll as an arrogant and stubborn character in First Man. Thompson quoted that Aldrin said “they needed that character,” presumably referring to how Aldrin was portrayed, “And more like him.”
Buzz Aldrin delivered these comments at Jeff Bezos’ Amazon party for the studio’s award-contender Beautiful Boy. Alternatively, Aldrin offered his favorite astronaut movie pick as the 2007 documentary In the Shadow of the Moon. The film had Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and other crew members of NASA’s Apollo missions telling their stories.
Corey Stoll’s portrayal of Buzz Aldrin wasn’t the focus of First Man, and he only had a small supporting role in the film. The drama primarily follows Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong and his family in the years leading up to the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. In preparation for the role, Gosling spent time with Neil Armstrong’s family and friends to bring authenticity to his portrayal.
Buzz Aldrin’s recent comments about First Man isn’t the only criticism the former astronaut has pointed at the film. When the film was screened, some found it off-putting that it didn’t include the moment when Neil Armstrong planted the American flag when they landed on the moon. Aldrin then tweeted some images of the flag on the moon with hashtags saying “proud to be an American,” “freedom” and “honor” in response.
Ryan Gosling explained that in his research of Neil Armstrong, he found that he didn’t feel like an American hero and the moment transcended countries and borders, so the scene was crafted to reflect Armstrong’s view.
First Man didn’t find a large audience, as it made just $16 million during its opening weekend and saw a huge drop in its second week with blockbusters such as Halloween, A Star is Born and Venom continuing to dominate the box office throughout October. While the controversy didn’t particularly fuel its small numbers, it didn’t help either, as a survey indicated that 17% of responders skipped the film due to the flag debate.
Overall, the film did receive high-acclaim, but the consensus here at CinemaBlend was that the movie failed to move emotionally through the cold eyes of Ryan Gosling’s Neil Armstrong. News that one of the astronauts of the mission wasn’t a fan either doesn’t particularly help its credibility either, but First Man didn’t aim to tell Buzz Aldrin’s story.