One of my earliest ambitions was, like so many young boys, to be an astronaut when I grew up. And while, clearly, that's one ambition I never realised, that dream of space has stayed with me to this day. One of my favourite press trips was for Apollo 13, visiting the Space Center in Houston, getting to stand in the original mission control, and going on a behind the scenes tour the public don't get. (I also visited the famed astronauts' bar but that's another story.) One of my favourite books, too, of recent years was Andrew Smith's astonishing Moondust in which he tracks down all the men still alive who've walked on the moon. It's a terrific read, full of pathos and emotion, one that beautifully captured the sense of fear and wonder these men felt as they shot out into the void and a few days later stepped foot on the lunar surface, and how that trip has forever altered their lives.
You can imagine my excitement, then, to read the news on variety.com that Universal has acquired the nonfiction book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong which it will turn into a film about the first person to set foot on the moon. According to the story, NASA historian James R. Hansen got rare direct access to Armstrong, a test pilot-turned-astronaut who was so driven to reach the moon and play the role of American hero that he became known as "the Ice Commander". "The closer he got to the moon, the further away he became from his family," Perlman is quote as saying. "He had a family tragedy before Apollo that turned him into this driven astronaut, and he became such a perfect hero that while Buzz Aldrin was announced to be the first man on the moon, NASA reversed its decision because Neil was regarded as more heroic." Armstrong returned from the moon as one of the most famous men on Earth but didn't capitalize on it with a political career or endorsements. He reconnected with his family, shut out the world and became an intensely private man.
So much so that even Smith, if I'm remembering correctly, only got the briefest of words with him. I'm aware that this story broke yesterday, but I'm really hoping it's not an elaborate April Fool.