So far this year, there have been several box office surprises. For the most part, these surprises came in the form of films that were expected to dominate in one way or another, only to end up not quite hitting their mark. On the other hand, 2016 had a decent amount of small films that ended up surprising audiences and critics alike. Titles like Manchester By the Sea, Moonlight and La La Land all managed to make enough noise to attract big amounts of attention.
In the case of La La Land, anyone who was a fan of writer/director Damien Chazelle’s 2014 Oscar winner Whiplash suspected he was worth keeping an eye on. Despite La La Land’s classification as a musical, the film has received an overwhelming degree of accolades and glowing reviews to date. This, coupled with a stellar cast that includes Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, has made the film a promising contender for both Golden Globes and Oscars in the New Year.
Though La La Land’s final award tally is still pending, news of Damien Chazelle’s next film has already arrived, courtesy of Variety. While typically favoring stories that have a musical element to them, this time around Chazelle will be heading off to space with First Man – a biopic of astronaut Neil Armstrong and the challenges faced to become the first man on the moon in 1969. Joining Chazelle for the sizable journey is La La Land star, Ryan Gosling, who is reportedly confirmed in the role of Neil Armstrong.
First Man will be a Universal production and has been written by Oscar winning screenwriter Josh Singer (Spotlight). The story is adapted from author James Hansen’s 2005 biography First Man: A Life of Neil A. Armstrong. The film covers the time span of 1961-1969, focusing on not only what a moon landing meant to Armstrong in terms of danger and personal sacrifice, but also to America as a whole. Aside from being the first man to land on the moon, Armstrong is also known for his iconic statement “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Clint Eastwood had originally been expected to direct and produce the film, but when that fell apart, Chazelle was brought on board. Principal photography on First Man is expected to begin in early 2017.
With the back-to-back success of Whiplash and La La Land (as well as the latter’s potential for Oscars), Chazelle is likely going to have a lot of expectations riding on First Man. While the young filmmaker’s resume as a writer is built up with a variety of genres, First Man will mark the first time that Chazelle has directed a feature film that he did not write. Whether or not this will have any effect on the final product remains to be seen, but some filmmakers tend to find more success as auteurs rather than creating something based on another writer’s work.
There’s no denying, however, that Damien Chazelle is an immense talent whose work is always full of surprises. Based on synopsis alone, few people initially thought the story of a drummer at a prestigious music academy or two performing artists in LA falling in love would invoke such critical acclaim. Chazelle’s ability to find the struggle and heart at the center of the stories he tells is but one indication that his efforts to tell the tale of the first man on the moon could be spectacular.
As of this writing, First Man does not have a release date. We'll keep you posted on the latest information.