“Won’t you join me and become the first film director to go to the moon?”
A special session - Movie “First Man” Directed by Damien Chazelle × Starring actor Ryan Gosling × Yusaku Maezawa
Feb 7, 2019
In 2016, “La La Land” took the world by storm and became a cultural phenomenon. The duo, director Damien Chazelle and actor Ryan Gosling, joined forces once again for the Neil Armstrong biopic, “First Man”. The movie, which sheds light on Armstrong’s success and the sacrifices he made to become the first man to walk on the moon, will finally be released in Japan on February 8.
Concurrently, Japanese entrepreneur, Yusaku Maezawa (MZ), began making preparations as the first civilian to travel to the moon some 384,400km away. The announcement of his journey in 2023 with some of the world’s most renowned artists piqued the interest of the global community. And of course, the news of his revolutionary art project “#dearMoon” had also reached Damien and Ryan’s ears.
MZ :The "First Man" was a very beautiful movie.
Damien :Thank you so much. I’m looking forward to the photography you’ll take of the moon when you go there.
MZ :Thank you!
Ryan :You’re going to bring a camera, right?
MZ :Of course.
Ryan :Don’t forget that.
MZ :Your film was extremely beautiful. It was fantastic. Especially, that scene in the film when you landed on the moon and the hatch opened… there was about 15 seconds of complete silence. That part was especially amazing.
In these types of films, it’s rare to have such a long period of silence. Is it really that quiet on the moon?
Yusaku Maezawa (MZ):Japanese entrepreneur. Founder, president, and representative director of ZOZO Inc., which operates the fashion EC platform, ZOZOTOWN. He is also the chairman of the Contemporary Art Foundation, which promotes contemporary art and helps emerging artists. He announced his plans for the first civilian lunar mission.
Ryan :Well… you know, we didn't really go, right? You're really going. We just pretended (laugh).
MZ :I know. I know. (laugh).
Damien :We went to a rock quarry outside Atlanta. That’s where we shot it, and it was actually quite noisy where we shot, a lot of machinery, a lot of film equipment. But it was fun to try to convey for those 15 seconds what it might feel like to be in space or be on the moon in that case and also to try to let the image stand on its own for a moment.
The moon as an image, if you’re standing on it or if you’re that close must be so overpowering and awe-inspiring that it felt like there should be a moment in the movie to drop everything else out and just let the image stand for itself for a moment.
MZ :It was truly breathtaking, and I was worried that my stomach would start growling and ruin the moment. It would be amazing to see how the hundreds of people will react to the complete silence in theaters.
Damien :The first time we screened it to an audience, during that moment someone yelled out, “What happened to the sound?”
Damien Chazelle (Film director/Producer):Known for the three-time Oscar winning film, “Whiplash” (2014), and “La La Land,” which claimed 6 Academy Awards. In the future, he will be working on projects for Netflix and Apple TV.
MZ :How long was it actually?
Damien :You’re probably right. It might be a little more than 15, but it's not much. It feels longer than it is because it's unusual.
MZ :I watched the movie with my staff, and they became worried and asked if I shouldn’t reconsider going to the moon.
But I became even more excited about it. I can’t wait to have such an eye-opening experience.
Damien :That’s why you’re better off going and we're better off staying here.
MZ :So, even if you have a chance to go to the moon, you wouldn’t want to go?
Ryan :No, I think we would be a liability. I would push some of the wrong buttons or break something, so it’s probably better that I don’t go.
Ryan Gosling (Actor):Oscar nominee for best actor and winner of the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his performance in “La La Land” (2016). He is also known for “Drive” (2011) and “Blade Runner 2049” (2017). He plays the leading role, Neil Armstrong, in the film, “First Man”.
Damien :Yeah, I sort of feel the same as Ryan. I will be jealous of the view that you’ll get. I think that would be the one thing that I would be the most eager to get if I could, an up-close view of the moon. Just what that’s like. It was really cool to try to kind of recreate it in our movie, but just imagining… recreating it made me imagine even more what that must be like to just look out and suddenly see the moon not as a far-off object in the distance, but as an up-close terrain and how surreal that must be.
That’s a view that I’ll certainly be jealous of.
Ryan :What kind of training is involved?
MZ :It hasn’t been decided yet, but it should be a fairly simple, and it shouldn’t take too long. Probably less than a couple of months.
Ryan :Are you going to start training in a couple of months? Or you it will only take a few months?
MZ :I’ll probably start training in early 2023.
I’m a civilian passenger, so if we had to take months of training beforehand, it would be too difficult for people to follow in my footsteps. So, in the future, I think that people will be able to go without almost any training.
Ryan :And you're bringing 8 people with you, is that right?
MZ :Probably 8 to 10 people. And I think we should bring one or two astronauts with us.
Damien :So, 8 to 10 civilians and plus 1 or 2 astronauts?
MZ :That’s right. Total of about 10 people.
Ryan :I’m glad to hear that you’re bringing some astronauts. They’re going to come in handy.
MZ :Which astronaut would you recommend? It's too bad Neil Armstrong (1930-2012 astronaut) isn't with us anymore.
Ryan :I know Alfred (Al) Worden (1932-, astronaut) is ready to go.
Damien :Al Worden is ready to go again. Michael Collins (1930-, astronaut) might be ready to go again.
David Scott (1932-, astronaut). There are still a bunch of people who are still living, who have made that trip.
MZ :Do you know Scott Kelly (1964-, astronaut)?
Damien :Yes, we got to meet him in Florida just recently. A month or so ago. It was really cool getting to talk with him.
MZ :When I announced my plans to go to the moon, Scott Kelly contacted me and he was like, 'I'm ready!' (Laugh)
Ryan :Oh good!
Damien :Oh cool. We talked with him about his experiences living in space, spending all that time in outer space. It was amazing getting his perspective on it, and also on the history of the moon missions. Someone like him, who was inspired by Neil Armstrong and people of that generation, and he is sort of the next generation or today’s generation of space pioneers.
Ryan :He could be your photographer as well. He takes beautiful photographs.
Damien :He took amazing photographs of Earth from orbit from the International Space Station.
MZ :I also watched the film, "Whiplash". And of course, "La La Land", too. I used to be a drummer.
Damien :I know!
MZ :I was in a band.
Ryan :Oh, cool!
MZ :You too?
Ryan :I used to play a long time ago.
Damien :I used to be a drummer too.
MZ :Oh, you were a drummer?
Damien :Yes, I was. I was going to ask you the same question. (laugh). I don't play that much anymore, a little bit here and there, but not that much. I don’t have enough time right now. But I’d love to get back into it. Do you still music a lot?
MZ :No, no. (laugh)
Ryan :This is leading into an impromptu jam session, isn’t it?
Damien :Three of us should do a jam session!
MZ :That’s a great idea!
Damien :You could have a great jam session in space orbiting around the moon. You could bring a great jazz musician and have them improvise as the moon rises up.
Ryan :Will you make a film about the whole experience? You’ll document the whole experience?
MZ :Of course. And that’s why I've been looking for a film director.
Ryan :Yes, and a sound guy. Have you spoken to astronauts, anyone who has been to the moon?
MZ :No, not yet. I would like to meet and talk with Buzz Aldrin (1930 - astronaut).
Ryan :And you should also meet Al Worden as well.
MZ :Have you met him?
Ryan :He was an adviser on our film.
Damien :It was really cool having someone on the movie who could occasionally say, “Well, you know Ryan, when I went to the moon, I used my right arm instead of my left…”
Just to hear those words on set, “When I went to the moon…” it’s now words you’ll be able to say in a few years.
Ryan :He was alone in the capsule orbiting the moon while the others were on the surface.
Damien :Somewhat similar to what you’ll be doing, enjoying the view of the moon from orbit.
Ryan :He would tell stories about falling into the shadow of the moon and the Earth, which is like the darkest place in the universe. It was hard for him to describe, but I guess you’ll get to experience that.
Ryan :Do you know how close to the moon you’ll get?
MZ :Closest we’ll get will be 100km.
Damien :That's very close!
Damien :And how long do you stay in orbit before you start to head back?
MZ :Just 1 orbit. It’ll take 3 days to get there and 3 days back, so in total about 6 days.
Damien :So, you go to the moon, you do 1 orbit around, and then back?
MZ :We’ll do a figure 8, so the same route as Apollo 8.
#dearMoon Flight Plan
Ryan :What is the capsule going to be like?
Damien :Do you know the design?
MZ :Yes,it’ll be quite roomy.It’s even big enough to have a living room in it.SpaceX's "BFR"… renamed "Starship", but it’s already been decided that we’re going on this rocket. It’s quite large. And it might even be large enough to have private quarters.
Damien :And big windows?
MZ :Yes. A lot of big windows. Have you ever seen any rocket launch?
Damien :I’ve never seen one in person. I went to the Cape right when they were going to launch Falcon X, but I wound up having to leave the day before. I watched it live on a big screen in Atlanta when we were shooting. We stopped the shoot to watch it live on the LED screen, and of course I’ve seen footage of other launches, but I’ve never actually gotten to see one live in person. Have you?
MZ :I saw the Falcon Heavy launch. And I think you used the sound in the film?
Damien :Yes, exactly. Our sound team went to several Falcon Heavy launches and put mics around it.
Ryan :Absolutely good luck. That goes without saying, but it’s such a surreal conversation to be having right now. It’s like something we were having a hard time fathoming while we were shooting the film. And it’s such an extraordinary thing that It’s hard to really wrap your head around, the fact that you’re actually going to do it is even adding to the surrealness of our little experience of this. It’s amazing. I hope you have an incredible experience, and I look forward to watching it.
MZ :Thank you!
Damien :I’d love to do the follow up to this interview after you come back.
Ryan :If we make a movie about you, who do you want to play you?
MZ :Can’t I do it?
Ryan :You can play yourself.
MZ :I’ll practice very hard. (laugh). You should be the first director to go to the moon.
Damien :Oh… that’s very kind of you. I’ll think about it. Discuss with my wife. I don’t make the decisions in my family, but thank you very much.
Aside from whether I'm going or not, I think your project is very special and profound. So much work was spent sending people to the moon in 1969, or from 1968 to 1972, and that since then, almost 50 years since, no human has been back to the moon. It’s wonderful to think that in a few years’ time we might be able to circle back and have that not just be an unrepeated experience and get to send a new generation there.
Maezawa was a fan of “Whiplash” (2014) and because all three had experience playing instruments, the special interview took place in a very relaxed environment much like a reunion with old friends.What was particularly memorable was the respect Damien and Ryan, who have created a movie that depicts the triumphs and sacrifices of the moon mission, showed toward Maezawa, who has made the fearless decision to actually embark on the journey to the moon.
"First Man" illustrates the extraordinary experiences the astronauts went through putting their lives on line. The friendship between the three, who have experienced this feat vicariously, and who will have a similar experience in the future will surely inspire a great many people.
Interview and article by: Takashi Tokita
Photographs by: Akihiko Uemura
The riveting biopic tells the story behind the first manned mission to the moon, one of the most dangerous missions of all time, aboard Apollo 11 commanded by Neil Armstrong.Film "First Man" Official Site