The British actress brings both pragmatism and heart to an understated biopic. Foy tells IndieWire how her “out of the ordinary” subject inspired her and led to a rich role.
Claire Foy only really loses it once in Damien Chazelle’s “First Man.” Stuck at home, listening to her husband Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) during yet another test run for his imminent space flight via a squawk box hooked up to NASA’s own feed, Foy’s Janet Armstrong is horrified to discover that her audio has been suddenly switched off. The test has, inevitably, turned rough, and the NASA brass makes the executive decision to cut off Janet and the Armstrong family, ostensibly to save them from any possible trauma.
Janet is not having it. Frantic, she runs out of her house, gets in her car, and drives directly to NASA’s Houston base. There, she unleashes years of rage and frustration at NASA’s Director of Flight Crew Operations Deke Slayton (Kyle Chandler). “All these protocols and procedures to make it seem like you have it under control,” Janet shouts. “But you’re a bunch of boys making models out of balsa wood. You do not have anything under control ! “
Chazelle’s fourth film is understandably occupied with Neil’s mission ̵
1; and the emotional wounds that fuel both his work and his reserved nature – but Foy’s understated performance serves as a compelling counterpoint to similar “wife waiting at home” stereotypes. “I never had to fight for it, because it was always there in the script,” Foy said in a recent interview with IndieWire. “I did not have to feel like I had to stand up for here, or give her a voice, or make that voice known.”
Foy undertook her own research of Janet, who passed away just a few months before the film debuted, and found a brave character as compelling as her famous husband. Early in the movie, it’s Janet who assures a nervous Neil that his new gig with NASA “will be an adventure,” a notion she never seems to fear.
“She was black or slightly out of the ordinary, in a sense at hun levde hver dag på sine egne vilkår, “sagde Foy.” Selv om Neil var i gang med denne utroligt farlige ting, så tror hun at hun ikke kunne blive forlatt eller venstre på egen hånd. Hun måtte til live her eget liv for at være i stand til at blive i den verden, i det ægteskab. She had to make sure that if she was left behind her and her kids would be okay. She taught swimming, she was incredibly active in the community, and everyone said how much of a wonderful friend she was. She was able to take care of herself. “
Daniel McFadden / Universal / Kobal / REX / Shutterstock
While Singer’s screenplay provided a road map for Foy and Gosling’s work, an early rehearsal period with Chazelle allowed them to further shape their characters as they saw fit. “Sometimes, we’d do take that we were completely on the book, and we are completely doing the dialogue that was written,” she said. “Other times, we would use that as a kind of skeleton to hang on og det ville guide vores vei gennem en scene, men vi ville komme i og rundt om det. “
The real Janet was very much about communal engagement. In 1964, she founded and helped coach the Texas-based El Lago Aquanauts synchronized swimming team (she had been a competitive synchronized swimmer in her college years), an achievement only hinted at in the film. “First Man” also does not show Janet helping to form another key group – the KIT (Keep-In-Touch) group of astronauts’ wives – but her ability to support her fellow wives during increasingly tragic times is brought to vivid life by Foy.
In one scene, Janet remains at an astronaut’s funeral to help clean up as an angry stump off into the night. Later, Janet comforts another heartbroken wife as other members of their community literally turn away from here. At every point, Foy finds Janet’s humanity, and uses its to give the film an emotional center. ” width=”780″ height=”519″/>
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