Despite Moon Flag-Planting Omission, ‘First Man’ Was ‘Made with a Lot of Love for America,’ Actor Says

Damien Chazelle, left, Claire Foy and Ryan Gosling attend the "First Man" premiere at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution on Oct. 4, 2018, in Washington. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

WASHINGTON – Actor Cory Michael Smith from First Man said he was “a little shocked” by the controversy surrounding the Neil Armstrong film’s omission of the U.S. flag being planted on the moon and told moviegoers that the film was made with “a lot of love” for the United States of America.

“It’s not my creative choice. I was a little shocked that that was a controversy that came out of it. You know, I was hopeful and I still am hopeful that as contentious as this country can be culturally and socially that this movie, which is made with a lot of love for America, would be a moment where this country could kind of come together and unite in honoring and looking at an incredible story of bravery and ingenuity and innovation, and it represents some of the best stuff of America,” Smith, who plays Roger Chaffee, said at the premiere of First Man in Washington last week.

“A moment on the moon where a flag is stabbed into the moon that’s not captured, for that to be a reason that people wouldn’t take the time to honor an incredible story about an incredible man, I think, is a great shame,” he added. “So that’s how I feel about it.”

First Man actor Ethan Embry, who portrays Pete Conrad, shared a similar view on the omission of the flag planting, among reported camera shots of the U.S. flag on the moon, by Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle.

“This is Damien’s film and he’s the one telling the story. And I think that being around the film being made and the places that we went, going to NASA, and the people that came to the set, the story that we were telling, I don’t think you have to go out of your way to yell from a mountaintop how American this film is,” Embry said.

“I think it should be pretty obvious. I myself, I’m very political, very patriotic. I love this country. I’m active in politics and I felt it when we were making it, you know, I mean, it goes a lot to show who Neil was – what he said when he walked out, that it was for mankind, you know,” he added. “And it’s a movie about a man who did extraordinary things.”

First Man actor Brian d’Arcy James, who plays Joe Walker, said that viewers of the film will find that there’s “nothing” to discuss about the flag after they watch the movie in its entirety.

“It’s a beautiful movie. I think when people see it they are going to understand that there’s really nothing to be discussed,” he said. “It’s a story about Neil Armstrong. It’s a story about this incredible feat of walking on the moon and the effort it took to do so and the enormous sacrifice, the enormous passion and ability to achieve a goal.”

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who attended the premiere, told PJM that he hopes the film provides “people in the audience that haven’t gotten a chance to experience a spaceflight, some feeling for what it’s like to go through that process, not just being on the flight itself, but all of the training and the challenges that lead up to that.”

Vande Hei offered his reaction to those who were disappointed that the film does not show the U.S. flag being planted on the moon.

“I honestly think it’s a movie about an individual’s experience. I don’t think the flag is – you can’t think about the Apollo missions without knowing that it was the United States that was doing it, so to me it doesn’t take away from the fact that the United States did it if there wasn’t a flag in the movie at all. It’s just a non-event for me,” Vande Hei said.

Chazelle told the Associated Press that “the flag being physically planted into the surface is one of several moments of the Apollo 11 lunar EVA that I chose not to focus upon.”

“To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is no,” the director said. “My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America’s mission to the moon — particularly Neil Armstrong’s personal saga and what he may have been thinking and feeling during those famous few hours.”

Armstrong’s sons Rick and Mark defended Chazelle, saying the film is not “anti-American in the slightest.”

First Man opens in theaters Friday.