Yahoo! Chat — From the Earth to the Moon
Patrizia DiLucchio (PD), PEOPLE Online: Sunday night, the Home Box Office (HBO) will debut the first two episodes of Tom Hanks’ “From The Earth To The Moon” (E2M). E2M follows the voyages of America’s Apollo astronauts and the 12 manned Apollo missions.
The National Space Society working with PEOPLE Online and LIFE have brought together the astronauts, actors, flight directors, and film directors for a series of live webchats.
Joining us tonight are…
Actor Tim Daly who plays astronaut James Lovell in E2M. Tim is also known for his role as Joe Hackett on the NBC sitcom “Wings” and more recently as the voice of “Superman” in the animated series.
Andrew Chaikin, author of “A Man on the Moon,” on which Executive Producer Tom Hanks based the HBO miniseries.
And actor Brett Cullen, who plays astronaut Dave Scott (Apollo 15) in E2M. This is not Brett’s first role in a recreation of the Apollo program — he played a director in Mission Control in the movie “Apollo 13.”
Astronaut James Lovell was also scheduled to join us this evening — I have been told that Captain Lovell had a family emergency this evening. I hope he will be able to join us later.
PD: Our first question is for Tim Daly… Was it intimidating to play an authentic American hero — while that hero WATCHED?
Tim Daly (TD): No, because Tom Hanks had already played that hero. I didn’t feel that I had to do an imitation of Jim. Plus, Jim was broken into the idea that an actor would portray him. I’m sure that Tom had to bear the brunt of that. By the time I got there, Jim was used to it.
Neutropia asks: Mr. Daly and Mr. Cullen, what was it like first to act in From The Earth To The Moon and second what was it like to work along side of Cary Elwes and all the other actors?
TD: It was a lot different acting in it than seeing it. I’m recalling looking out a porthole in an Apollo 8 capsule, supposedly at the Earthrise, with a look of awe in my face. What i was really looking at was a piece of plate tape next to the camera. Working with Cary was great… he’s just another white guy with short hair.
Brett Cullen (BC): First of all, the experience of From the Earth To The Moon was an epic experience, one I’d never be able to describe how wonderful it was. And how generous HBO was to all the actors. I never personally worked with Cary. Tony Goldwynn and Garith Williams (Jim Irwin) were great. Garith went to the moon with me. I had a blast. It was absolutely thrilling. And who doesn’t like working for Tom Hanks. To have Tom direct me and also be my boss was kind of funny and nostalgic at the same time.
SeaHeather98 asks: Brett, do you remember where you were when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon?
BC: I do remember exactly where I was, sitting in my house in Houston TX watching it with my family. I was absolutely amazed — there was someone standing on the moon we had looked at all our lives.
TD: I think I was at camp. I was in love with this girl, and I sort of missed the importance of man on the moon.
TexasSpaz asks: What is the most fascinating thing you learned while acting in this movie?
Andrew Chaikin (AC): For me, since it was my first and only acting experience, and I got to act in a scene with Tom Hanks, I realized I could reach the top in one easy step. Just write a book.
TD: That human beings, as a species, can accomplish whatever they decide they are going to do.
BC: Getting to know Dave Scott who I played, and the tech advisor on the show. One of the most kind and generous men I ever met.
TRICOSE__ asks: Andrew — what gave you the inspiration to write this series, personal interest or through experience with the space program?
AC: The inspiration to write the book was that Apollo happened. I was 13 when they landed on the moon. When I became a journalist I realized that no one had told the story of every mission from the astronauts’ perspective. It took me 8 years, which was longer than I expected. I had to get the astronauts to talk to me and it was such a massive story to tell.
Nasaniki asks: How did you simulate anti-gravity in filming the series?
TD: A combination of high-tech teeter-totters and strong thigh muscles.
BC: The way we did it….we had a teeter-totter when we were in the lunar module to simulate weightlessness. We also did a couple shots where we were hung from wires and they took the wires out digitally. Working with Tom Hanks makes you weightless anyway.
TD: Stop being such a suck-up, Brett!
AC: I watched them filming the moonwalk sequences in an enormous hanger in California. The stuntmen and actors were suspended from 50-ft long helium balloons to simulate the moon’s 1/6 gravity. I tried it and it was pretty exhausting. After a half hour I was wiped out. The balloon had a mind of its own.
PD: Great idea for a theme park – helium balloons!
BC: The interesting thing about what Andy is saying, Dave Scott said he wished they had been trained this way to be on the moon.
TD: The theme park idea would never work because everyone would breathe in the helium to make that stupid voice!
Juco83 asks: Tim and Brett, did you get the feeling of a real astronaut?
BC: Yes I did, for 2 reasons; First, when I was playing Dave Scott he was coaching me and it made you feel you were actually there. Secondly, it was such an epic undertaking to do this show that you felt you were actually going to the moon. It was such a massive effort. It was actually like being part of the space program.
TD: I would have to say, no, I did not get the feeling of a real astronaut. I got it more when I was flying in an F-18 with the Blue Angels. Talk about g-forces!
AC: I watched Brett and Tony Goldwyn preparing to film the sequence of the Gemini 8 emergency, when it was tumbling in space. Dave Scott was coaching Brett and Tony on which switches to throw and what actually happened during the emergency. I was learning stuff I never learned in my research. It was like they could actually have flown the spacecraft with the instructions they were getting.
BC: I had the advantage of doing Apollo 13 and working with Jerry Bostik, one of the mission control engineers on that mission, and Dave Scott. When I did From the Earth To The Moon, I was a step ahead. I was aware of how the astronauts felt. The other guys were jumping in on it for the first time.
TD: I only play people who fly: Jim Lovell, Joe Hackett, and Superman.
BC: I was gonna say, Tim… Hey Tim, how is your golf swing?
TD: (Laughs) It’s in hibernation for the winter.
PIguest_9a02547 asks: Mr. Daly/Mr. Cullen, has your role(s) in this mini-series changed your thoughts on the space program?
TD: I would say that it’s only strengthened my belief that man has an innate desire to explore. And that it’s important for that desire to be satisfied.
BC: Yes. I believe that NASA and the US Gov’t has made a big mistake by not continuing their exploration of the moon, a possible space station on the moon and other planets in our solar system.
Daniel_Days asks: I have a question for Tim Daly: Mr. Daly, you played a pilot – Joe Hackett – for many years. You’re now in this part as Jim Lovell. Is there anything in pursuing the skies that fascinates you as an actor?
Groxburgh asks: Andrew, DTD: Not particularly. “Wings” didn’t really deal with what it was like to be a pilot. But I think the trait that the characters share is that they have a great of passion for what they do.o you appear in any of the episodes?
AC: Why yes, as a matter of fact. I play the host of Meet the Press in the first episode. So it’s a bit of a step from book writing, maybe not a new career, but fun.
MSEDS_CD asks: Given the chance, would you 3 fly in space for real?
BC: Absolutely, in a heart beat! I would love to experience 0 gravity.
TD: I’d have to consult with my wife. But it sure would be tempting.
AC: When do we go?
TRICOSE__ asks: For any of the guests – how many of the actual surviving astronauts helped you with character development and technical advice for your particular scenes?
BC: DAVE SCOTT DAVE SCOTT DAVE SCOTT
TD: I got most of my help from Dave Scott, who is probably the coolest guy on the planet earth.
BC: He was the backbone of info for everyone who worked on this show, including Andrew who wrote A Man on the Moon.
AC: Dave was an incredible help when I was writing my book, A Man on the Moon. He had some amazing stories of what it was like to explore the moon. He was the first to drive the lunar rover. He and Jim Irwin drove 100s of feet up the side of a lunar mountain and they picked up rocks that were 4.5 billion years old, and the view from up there was incredible. The lunar module was just a speck in the distance.
TD: And quite a bit of help came from Jim Lovell who I spoke with on the phone, who is also off the scale on the cool-meter.
TIM asks: Did you have any role-models growing up?
TD: Actually, no. I’m still looking for a role model. I asked Dave Scott if he’d be my role model, but there are already too many people in line.
TexasSpaz asks: Is there anything you could not prepare yourself for in this role?
BC: Yeah, there was. I had Dave Scott over for dinner and my wife asked him what it was like to actually be on the moon. And Dave’s response was “You’d have to be part poet, part novelist, and part actor to be able to describe the feeling of standing on the lunar surface. The technical part you can prepare for, but the actual experience we can never have.
TD: Depending on what was served for lunch, there was a distinct opportunity for auto-asphixyation when wearing the space suit. Seriously, the complexity and the brainpower that went into this massive effort, and I was unprepared to discover how difficult it was.
Nwinski asks: Andy C, is most of the emphasis on the astronauts or is there extensive coverage on the behind the scenes people too?
AC: If you’re talking about the book, in the book I concentrated on the astronauts because their story had never been told. In the series, they tell the astronauts’ stories and the familys and the flight controllers, the engineeers who built the spacecraft and even the reporters who covered the mission.
One800collect asks: Mr. Daly, should the United States attempt to go back to the moon?
TD: I think we should attempt to go far beyond the moon. I think Mars should be our next goal.
Nasaniki asks: What was the biggest challenge you had in creating From The Earth To The Moon?
TD: Learning in an extraordinarily short period of time how to mimic the complex actions of the astronauts flying in outer space. AC: I think one of the biggest challenges was making each story unique and interesting to everyone. You can’t tell the same story in each of the 12 episodes. You have to find, as I did in my book, a different lens to look through. For example, the second moon landing, Apollo 12, the story was that the 3 astronauts, Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon and Alan Bean, were best friends from the Navy. It was a great shared adventure.
BC: The challenge I had in playing Dave Scott was trying to find the reality in making it come to life, and the challenge of playing a guy who first went up with Gemini 8, then Apollo 9, the first test of going to the moon, and thirdly, going to the moon in Apollo 15 which was really the first extended geological expedition where the astronauts were truly trained in geology, where they were looking for the Genesis rock, the original crust of the moon, which they succeeded in finding.
H2ODuckie asks: Tim and Brett did you get to go into a flight simulator?
TD: No, I didn’t get to go into a flight simulator. Bummer.
NatlSpaceSoc_RZP asks: Brett, you also starred in Apollo 13…how did the movie compare to filming the series?
TD: I’ll answer that for Brett: He just loved Tom Hanks so much and felt weightless whenever he was around him.
BC: The movie Apollo 13 was truly an exciting experience for me being raised in Houston and seeing all the missions. It was a real thrill as an actor. The difference with the series is that From the Earth to the Moon is much more comprehensive study of the Apollo program. It was just a exhilarating as an actor, but I learned much more about the mission of sending a man to the moon.
AC: I think Apollo 13 paved the way for From the Earth to the Moon. It showed Hollywood that the real stories of Apollo were the best stories. You didn’t have to embellish.
PD: Andy, how was your perspective in From the Earth To the Moon different from Tom Wolfe’s in The Right Stuff?
AC: Tom Wolfe only wrote about the Mercury astronauts and flight. My goal was to take this handful of men, 24 humans who made the first voyages to another world, and tell their stories so vividly that you’d feel you were in the spacecraft with them.
It was a tough job. First of all because not all the astronauts were not willing to talk. And also because so much research was necessary and so much storytelling was required. I had to work very hard on my storytelling style to create the narrative that would satisfy my own standards and be truly compelling to the reader. Basically, I wrote A Man on the Moon because it was a book I was dying to read.
Actually, I just wanted to read a forward by Tom Hanks.
TD: If you wrote a book you were dying to read, are you accusing yourself of plagiarism.
Dorkyboy asks: where was the filming done?
TD: I’ll give you a hint. There were a lot of big ears on everything.
BC: We shot From the Earth To The Moon primarily in Orlando, Florida and at Cape Canaveral, and part of the time in Borrego Springs, Calif. We shot the actual lunar surface in a blimp hanger in a marine base in Tustin, Calif.
CES6498 asks: How long did the series take to shoot?
TD: Did we wrap yet?
AC: About a year.
BC: Principal photography lasted from April 1997 through March 1998. This includes doing all the lunar surface and special effects shots.
PD: Two more questions!
H2ODuckie asks: Which actual space flight do you remeber the most and touched you the most?
BC: There were 2 that absolutely blew my mind, the first manned flight by Alan Shepard, and the Apollo 11, the moon landing. I lived in Houston and we were in front of the TV.
AC: Ed White’s walk in space, Gemini 5, hooked me on the astronauts. I also remember each of the Apollo missions vividly. I was glued to the TV for all of them.
Lass24 asks: What is the goal of bringing to life these past events, in your opinions, of course?
AC: Well, Apollo is something we need to teach to our children as an example of what the human spirit is capable of accomplishing when we all pull together. It’s a moment in human evolution when we became citizens not only of our planet but of the universe. We are fortunate enough in our time to have witnessed that moment, and I think it’s something that we need to cherish.
TD: I would say that it’s to remind people of a monumental achievement in the history of man, and hopefully a wake-up call, as to what else we might achieve in the future. Plus, there are so many people now who don’t remember Apollo, that they’re going to find out for the first time some really cool stories. It’s an incredible adventure.
BC: One, when we made Apollo 13 I had friends who had no interest in the film because they knew the ending. They went to see it because I was in it and they were moved by the film and loved it. They knew all the events and were still emotionally moved.
Because of that, this massive undertaking, the people who watch From Earth to the Moon will see a period of history in America where an entire country pulls together for a national goal and succeeded and the pride we had in our country and our fellow man. This is the most important element you can get from this project. You can only pray we can find this again.
PD: And I think that’s a good place to stop for this evening! Brett, Andy, Tim — thanks so much for spending this hour with us.
Mr Lovell, again, regretted that he could not join us this evening.
TD: Happy landings!
BC: Thank you. I enjoyed this.
AC: Thanks! I really enjoyed this also.
PD: Thank you for joining us tonight! Be sure to join us next Saturday night, when we will be hosting E2M’s screenwriter Al Reinert, and actors David Andrews and Nick Searcy.
More information can be found at the National Space Society’s E2M Viewer’s Guide at nss.org/apollo
In addition, LIFE is proud to announce the unveiling of its new website, “A Giant Leap For Mankind” which covers the facts and photographs from the Apollo program — http://www.pathfinder.com/Life/space/giantleap
This is Patrizia DiLucchio for PEOPLE Online on Yahoo!Chat — don’t forget to tune into From The Earth To the Moon tomorrow night.