WARNING: There are MAJOR SPOILERS for the ending of First Man ahead.
So if you’re yet to see Damien Chazelle’s epic re-telling of Neil Armstrong’s mission to the moon please don’t read on.
Instead, bookmark this article, watch the film, preferably in IMAX, and then return to read what its editor Tom Cross had to say about the ending of “First Man.”
Set over nearly a decade, “First Man” takes a visceral and detailed look at Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling)’s heroic work and the death-defying tribulations that it took for him to get to the moon.
But while the film is meticulous and riveting in its depiction of the integral challenges that Armstrong had to overcome before he could take his one, small step for man, it also reveals the toil that Neil’s wife Janet (Claire Foy) and two children had to endure on this journey, too.
That’s why, after all is said and done, and Neil Armstrong has gone to the moon and back, “First Man” concludes with him and Janet in separate rooms, separated by quarantine, silently trying touching hands on either side of protective glass.
It is a quiet, yet beautiful way to conclude the film amidst all of the death and rockets that have populated it. Editor Tom Cross recently admitted that it was always the plan for the film to finish with this moment between Neil and Janet.
“We knew very early on that the story should end with Neil and Janet. Damien always thought that was the gist of the film and was important.”
“The idea of the film was, as he put it to Ryan Gosling, “The movie is about the moon and the kitchen sink.’”
“That meant that there would be a balance between the mission scenes and Nasa and the relationship and domestic scenes between Neil, Janet and the sons.”
“That was a big challenge to find that balance. It just meant that the story should really end with the two of them.”
That wasn’t originally how “First Man” concluded in Josh Singer’s script, though.
“Actually there were some scenes that followed that in Josh’s script. They were beautifully written and beautifully realized by Damien.”
“They were scenes after Neil getting out of quarantine and being driven home by Deke (Kyle Chandler).”
“He gets dropped off in his front yard, and he sees his son through the window, at night, and that was originally how the movie ended.”
“I cut it from my first cut. I don’t think it existed in Damien’s first cut at all.”
I was also intrigued to know whether Chazelle had intended for “First Man” to be even more indepth and epic, but Cross insisted that the director never considered a longer running time as he wanted the biopic to remain “accessible.”
“I don’t remember the exact length of the longest edit. We certainly had a longer edit. But the amazing thing about Damien is that he really never wants to, he is never a fan of having something excessively long. Most directors don’t want that, but he is very sensitive to it.”
“We knew that ‘La La Land’ needed to be a little longer than people expected, because of its epilogue. But he is always fighting to keep it accessible to a wide audience. He doesn’t feel comfortable living in a long cut.”
“Right from the beginning of ‘First Man’ we didn’t live long in the cut. He would never have allowed a four hour long cut of ‘First Man.’ That’s just not in his interest.”
“First Man” is now in cinemas.