Directed by: James Gray
Written by: James Gray, Ethan Ross
Produced by: Yariv Milchan, Brad Pitt
Genre: Adventure, drama, sci-fi
Running time: 2h 4min
Astronaut Roy McBride travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.
Cast & Characters
Brad Pitt (Roy McBride), Liv Tyler (Eve McBride), Tommy Lee Jones (Clifford McBride), Donald Sutherland (Colonel Pruitt), Ruth Negga (Helen Lantos), John Ortiz (General Rivas)
Ad Astra had a long gestation period, not unusual for a James Gray project. Sometime between the director’s productions Two Lovers (2008) and The Immigrant (2012), Gray and co-writer Ethan Gross began talking about writing a film set in outer space. They worked on the script off-an-on over the years, then Rodrigo Teixeira’s RT Features stepped into develop the script. In 2016, once Brad Pitt agreed to both star and produce, things moved quickly. His production company Plan B’s deal with New Regency provided financing and distribution through Twentieth Century Fox, with Bona Film Group co-financing with distribution rights in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. The film began production in August 2017.
Gray was “very pleasantly surprised” when Brad Pitt agreed to play Roy McBride. Recalls Gray, “Several times over the years Brad Pitt and I had tried to work together on a film but between scheduling and timing, it never happened. I was absolutely thrilled when he was able to commit to this shooting schedule.” Pitt says, “I’ve always loved James’ filmmaking. It comes from a deep knowledge of the history of film. There’s always a classic element to his storytelling, very elegant, and really, really points towards the greats. Our first conversations were about what is connection, especially for a man. And what if we’re dealing with a human being where connecting with others is not necessarily in his skillset. He’s quite capable, you know, on a tower and in outer space when it gets dangerous. But when it becomes intimate, he’s challenged.” Pitt continues, “We see Roy at this point in his life where this is no longer working for him, and he’s becoming aware of it. And that is set against finding out that his father may still be alive. And so for James and I, it was really a discussion of vulnerability. What is vulnerability? What is strength in a man? Where does strength really come from? And out conclusion, what we were striving for, is that our strength comes from actually being vulnerable.”
“True confidence comes from we as individuals being able to acknowledge our foibles, our shortcomings, our insecurities, and instead of hiding or trying to cover that to actually be very open. And I’ve certainly found that in life that a great peace and I will say, strength, comes from that very thing, which is antithetical to certainly how my Dad would’ve grown up. These were these early discussions between James Gray and I, and what I found really compelling about what he was after with this piece,” Pitt explains.
Gray says, “Brad notices everything. He is so perceptive and a great friend to the director, not just because he’s a producer as in this case, but he’s an incredibly helpful actor. He’s not simply interested in his role; he’s concerned with the entire story. He’s an interesting figure, because he is a movie star with movie star looks and charisma, but there’s an ambivalence to him about that status. He is an excellent and immensely talented actor; very subtle, wonderful at taking any directions you might give him and then expanding them into something else. There’s an effortlessness to what he’s doing, like Jimmy Stewart or Spencer Tracy. They almost look like they’re not acting. But the acting is incredible, you just don’t see the machinery. I’m not saying it’s effortless for him,” laughs Gray, “I’m saying it looks that way to us and that is really very, very rewarding for a director.
“Working with Brad has been spectacular. He’s a brilliantly perceptive and absolutely fabulous actor. He is so generous emotionally, with his time, it’s been a real treat.”
Of Ad Astra, Pitt says, “It’s a film I think that has its roots in ‘70’s films, as James’ vernacular seems to be born from. Meaning that it’s contemplative. It unfolds. And we have big moments of action and spectacle that on the big screen is pretty jaw-dropping.”