Trivia for Ad Astra
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- The first collaboration between Brad Pitt and James Gray. They planned to work together on The Lost City of Z (2016), but Pitt dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. He remained on board as an executive producer.
- Brad Pitt and Ruth Negga previously co-starred in World War Z (2013).
- The film reunites Donald Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones and Loren Dean who previously appeared in Space Cowboys (2000).
- Brad Pitt and James Gray originally planned to collaborate on adapting Mark Greaney's novel "The Gray Man", but Pitt later dropped out and the project never finalized. This marks the third time they plan to work together (second time on The Lost City of Z (2016), and the first time they really do as director and actor.
- The title means "to the stars" in Latin. It is often used as a shorthand for "Per Aspera Ad Astra" (Through hardships to the stars).
- Director James Gray has said it will feature "the most realistic depiction of space travel that's been put in a movie." He's also described it as "Sorta like, if you got Apocalypse Now (1979) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) in a giant mash-up and you put a little Joseph Conrad in there."
- During a September 2019 interview on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition," director and co-writer James Gray said that he created his own playlist for himself to listen to through his headphones as he was directing the movie. Among the works on that playlist were: electronic drones by Eliane Radigue, sitar music by Ravi Shankar, the Peer Gynt Suite by Edvard Grieg; The Planets by Gustav Holst, the fourth movement of "The Rothko Chapel" by Morton Feldman, music by Krzysztof Penderecki, and electromagnetic wave transmissions from outer space, including from the planet Jupiter. Gray also played some of these for the cast and crew to communicate a mood during filming.
- This is not the first time Greg Bryk plays a Martian. He's also in The Expanse (2015) as Lt. Lopez, an officer of the Martian Congressional Navy in the show's first season.
- Director James Gray admitted to Empire magazine that he had to compromise with the studio on the ending of the movie to get the film green-lit and even with a major star/producer like Brad Pitt on board they still struggled for years to get it made.
- A "Vegas Vic" neon cowboy sign can be seen in the distance of the moonbase, next to the sign for a hotel.
- Brad Pitt in Ad Astra is the 8th cast member from the Ocean's Eleven series to appear in an outer space movie; Don Cheadle in Mission to Mars (2000), George Clooney in Solaris (2002) and with Sandra Bullock in Gravity (2013), Andy Garcia in Passengers (2016), Matt Damon in The Martian (2015) and with Anne Hathaway and Casey Affleck in Interstellar (2014) .
- Jamie Kennedy's role was cut from the final film, yet he appeared in the final IMAX trailer with Brad Pitt for a split second.
- This is the second major science fiction film to feature the planet Neptune prominently, after Event Horizon (1997).
- In traveling from Mars to Neptune, the planets Jupiter and Saturn are mentioned, but no one ever mentions Uranus. However, since the planets are rarely lined up with respect to the Sun, they would not necessarily pass it, in particular, if these planets were on opposite sides of the Sun. Moreover, without preparation or a coincidence, it would be fairly unusual to pass Jupiter and Saturn on the way to Neptune.
- At the 19:25 mark Tommy Lee Jones can be seen wearing the exact same space outfit as he did in Space Cowboys (2000). The only difference is the top two patches have been digitally altered to fit the Space Comm suits in Ad Astra.
- When Roy reviews the Top Secret message given to him by Colonel Pruitt, the filename is shown as 6EQUJ5. Astronomy fans will immediately recognize this as the character string representing the so-called "Wow!" signal heard by a radio telescope listening in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius in 1977. The real-life Wow! signal, which was similar to what might be expected from an intelligent extraterrestrial source, has never been explained - and has never been heard again.
- According to James Gray, Natasha Lyonne lives in the same building as him and invited herself to dinner while the movie was in pre production. When he explained the film he was working on she insisted on being a part of it leading to Gray offering her a brief cameo in the film.
- After Roy's debriefing he narrates his father's story as he is seen walking down a corridor decorated with NASA astronaut portraits and biographies. His father H. Clifford McBride's biography (which lists his birthdate as September 25, 2031 and the Project Lima date as Dec 28, 2079) is set alongside other real NASA astronauts, which include second man on the Moon Buzz Aldrin, Bruce McCandless II (the first astronaut to fly a jetpack), Mae C. Jemison, first female Shuttle commander Eileen Collins, Winston Scott and Scott Kelly.
- The production team behind Ad Astra contacted Richard Branson's Virgin group a couple of years ago and asked if they could use their branding in the movie. The company representative agreed - "We thought it was a really fun concept and were really happy to get involved". So, McBride catches a ride on a Virgin Atlantic shuttle to the moon.
- Clifford McBride says that he has cataracts and has trouble seeing. Cataracts are one of the projected health problems linked to exposure to solar radiation during an extended period in space.
- Donald Sutherland and Tommy Lee Jones previously appeared in JFK (1991) and Space Cowboys (2000).
- The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones; and one Oscar nominee: Ruth Negga.
- The Moon to Mars craft is named Cepheus after a constellation in the northern skies which in turn is named after a king of Aethiopia in a Greek mythology. Actress Ruth Negga (Helen Lantos) was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- This is not the first space film for Liv Tyler. She was also in Armageddon (1998).
- While shooting the climactic scene, Brad Pitt ended up crying unprompted in character. But as the scene takes place in zero-g, Pitt told director James Gray that the tear should be edited in post to float like a bubble off his face, rather than run down his cheek. "You gotta replace my tear, that's not how it works in zero-gravity," Pitt reportedly said, to which Gray responded, "I'm sorry, I'm keeping it. The acting's too good, buddy."
- As same as his character in Space Cowboys (2000), Tommy Lee Jones' character finally faces his own death as a lone astronaut in outer space.
- The proposed engine used by Roy's craft to reach Neptune is a theoretical electric propulsion engine. This explains how the craft is able to travel to Neptune without the need for fuel as the fuel is provided by solar arrays.
- During a September 2019 interview on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition," director and co-writer James Gray explained that the eerie sound that plays in a loop over the opening shots of the movie was actually an altered and sped-up recording of Clifford McBride saying, "I love you, my son" repeatedly. Gray explained, "we wanted it to be almost unconscious. It almost sounds like an ultrasound for an unborn baby. It's very weird."