Ryan Gosling to Portray Neil Armstrong in Universal Biopic 'First Man'

Ryan Gosling and Neil Armstrong
Actor Ryan Gosling (left) will portray astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, in Universal Studios' "First Man" to be directed by Damien Chazelle. (Image credit: Blair Raughley/Lionsgate / NASA via collectSPACE.com)

Actor Ryan Gosling will portray Neil Armstrong in Universal Studios' biopic about the Apollo 11 astronaut, "First Man," to be directed by Damien Chazelle.

Gosling, who currently stars in Chazelle's latest movie, "La La Land," now in theaters, secured the deal to appear as the first moonwalker this month.

"Gosling has been orbiting the project since late 2015, but it was only in December that a deal was reached," wrote The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday (Dec. 29). [Neil Armstrong: An Astronaut Icon in Pictures]

Based on historian James Hansen's authorized biography of Armstrong by the same title, "First Man" will tell the story of the late astronaut, "focusing on the man behind the icon and his difficult journey from X-15 pilot to Gemini astronaut to commander of Apollo 11," according to a film synopsis shared with collectSPACE.

Chazelle's "[point of view] based approach to the narrative will place audiences in the shoes of the early astronauts and show the challenges and sacrifices of the mission to the moon more clearly than ever before," according to the studio.

Josh Singer, who won the Academy Award for best original screenplay for the 2015 movie "Spotlight," is penning the script for "First Man." Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen of Temple Hill, whose credits include the "Twilight" and "Maze Runner" franchises, are producing.

Isaac Klausner will executive produce. Hansen is attached to co-produce.

Neil Armstrong (right) poses with his authorized biographer James Hansen, author of "First Man," in 2004. (Image credit: James Hansen)

Universal originally optioned Hansen's "First Man" (Simon & Schuster, 2005) in 2008 after it was briefly considered by Clint Eastwood for Warner Bros. The project stalled until 2014, when Chazelle expressed interest in directing.

"Space enthusiasts need to know that it is not going to be an 'Apollo 13,'" Hansen described in a 2014 interview. "It is going to be sharply-edged, penetrating character study."

Neil Armstrong, who died in August 2012 at age 82, was a Naval aviator and NASA research pilot prior to becoming an astronaut in 1962. Three years before he walked on the moon in July 1969, Armstrong commanded the Gemini 8 mission, achieving the world's first-ever docking between two spacecraft.

Gosling, who is nominated for a Golden Globe for "La La Land," recently wrapped filming for "Blade Runner 2049," the sequel to the 1982 Ridley Scott cult science fiction film.

"'First Man' is eyeing [to] shoot next year," The Hollywood Reporter reported.

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Robert Z. Pearlman
collectSPACE.com Editor, Space.com Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.