In Brief

At Oscars, 'First Man' Lands Win, Brian May Rocks Out with Queen

Universal Pictures’ "First Man," directed by Damien Chazelle, stars Ryan Gosling as astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Universal Pictures’ "First Man," directed by Damien Chazelle, stars Ryan Gosling as astronaut Neil Armstrong. (Image credit: Universal Pictures)

The Neil Armstrong biopic "First Man" took home an Academy Award for visual effects this year, highlighting its ultra-realistic technical rendering of NASA's Apollo missions and training exercises.

But the first space connection in the Oscars last night (Feb. 24) came right at the show's liftoff: Noted astrophysicist and NASA spokesperson Brian May — who happens to also be the lead guitarist for the band Queen — rocked out to the band's hits "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions" as the show's opening number. May was joined by original Queen member Roger Taylor and Adam Lambert, who has toured with Queen since 2011.

The Queen tribute was appropriate this year because "Bohemian Rhapsody," a biopic of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, was one of the candidates for 2019 best picture. (It didn't win that award, although it did take home best actor, best sound editing, best sound mixing and best film editing.)

"First Man," for its part, had been nominated for production design, sound editing and sound mixing as well as visual effects. The film, directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling, followed Apollo's early days leading up to humanity's first steps on the moon. The movie's Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles and J.D. Schwalm took the stage to accept the visual effects award. 

"It's an honor, it's humbling to honor Neil Armstrong and all the men and women of NASA, so thank you so much!" Ian Hunter said during the broadcast.

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Sarah Lewin
Associate Editor

Sarah Lewin started writing for in June of 2015 as a Staff Writer and became Associate Editor in 2019 . Her work has been featured by Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum, Quanta Magazine, Wired, The Scientist, Science Friday and WGBH's Inside NOVA. Sarah has an MA from NYU's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program and an AB in mathematics from Brown University. When not writing, reading or thinking about space, Sarah enjoys musical theatre and mathematical papercraft. She is currently Assistant News Editor at Scientific American. You can follow her on Twitter @SarahExplains.