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The Right Stuff (1983) Poster

Trivia

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Parachute stuntman Joseph Leonard Svec was killed in an accident while filming the scene where Chuck Yeager loses control of an experimental aircraft and bails out. Svec's helmet filled with smoke and he lost consciousness. He never pulled his ripcord and died on impact. During the real-life bailout this scene represented, Yeager collided with his ejection seat, breaking open the face-shield of his helmet. Molten explosive materials struck Yeager in the face, burning him severely and likewise filling his helmet with smoke.
The mysterious "fireflies" observed by 'John Glenn' on his first orbital flight were actually tiny flakes of frost illuminated by sunlight. As the spacecraft orbited into darkness behind the Earth, the sub-zero temperatures caused condensation on its skin to freeze. When warmed by the sun on the other side of the orbit, the temperature change caused some of this frost layer to break free and to be illuminated by the sun. This was confirmed by Astronaut Scott Carpenter on the next Mercury flight when he banged on the craft's side, causing more of the flakes to break free and become visible.
While filming the lung-capacity sequence - in which the seven original Mercury astronauts need to blow into individual tubes to keep toy balls suspended in a beaker and end up in a competition of physical stamina - the seven actors portraying the astronauts actually competed with each other for the same reason. Gordon Cooper was third, John Glenn was second and Scott Carpenter won (in the movie). In reality, Gordon Cooper - the astronaut portrayed by Quaid - was the only non-smoker among the seven original astronauts, and therefore possessed a far-greater lung capacity than any of the others.
In the film, Alan Shepard says "Louise, I'm going to the moon, I swear to God. I'm on my way". Of the Mercury Seven, Shepard was the only one that did go there, on Apollo 14, becoming the fifth person to walk on the moon.
While several of the lead actors chose to meet their real-life counterparts, Scott Glenn elected not to meet with Alan Shepard. Scott said he wanted to get down Shepard's character and nuances by observation and by hearing others' points of view. After filming, the real Alan Shepard wrote the director and commented on Scott Glenn's "spot-on" performance - except for "not being nearly as good-looking as he was."
Ed Harris had to audition twice for the role of John Glenn. It was in fact Harris who insisted on the second audition because he felt his first reading of the part wasn't good enough. After the second reading, he got the part.
This film contains the first realistic shots of a spacecraft reentry. For long shots, visual effects supervisor Gary Gutierrez used a small model of the Mercury capsule. This was coated with flammable material, ignited, and slid about 100 feet down a wire toward the camera, which was protected with a sheet of Lexan.
Sam Shepard, who played legendary pilot Chuck Yeager, was actually afraid of flying.
During the weekend of 4 April 1999, Gus Grissom's lost Liberty Bell 7 capsule was located and recovered on the ocean floor 90 miles northeast of the Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas. It underwent a restoration and went on a national tour before being placed in a permanent exhibit. The hatch, which many thought would have proved or disproved Grissom's contention that it blew open on its own, has not been recovered.
In the bar scene before Gus Grissom's flight, Deke Slayton is underwater swimming with some girls. Gordo says. "Go get 'em Deke!". In reality Deke couldn't swim and never told anyone. When the astronauts started underwater training at Scott Carpenter's suggestion, Deke sank to the bottom and had to be rescued. He subsequently practiced holding his breath underwater in his kitchen sink, according to his wife Marge.
Original composer John Barry left the film because he found it impossible to understand what Philip Kaufman wanted from the score, citing a meeting where the director described his ideal score as "sounding like you're walking in the desert and you see a cactus, and you put your foot on it, but it just starts growing up through your foot."
The bartender that chews out Gordon Cooper, calling him a "rookie" and a "pud-knocker", is Florence Lowe "Pancho" Barnes, and she is well within her rights to put Cooper in his place. Barnes earned her pilot's license in 1928. She flew solo, she crashed a plane, she held the women's world speed record (taking it from Amelia Earhart), and she worked as a stunt pilot in several Hollywood productions, all before any of the Mercury Seven astronauts reached the tender age of 10 years old. As a pioneering aviatrix, she was truly made of "the right stuff".
To create the space uniforms for the Mercury astronauts, the costume designers used silver fabrics and other materials left over from costumes for singer/actress Cher.
During the newsreel segment when President John F. Kennedy gives Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn) a medal for his flight, in the background we can see Charles Frank as Scott Carpenter. When the angle reverses to actual archival footage of President Kennedy dropping the medal, he bends to pick it up, and the real Scott Carpenter and Gus Grissom are in the background.
When Ed Harris appeared in Apollo 13 (1995), it gave him the unique distinction of appearing with some of the same characters from The Right Stuff (1983) but played by different actors. Like Deke Slayton. Others are mentioned but never seen like Alan Shepard and the late Gus Grissom.
According to Chuck Yeager, in his autobiography, it was not known that he broke the sound barrier until after they checked the Bell X-1 recording panel, and not when they heard the sonic boom, as shown in the movie. He still got his steak dinner for being the first to break the sound barrier though.
Selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry.
The gum, Beeman's, is a pepsin flavored gum (the same flavor as candy cigarettes) and is still available for purchase online.
The closing narration states that Gordon Cooper was "the last American ever to go into space alone". While true when the film was made, Mike Melvill in June and September 2004 and Brian Binnie in October 2004 went into space alone in Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne (Not a NASA spaceship or spaceflight). Binnie's flight was the day Gordon Cooper died.
When the astronauts are inspecting the space capsule (or space *craft*) with Werner von Braun & his team, Gus Grissom (Fred Ward) is quite insistent that the hatch have "explosive bolts". The purpose of explosive hatches is to allow the occupants of the capsule to escape easily. In 1967 while doing a routine test of the Apollo 1 capsule, Gus Grissom & his two companions died when a fire broke out in the cabin. The men died mainly due to the fact that the hatch was not designed with explosive bolts.
Trudy Cooper did not actually say that she "wondered how they would've felt if every time their husband went in to make a deal, there was a one in four chance he wouldn't come out of that meeting". Writer and director Philip Kaufman chose Mrs. Cooper to voice statements made by Tom Wolfe, the author. The book describes a 23% chance of a normal pilot dying during the course of a 20-year career. The odds were higher at 53% for a test pilot.
Rick Springfield turned down a role in this film so that he could star in Hard to Hold (1984) instead. Springfield has stated that he greatly regrets this decision.
For close-up shots of the re-entry, no actual fire was used. The larger model capsule in these shots had liquid nitrogen pumped into it. This immediately evaporated, producing a fog of condensation, which escaped through a carefully placed ring of vents around the base of the capsule to form a flame-like pattern all around it. Then, to make the color right, the effect was simply filmed in orange light.
The "Happy Bottom Riding Club", which was owned and operated by Pancho Barnes, burned down in 1952. The remnants can still be seen today at Edwards Air Force Base.
The film plays down the rivalry between pilots, especially civilian (Scott Crossfield) and Air Force (Chuck Yeager). Yeager even writes in his autobiography that he thought Crossfield was arrogant, though a great pilot.
Actor/comedian/impressionist Kevin Pollak looped the voice of President Eisenhower.
During the training montage, Gordon Cooper is shown sleeping in the simulated capsule, as loud noises and flickering lights are going off all around him. This is a nod to the fact that Gordon Cooper was the first American to sleep in orbit.
Some were concerned that when this film was released it would help propel John Glenn, then a popular political figure, into the presidency. "Newsweek" magazine had a cover story about it. In fact, Glenn's presidential aspirations went nowhere.
The role of Annie Glenn was the first film role for Mary Jo Deschanel, the wife of Director of Photography Caleb Deschanel. Mary Jo and Caleb are the parents of Emily and Zooey Deschanel.
Tom Wolfe was unhappy with the film because he felt it made too many changes to the book. William Goldman, the original screenwriter before he left the project also disliked it because he didn't like the way Philip Kaufman portrayed Chuck Yeager as the only hero in the film, while the rest of the astronauts only got lucky and didn't match up to him in any way.
The music accompanying John Glenn's orbit of the Earth is actually a song written by an Inuit woman on the set of Philip Kaufman's The White Dawn (1974) that was orchestrated by Henry Mancini for that film.
The film eschewed the use of visual effects done in the lab. The decision was made to use methods pioneered by Republic Pictures special effects team Howard & Theodore Lydecker, and used in such Republic theatrical serials as "Radar Men of the Moon" and "Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe.". The shots of the Bell X-1 were accomplished using a model 'flown' on a long wire rapidly passing by the camera utilizing a natural sky background enhanced by clouds created using special chemicals. The use of the model can be seen when the plane banks and turns as the ailerons never move.
Although Bill Conti's score won the Academy Award for "Best Music, Original Score" and suites based on the score were issued, no complete soundtrack album was released until 2009. That album was made from master tapes kept all that time by Conti, and unfortunately some suffered damage in the interim.
"Beeman's" is the lucky gum of pilots. See also The Rocketeer (1991).
On Roger Ebert's list of Great Movies.
Pancho's was nicknamed the Happy Bottom Riding Club. The real name was "Pancho's Fly Inn".
Ken Wahl, who previously starred in director Philip Kaufman's The Wanderers (1979), was initially cast as Gordon Cooper. Dennis Quaid replaced Wahl, giving up an undisclosed role in The Outsiders (1983), which was being produced simultaneously.
Scott Glenn was initially considered for the role of Chuck Yeager but he expressed that he would rather play Alan Shepard, and was cast in that part instead.
William Goldman wrote the first draft of the screenplay. In his book "Adventures in the Screen Trade" he calls his meeting with director Philip Kaufman "a nightmare".
The aircraft carrier, used in the scene to introduce Alan Shepard, was the U.S.S. Coral Sea CV-43.
Hall of Fame lineman and Cincinnati Bengals player Anthony Muñoz, has a cameo appearance in the movie as a nurse. His actual voice is dubbed over.
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The tune that Gordon Cooper was whistling while trying to masturbate, is the official anthem of the United States Air Force, simply titled: "The Air Force Song". He was attempting to drown out the man in the next stall, who was humming "The Marines' Hymn" (presumably, John Glenn, as Cooper guessed).
First cinema film of Kathy Baker.
The film's music temp track consisted of music from Holst's The Planets, Henry Mancini's score for The White Dawn and various other classical pieces which were favorites of Writer/Director Philip Kaufman.
In the cookout scene at Edwards AFB, Sam Shepard is seen playing catch with his son. Chuck Yeager's real life nephew, Steve, played Major League baseball as a catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
While they didn't play their namesakes, two of the actors playing astronauts share the same last name with two actual astronauts. They are Scott and John Glenn and Sam and Alan Shepard.
Bill Conti was appointed so late in the production, he was actually scoring to the final cut of the film instead of a first cut which composers are usually given to work to.
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In addition to Holst, the soundtrack borrows musical passages from Tschaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major, opus35. In particular, triumphant chords matching scenes of the astronauts' spacecraft departure and rocketing into space.
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Last cinema film of Kim Stanley.
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Allegedly composer Bill Conti wrote about three different scores for this film. The first consisting of his own original work. The second one being one that featured Holst's The Planets as inspiration. The final score purely copied the film's temp track which was primarily The Planet's peace under the condition that if 'Philip Kaufman' used that portion of the score he would've had to credit Gustav Holst, the real composer of the music knowing that he was plagiarizing it for Kaufman's benefit and did not want to take credit for something that was written by someone else. They had a compromise in the end, using the middle score that Conti wrote inspired by Holst, and the incorporation of "Wild Blue Yonder" during the Yeagher's Triumph sequence and Henry Mancini's White Dawn track stayed in the film. Conti would go on to win for Best Original score despite the fact that it was somewhat of an adaptation of The Planets.
The Permanent Press Corps are all played by members of Fratelli Bologna, a San Francisco theater troupe.
The scene where Lyndon Johnson said, "The Russians want our pecker in their pocket" was a variation of his oft-quoted statement, "I never trust a man till I have his pecker in my pocket."
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The production was beset by 15 mile per hour, dust-laden winds when they were filming at Edwards Air Force Base.
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While Fred Ward is more than eleven years older than Dennis Quaid, their characters Gus Grissom and Gordo Cooper were less than a year apart in age, the two youngest of the Mercury Seven.
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The unexpected box-office failure of the film was considered one of the causes of the demise of The Ladd Company, despite the massive success of Police Academy (1984).
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O-Lan Jones, the woman who tried to talk to Sam Shepard as he leaves Pancho's bar, but the bartender tells her that he's married, was actually married to Sam Shepard at the time.
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David Clennon who portrays "liaison man" in The Right Stuff, also appears in the space-themed From the Earth to the Moon (1998) portraying Dr. Lee Silver, who trains astronauts.
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American Airlines flight 1 crashed shortly after take off from Idlewild airport (IDL, now JFK) during the New York ticker tape parade for John Glenn after his space flight.
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The film cast includes five Oscar nominees: Sam Shepard, Ed Harris, Kim Stanley, Jeff Goldblum and Barbara Hershey.
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An early press release announced that Ellen Barkin was cast in the film. Her part was eventually recast.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Sergei P. Korolev masterminded the Sputnik launch, the world's first artificial satellite. The Sputnik launch was also dramatized in The Iron Giant (1999) and October Sky (1999).
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In the documentary "Moonshot", Allan Shepard explained that it was at his suggestion that he urinate in the suit before he was launched. He said at first they didn't want him to do it, because it would short out everything. Shepard then suggested that they shut everything off, and then after he was dried out, they could turn it back on, to which they agreed.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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Jeff Goldblum's recruiter character asks Harry Shearer's character, "There aren't any snakes around here are there?". That same year in Kasdan's "The Big Chill", while out walking on Harold's property, Jeff's character is asked by Kevin Kline whether he's afraid of snakes.
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During most of the scenes where the press and photographers are present, the sound of impact lawn sprinklers can be heard in the background, for some unknown reason.
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Caitlyn Jenner called this her all-time favorite movie.
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Cameo 

Chuck Yeager: Chuck Yeager himself, plays the bartender in Poncho' bar. 37:48.

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