The late Neil Armstrong’s 1969 trip to the moon may have been “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” but it was also a massive achievement for the United States.
One of Armstrong’s first orders of business was to proudly plant the American flag, after all.
But Ryan Gosling, the Canadian actor who plays Armstrong in “First Man,” Hollywood’s rendition of the moon landing, told the Telegraph the magic moment was intentionally omitted from the big screen because Armstrong’s achievement “transcended countries and borders.”
“First Man” is getting rave reviews at the Venice Film Festival, but critics noted the unpatriotically sanitized flick is missing something important, and Gosling explained he worked with French-Canadian director Damien Chazelle and the Armstrong family to decide on its key moments.
“I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement (and) that’s how we chose to view it,” he said. “I also think Neil was extremely humble, as were many of these astronauts, and time and time again he deferred the focus from himself to the 400,000 people who made the mission possible.”
“He was reminding everyone that he was just the tip of the iceberg – and that’s not just to be humble, that’s also true,” Gosling said.
The actor admitted “I’m Canadian, so might have cognitive bias,” but he believes Armstrong didn’t think much of patriotism.
“So I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero,” Gosling told the Telegraph. “From my interviews with his family and people that knew him, it was quite the opposite. And we wanted the film to reflect Neil.”
Folks who want to reflect on what actually happened on July 20, 1969 can watch the footage on YouTube – Armstrong and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin unfurling Old Glory and planting the symbol of freedom on the desolate surface.
Armstrong died in 2012 at the age of 82, dubbed by President Obama as “among the greatest of American heroes – not just of his time, but of all time,” and he discussed the deliberate decision to go with the American flag over the United Nations flag before he passed.
“In the end it was decided by Congress that this was a United States project. We were not going to make any territorial claim, but we were to let people know that we were here and put up a US flag,” he said, according to the Telegraph.
“My job was to get the flag there. I was less concerned about whether that was the right artefact to place,” Armstrong said. “I let other, wiser minds than mine make those kinds of decisions.”