How do things like this happen?
How does an Eagle Scout, US Navy Captain, and retired Apollo astronaut end up in a movie with David Bowie that initially was rated X for full frontal male and female nudity*?
What did they do, these retired astronauts, place ads?: “Wanted. Man who came closer to walking on moon than you ever will seeks a role in movies.”
Did they figure if rock gods could be movie stars, so could astronauts? Why not?
I refer, of course, to Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth and Capt. Jim Lovell, who appears as himself in the scene where crowds gather to wish Thomas Jerome Newton [Bowie] well on his voyage alone in the spacecraft built by Newton’s company, Worldwide Enterprises. Newton tires of the excitement, and tells his chauffeur to take him home for the remaining hour before he needs to board. Big mistake. He ends up never making it off the Earth.
[Twenty years later, Lovell would appear in a movie again, this time as the USS Iwo Jima’s captain in the film Apollo 13, based on Lovell’s book, Lost Moon. Lovell himself would be played by Tom Hanks.]
Other than sharing a taste for jumpsuits, two men with less in common than Bowie and Lovell would be hard to imagine, as would their characters. However, of all the astronauts, in some respects, Lovell was one of the three who had the most in common with Bowie’s character, the reclusive Newton. With Jack Swigert and Fred Haise, on April 11, 1970, Lovell left his home planet in Apollo 13, headed for the moon. An explosion on board the Command Module ended the mission and could well have ended their lives.
Ground control to Major Tom
Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?…
Here am I floating round my tin can
Far above the moon
Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do
which, oddly enough, the BBC used as a theme song of sorts for its coverage of the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, the first moon landing.
But the three made it home, and the way they did so ended up giving them the distinction of having traveled further from Earth than any other people.
Prior to the Space Shuttle/Station era, Jim Lovell had spent more time in space than anyone else. His flight with Frank Borman in Gemini 7 in December 1965 lasted 14 days, which doesn’t sound so long now, but the Gemini capsules were small. Gemini means twins, and two babes in the womb would have more room to move around than did Gemini astronauts.
I wonder how David and Jim would have fared spending 14 days side by side?
Did you know, by the way, that The Legendary Stardust Cowboy [Norman Odam] sings his version of “Space Oddity” on his latest album or that his song “Paralyzed” was banned by NASA as a morning wake-up call for a NASA mission after just one play?
Lost the plot?
The Legendary Stardust Cowboy was the source of Ziggy’s last name.
And on Heathen, Bowie paid tribute to “The Ledge” by covering Odam’s “I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship,” but changed “spaceship” to “spacecraft.”
I wonder if anyone has brought this to Captain Lovell’s attention. I think I will.
Here’s Bowie in 2002 on Top of the Pops. Enjoy especially the moves around minute 3.
*Not to mention US government-ordered assassinations and a kidnapping or suggestions of incest (two of Dr. Nathan Bryce’s [Rip Torn] collegiate lovers comment on viewing his penis that he doesn’t look at all like their dads), etc.