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This 1979 nonfiction book follows the United States’ efforts in the early days of the space race, focusing exclusively on the first operational manned space-flight program. Codenamed Project Mercury, the program involved a group known as the “Mercury Seven,” whose members included Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton.
The book details how the Mercury Seven became the faces of early space tests which rarely required humans to be on board before, adding a more human element to the missions, and making celebrities of a handful of military test pilots.
As a result of this decision, the book focuses on the astronauts’ personal lives and individual stories as opposed to the more technical aspects of the space race, pondering the question of “Why?”—hence the title The Right Stuff.
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The book was adapted into the 1983 film of the same name, directed by Philip Kaufman and starring Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Sam Shepard, and many others. The film was a box office failure, but it received widespread critical acclaim and went on to earn eight Oscar nominations, four of which it won: Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Sound.
In 2013, the film received the honor of being selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Despite this, the 1983 film has been criticized for numerous historical inaccuracies, including having Jack Ridley show up in 1963 even though in real life he died in 1957. More humorously, however, the film ends with the narrator stating: “on this glorious day in May 1963 [Gordo Cooper] was the last American to go into space alone,” when, in fact, Joe Walker flew into twice after Cooper in July and August of that same year.
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To be honest: Of course the film would have inaccuracies. No film can be completely accurate, and at 3 hours and 13 minutes, the film does the best it can.
“Maybe it should be a TV series instead?” Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way and Warner Horizon Scripted Television seemed to have asked and, lo and behold, it shall become one.
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Here’s the behind the scenes: Mark Lafferty, producer on Castle Rock, will also serve as showrunner with DiCaprio, Jennifer Davvisson, producer of The Revenant, and Will Staples serving as executive producers. Shout out to Michael Hampton, who shepherded this project on behalf of Appian Way. Thank God for him!
Here’s the people who will make their way on the small screen:
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Jake McDorman, from What We Do in the Shadows fame, will portray one of the best test pilots in Navy history: the furiously competitive Alan Shepard.
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Joe Dempsie, our own Gendry from Game of Thrones, will portray the youngest of the seven: Lieutenant. Gordon Cooper.
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Aaron Staton, from Narcos: Mexico, will portray the competitive pilot with a gift for pulling pranks: Wally Schirra.
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James Lafferty, from The Haunting of Hill House, will portray the soulful Scott ‘The Poet’ Carpenter.
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Micah Stock, from Escape at Dannemora, will portray the quiet but incredibly intelligent pilot and engineer: Deke Slayton.
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Michael Trotter, from Underground, will portray Gus Grissom, a no-nonsense test pilot who eventually becomes the second man in space.
Hopefully this series will give each of the seven their due respect in sharing their respective stories. Are you excited? I know I am, because not only will this series adapt The Right Stuff, but word is that subsequent seasons of The Right Stuff will carry through to the epochal Apollo Space Program, from Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon and beyond.
Hopeful this show grabs our hearts and takes them to…
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Production will begin this fall in Cocoa Beach, Florida and is set for a 2020 premiere on National Geographic.
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