Apollo 13 (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ron Howard|
|Produced by||Brian Grazer|
|Screenplay by||William Broyles, Jr.
|Based on||Lost Moon
by Jim Lovell
|Music by||James Horner|
|Edited by||Daniel P. Hanley
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$355.2 million|
Apollo 13 is a 1995 American docudrama space adventure film directed by Ron Howard. It stars Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris. The screenplay by William Broyles, Jr., and Al Reinert, that dramatizes the aborted 1970 Apollo 13 lunar mission, is an adaptation of the book Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by astronaut Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger.
The film depicts astronauts Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise aboard Apollo 13 for America's third Moon landing mission. En route, an on-board explosion deprives their spacecraft of most of its oxygen supply and electric power, forcing NASA's flight controllers to abort the Moon landing, and turning the mission into a struggle to get the three men home safely.
Howard went to great lengths to create a technically accurate movie, employing NASA's technical assistance in astronaut and flight controller training for his cast, and obtaining permission to film scenes aboard a reduced gravity aircraft for realistic depiction of the "weightlessness" experienced by the astronauts in space.
Released to cinemas in the United States on June 30, 1995, Apollo 13 was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture (winning for Best Film Editing and Best Sound). In total, the film grossed over $355 million worldwide during its theatrical releases. The film was very positively received by critics.
Astronaut Jim Lovell hosts a house party where guests watch Neil Armstrong's televised first human steps on the Moon. Afterwards Lovell, who had orbited the Moon on Apollo 8, tells his wife Marilyn that he intends to return to the Moon to walk on its surface.
Three months later, as Lovell conducts a VIP tour of NASA's Vertical Assembly Building, his boss Deke Slayton informs him that his crew will fly Apollo 13 instead of 14. Lovell, Ken Mattingly, and Fred Haise train for their new mission. A few days before launch, Mattingly is exposed to the measles, and the flight surgeon demands his replacement with Mattingly's backup, Jack Swigert. Lovell resists breaking up his team, but relents when Slayton threatens to bump his crew to a later mission. As the launch date approaches, Marilyn has a nightmare about her husband's safety, but goes to the Kennedy Space Center the night before launch to see him off.
On April 11, 1970, Flight Director Gene Kranz gives the go-ahead from Houston's Mission Control Center for the Apollo 13 launch. As the Saturn V rocket climbs through the atmosphere, a second stage engine cuts off prematurely, but the craft reaches its Earth parking orbit. After the third stage fires to send Apollo 13 to the Moon, Swigert performs the maneuver to connect the Command/Service Module Odyssey to the Lunar Module Aquarius and pull it away from the spent rocket.
Three days into the mission, the crew makes a television transmission, which the networks decline to broadcast live. After Swigert turns on the liquid oxygen tank stirring fans as requested, one of the tanks explodes, emptying its contents into space and sending the craft tumbling. The other tank is soon found to be leaking. Mission Control aborts the Moon landing, and Lovell and Haise must hurriedly power up Aquarius to use as a "lifeboat" for the return home, as Swigert shuts down Odyssey before its battery power runs out. In Houston, Kranz rallies his team to come up with a plan to bring the astronauts home safely, declaring "failure is not an option". Controller John Aaron recruits Mattingly to help him invent a procedure to restart Odyssey for the landing on Earth.
As Swigert and Haise watch the Moon pass beneath them, Lovell laments his lost chance of walking on its surface, then turns their attention to the business of getting home. With Aquarius running on minimal electrical power, the crew suffers freezing conditions, and Haise contracts a urinary infection and a fever. Swigert suspects Mission Control is withholding their inability to get them home; Haise angrily blames Swigert's inexperience for the accident; and Lovell quickly squelches the argument. When carbon dioxide approaches dangerous levels, ground control must quickly invent a way to make the Command Module's square filters work in the Lunar Module's round receptacles. With the guidance systems on Aquarius shut down, the crew must make a difficult but vital course correction by manually igniting the Lunar Module's engine.
Mattingly and Aaron struggle to find a way to turn on the Command Module systems without drawing too much power, and finally transmit the procedure to Swigert, who restarts Odyssey by transferring extra power from Aquarius. When the crew jettisons the Service Module, they are surprised to see the extent of the damage. As they release Aquarius and re-enter the Earth's atmosphere, no one is sure that Odyssey's heat shield is intact. The tense period of radio silence due to ionization blackout is longer than normal, but the astronauts report all is well and splash down in the Pacific Ocean.
As helicopters bring the three men aboard the recovery ship USS Iwo Jima for a hero's welcome, Lovell's voice-over describes the subsequent investigation into the explosion, and the careers of Haise, Swigert, Mattingly, and Kranz. He wonders if and when mankind will return to the Moon.
- Tom Hanks as Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell: Jim Lovell stated that before his book Lost Moon was even written, the movie rights were being shopped to potential buyers and that his first reaction was that Kevin Costner would be a good choice to play him. However, by the time Howard acquired the director's position, Costner's name never came up in serious discussion, and Hanks had already been interested in doing a film based on Apollo 13. When Hanks' representative informed him that a script was being passed around, he had the script sent to him. John Travolta was initially offered the role of Lovell, but declined.
- Kevin Bacon as Apollo 13 backup Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert
- Bill Paxton as Apollo 13 Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise
- Gary Sinise as Apollo 13 prime Command Module Pilot Ken Mattingly: Sinise was invited by Howard to read for any of the characters, and chose Mattingly.
- Ed Harris as White Team Flight Director Gene Kranz: Harris described the film as "cramming for a final exam." Harris described Gene Kranz as "corny and like a dinosaur", but was respected by the crew. Apollo 13 would be Harris' second space travel-themed movie; he had starred as pioneering astronaut John Glenn in 1983's The Right Stuff.
- Kathleen Quinlan as Marilyn Gerlach Lovell, Jim's wife
- Chris Ellis as Director of Flight Crew Operations Deke Slayton
- Joe Spano as "NASA Director", a composite character loosely based on Chris Kraft
- Marc McClure as Black Team Flight Director Glynn Lunney
- Clint Howard as White Team Electrical, Environmental and Consumables Manager (EECOM) Sy Liebergot
- Ray McKinnon as White Team Flight Dynamics Officer Jerry Bostick
- Todd Louiso as White Team Flight Activities Officer
- Loren Dean as EECOM John Aaron
- Xander Berkeley as "Henry Hurt", a fictional NASA Office of Public Affairs staff member
- David Andrews as Apollo 12 Commander Pete Conrad
- Christian Clemenson as Flight Surgeon Dr. Charles Berry
- Ben Marley as Apollo 13 backup Commander John Young
- Brett Cullen as Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) 1
- Ned Vaughn as CAPCOM 2
- Tracy Reiner as Haise's wife Mary
- Mary Kate Schellhardt as Lovell's older daughter Barbara
- Max Elliott Slade as Lovell's older son James (Jay), who attended military school at the time of the flight
- Emily Ann Lloyd as Lovell's younger daughter Susan
- Miko Hughes as Lovell's younger son Jeffrey
The real Jim Lovell appears as captain of the recovery ship USS Iwo Jima; Howard had intended to make him an admiral, but Lovell himself, having retired as a captain, chose to appear in his actual rank. Horror film director Roger Corman, a mentor of Howard, appears as a congressman being given a VIP tour by Lovell of the Vehicle Assembly Building, as it had become something of a tradition for Corman to make a cameo appearance in his protégés' films. The real Marilyn Lovell appeared among the spectators during the launch sequence. CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite appears in archive news footage and can be heard in newly recorded announcements, some of which he edited himself to sound more authentic.
In addition to his brother, Clint Howard, several other members of Ron Howard's family appear in the movie:
- Rance Howard (his father) appears as the Lovell family minister.
- Jean Speegle Howard (his mother) appears as Lovell's mother Blanch.
- Cheryl Howard (his wife) and Bryce Dallas Howard (his daughter) appear as uncredited background performers in the scene where the astronauts wave goodbye to their families.
Preproduction and props
While planning the film, director Ron Howard decided that every shot of the film would be original and that no mission footage would be used. The spacecraft interiors were constructed by the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center's Space Works, which also restored the Apollo 13 Command Module. Two individual Lunar Modules and two Command Modules were constructed for filming. While each was a replica, composed of some of the original Apollo materials, they were built so that different sections were removable, which enabled filming to take place inside the capsules. Space Works also built modified Command and Lunar Modules for filming inside a Boeing KC-135 reduced-gravity aircraft, and the pressure suits worn by the actors, which are exact reproductions of those worn by the Apollo astronauts, right down to the detail of being airtight. When the actors put the suits on with their helmets locked in place, air was pumped into the suits to cool them down and allow them to breathe, exactly as in launch preparations for the real Apollo missions.
The real Mission Control Center consisted of two control rooms located on the second and third floors of Building 30 at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. NASA offered the use of the control room for filming, but Howard declined, opting instead to make his own replica from scratch. Production designer Michael Corenblith and set decorator Merideth Boswell were in charge of the construction of the Mission Control set at Universal Studios. The set was equipped with giant rear-screen projection capabilities and a complex set of computers with individual video feeds to all the flight controller stations. The actors playing the flight controllers were able to communicate with each other on a private audio loop. The Mission Control room built for the film was on the ground floor. One NASA employee, who was a consultant for the film, said that the set was so realistic that he would leave at the end of the day and look for the elevator before remembering he was not in Mission Control. By the time the film was made, the USS Iwo Jima had been scrapped, so her sister ship, the USS New Orleans, was used as the recovery ship instead.
Howard anticipated difficulty in portraying weightlessness in a realistic manner. He discussed this with Steven Spielberg, who suggested using a KC-135 airplane, which can be flown in such a way as to create about 23 seconds of weightlessness, a method NASA has always used to train its astronauts for space flight. Howard obtained NASA's permission and assistance in filming in the realistic conditions aboard multiple KC-135 flights.
Cast training and filming
In Los Angeles, Ed Harris and all the actors portraying flight controllers enrolled in a Flight Controller School led by Gerry Griffin, an Apollo 13 flight director, and flight controller Jerry Bostick. The actors studied audiotapes from the mission, reviewed hundreds of pages of NASA transcripts, and attended a crash course in physics. Astronaut Dave Scott was impressed with their efforts, stating that each actor was determined to make every scene technically correct, word for word.
|Apollo 13: Music From The Motion Picture|
|Soundtrack album by James Horner|
|Released||June 27, 1995|
The score to Apollo 13 was composed and conducted by James Horner. The soundtrack was released in 1995 by MCA Records and has seven tracks of score, eight period songs used in the film, and seven tracks of dialogue by the actors at a running time of nearly seventy-eight minutes. The music also features solos by vocalist Annie Lennox and Tim Morrison on the trumpet. The score was a critical success and garnered Horner an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score.
All music composed by James Horner, except where noted.
|Apollo 13: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|2.||"One Small Step"||0:42|
|3.||"Night Train" (performed by James Brown)||3:27|
|4.||"Groovin'" (performed by The Young Rascals)||2:26|
|5.||"Somebody to Love" (performed by Jefferson Airplane)||2:55|
|6.||"I Can See for Miles" (performed by The Who)||4:09|
|7.||"Purple Haze" (performed by The Jimi Hendrix Experience)||2:48|
|9.||"All Systems Go/The Launch"||6:39|
|10.||"Welcome to Apollo 13"||0:38|
|11.||"Spirit in the Sky" (performed by Norman Greenbaum)||3:50|
|12.||"House Cleaning/Houston, We Have a Problem"||1:34|
|14.||"What's Going On?"||0:34|
|15.||"Into the L.E.M."||3:43|
|16.||"Out of Time/Shut Her Down"||2:20|
|17.||"The Darkside of the Moon" (performed by Annie Lennox)||5:09|
|18.||"Failure is Not an Option"||1:18|
|19.||"Honky Tonkin'" (performed by Hank Williams)||2:42|
|20.||"Blue Moon" (performed by The Mavericks)||4:09|
|21.||"Waiting for Disaster/A Privilege"||0:43|
|22.||"Re-Entry & Splashdown"||9:05|
|23.||"End Titles" (performed by Annie Lennox)||5:34|
The film was released on 30 June 1995 in North America and on 22 September 1995 in the UK.
The film was a box-office success, bringing in $355,237,933 worldwide. The film's widest release was 2,347 theaters. The film's opening weekend and the following two weeks placed it at #1 with a US gross of $25,353,380, which made up 14.7% of the total US gross.
|Source||Gross (US$)||% Total||All-time rank (unadjusted)|
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that the film has an overall approval rating of 95%, based on 85 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 8.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "In recreating the troubled space mission, Apollo 13 pulls no punches: it's a masterfully told drama from director Ron Howard, bolstered by an ensemble of solid performances." Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews from mainstream critics, gave the film an average score of 77 out of 100, based on 22 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised the film in his review saying: "A powerful story, one of the year's best films, told with great clarity and remarkable technical detail, and acted without pumped-up histrionics." Richard Corliss from Time highly praised the film, saying: "From lift-off to splashdown, Apollo 13 gives one hell of a ride." Edward Guthmann of San Francisco Chronicle gave a mixed review and wrote: "I just wish that Apollo 13 worked better as a movie, and that Howard's threshold for corn, mush and twinkly sentiment weren't so darn wide." Peter Travers from Rolling Stone praised the film and wrote: "Howard lays off the manipulation to tell the true story of the near-fatal 1970 Apollo 13 mission in painstaking and lively detail. It's easily Howard's best film." Movie Room Reviews said "This film is arguably one of the most dramatic and horrendous spaceflight stories ever told."
Janet Maslin made the film an NYT Critics' Pick, calling it an "absolutely thrilling" film that "unfolds with perfect immediacy, drawing viewers into the nail-biting suspense of a spellbinding true story." According to Maslin, "like Quiz Show, Apollo 13 beautifully evokes recent history in ways that resonate strongly today. Cleverly nostalgic in its visual style (Rita Ryack's costumes are especially right), it harks back to movie making without phony heroics and to the strong spirit of community that enveloped the astronauts and their families. Amazingly, this film manages to seem refreshingly honest while still conforming to the three-act dramatic format of a standard Hollywood hit. It is far and away the best thing Mr. Howard has done (and Far and Away was one of the other kind)." The academic critic Raymond Malewitz focuses on the DIY aspects of the "mailbox" filtration system to illustrate the emergence of an unlikely hero in late 20th-century American culture—"the creative, improvisational, but restrained thinker—who replaces the older prodigal cowboy heroes of American mythology and provides the country a better, more frugal example of an appropriate 'husband'."
Ron Howard stated that, after the first test preview of the film, one of the comment cards indicated "total disdain"; the audience member had written that it was a "typical Hollywood" ending and that the crew would never have survived. Marilyn Lovell praised Quinlan's portrayal of her, stating she felt she could feel what Quinlan's character was going through, and remembered how she felt in her mind.
|1996||Academy Awards (1996)||Best Film Editing||Mike Hill and Daniel Hanley||Won|||
|Best Sound||Rick Dior, Steve Pederson, Scott Millan, David MacMillan||Won|
|Best Actor in a Supporting Role||Ed Harris (lost to Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects)||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Supporting Role||Kathleen Quinlan (lost to Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite)||Nominated|
|Best Art Direction||Michael Corenblith (art director), Merideth Boswell (set decorator) (lost to Restoration)||Nominated|
|Best Original Dramatic Score||James Horner (lost to Il Postino)||Nominated|
|Best Picture||Brian Grazer (lost to Braveheart)||Nominated|
|Best Visual Effects||Robert Legato, Michael Kanfer, Leslie Ekker, Matt Sweeney (lost to Babe)||Nominated|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||William Broyles Jr., Al Reinert (lost to Sense & Sensibility)||Nominated|
|American Cinema Editors (Eddies)||Best Edited Feature Film||Mike Hill, Daniel P. Hanley||Nominated|
|American Society of Cinematographers||Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases||Dean Cundey||Nominated|
|BAFTA Film Awards||Best Production Design||Michael Corenblith||Won|
|Outstanding Achievement in Special Visual Effects||Robert Legato, Michael Kanfer, Matt Sweeney, Leslie Ekker||Won|
|Best Cinematography||Dean Cundey||Nominated|
|Best Editing||Mike Hill, Daniel Hanley||Nominated|
|Best Sound||David MacMillan, Rick Dior, Scott Millan, Steve Pederson||Nominated|
|Casting Society of America (Artios)||Best Casting for Feature Film, Drama||Jane Jenkins, Janet Hirshenson||Nominated|
|Chicago Film Critics Association Awards||Best Picture||Apollo 13||Won|
|Directors Guild of America||Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures||Ron Howard, Carl Clifford, Aldric La'Auli Porter, Jane Paul||Won|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture||Ed Harris as Gene Kranz||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture||Kathleen Quinlan as Marilyn Lovell||Nominated|
|Best Director – Motion Picture||Ron Howard||Nominated|
|Best Motion Picture – Drama||Apollo 13||Nominated|
|Heartland Film Festival||Studio Crystal Heart Award||Jeffrey Kluger||Won|
|Hugo Awards||Best Dramatic Presentation||Apollo 13||Nominated|
|MTV Movie Awards||Best Male Performance||Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell||Nominated|
|Best Movie||Apollo 13||Nominated|
|PGA Awards||Motion Picture Producer of the Year Award||Brian Grazer, Todd Hallowell||Won|
|Saturn Awards||Best Action / Adventure / Thriller Film||Apollo 13||Nominated|
|Screen Actors Guild Awards||Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role||Ed Harris as Gene Kranz||Won|
|Outstanding Performance by a Cast||Kevin Bacon, Tom Hanks, Ed Harris, Bill Paxton, Kathleen Quinlan and Gary Sinise||Won|
|Space Foundation's Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award||Best Family Feature – Drama||Apollo 13||Won|||
|Writers Guild of America Awards||Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium||William Broyles Jr., Al Reinert||Nominated|
|Young Artist Awards||Best Family Feature – Drama||Apollo 13||Nominated|
|2005||American Film Institute||AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes||"Houston, we have a problem." (#50)||Won|||
|2006||American Film Institute||AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers||Apollo 13 (#12)||Won|||
Technical and historical accuracy
The film depicts the crew hearing a bang quickly after Swigert followed directions from mission control to stir the oxygen and hydrogen tanks. In reality, the crew heard the bang 93 seconds later.
The film portrays the Saturn V launch vehicle being rolled out to the launch pad two days before launch. In reality, the launch vehicle was rolled out on the mobile launch platform using the crawler-transporter weeks before the launch date.
The movie depicts Swigert and Haise arguing about who was at fault. The show The Real Story: Apollo 13 broadcast on the Smithsonian Channel includes Haise stating that no such argument took place and that there was no way anyone could have foreseen that stirring the tank would cause problems.
The dialogue between ground control and the astronauts was taken nearly verbatim from transcripts and recordings, with the exception of one of the taglines of the film, "Houston, we have a problem." (This quote was voted #50 on the list "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes".) According to the mission transcript, the actual words uttered by Jack Swigert were "Hey, we've got a problem here" (talking over Haise, who had started "Okay, Houston"). Ground control responded by saying "This is Houston, say again please." Jim Lovell then repeated, "Houston, we've had a problem."
One other incorrect dialogue is after the re-entry blackout. In the movie, Tom Hanks (as Lovell) says "Hello Houston... this is Odyssey... it's good to see you again." In the actual re-entry, the Command Module's transmission was finally acquired by a Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King recovery aircraft which then relayed communications to Mission Control. CAPCOM and fellow astronaut Joe Kerwin (not Mattingly, who serves as CAPCOM in this scene in the movie) then made a call to the spacecraft "Odyssey, Houston standing by. Over." Jack Swigert, not Lovell, replied "Okay, Joe," and unlike in the movie, this was well before the parachutes deployed; the celebrations depicted at Mission Control were triggered by visual confirmation of their deployment.
The tagline "Failure is not an option", stated in the film by Gene Kranz, also became very popular, but was not taken from the historical transcripts. The following story relates the origin of the phrase, from an e-mail by Apollo 13 Flight Dynamics Officer Jerry Bostick:
- "As far as the expression 'Failure is not an option,' you are correct that Kranz never used that term. In preparation for the movie, the script writers, Al Reinart and Bill Broyles, came down to Clear Lake to interview me on 'What are the people in Mission Control really like?' One of their questions was 'Weren't there times when everybody, or at least a few people, just panicked?' My answer was 'No, when bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them. We never panicked, and we never gave up on finding a solution.' I immediately sensed that Bill Broyles wanted to leave and assumed that he was bored with the interview. Only months later did I learn that when they got in their car to leave, he started screaming, 'That's it! That's the tag line for the whole movie, Failure is not an option. Now we just have to figure out who to have say it.' Of course, they gave it to the Kranz character, and the rest is history."
- In the film, Mattingly plays a key role in solving a power consumption problem that Apollo 13 was faced with as it approached re-entry. Lovell points out in his commentary that Mattingly was a composite of several astronauts and engineers—including Charles Duke (whose rubella led to Mattingly's grounding)—all of whom played a role in solving that problem.
- When Jack Swigert is getting ready to dock with the LM, a concerned NASA technician says: "If Swigert can't dock this thing, we don't have a mission." Lovell and Haise also seem worried. In his DVD commentary, the real Jim Lovell says that if Swigert had been unable to dock with the LM, he or Haise could have done it. He also says that Swigert was a well-trained Command Module Pilot and that no one was really worried about whether he was up to the job, but he admitted that it made a nice subplot for the film. What the astronauts were really worried about, Lovell says, was the expected rendezvous between the Lunar Module and the Command Module after Lovell and Haise left the surface of the Moon.
- A scene set the night before the launch, showing the astronauts' family members saying their goodbyes while separated by a road, to reduce the possibility of any last-minute transmission of disease, depicted a tradition not begun until the Space Shuttle program.
- The film depicts Marilyn Lovell dropping her wedding ring down a shower drain. According to Jim Lovell, this did occur, but the drain trap caught the ring and his wife was able to retrieve it. Lovell has also confirmed that the scene in which his wife had a nightmare about him being "sucked through an open door of a spacecraft into outer space" also occurred, though he believes the nightmare was prompted by her seeing a scene in Marooned, a 1969 film they saw three months before Apollo 13 blasted off.
- From the Earth to the Moon, a docudrama mini-series based around the Apollo missions
- Gravity, a 2013 film about astronauts stranded in Earth orbit
- Marooned, a 1969 film directed by John Sturges, about astronauts marooned in an Apollo Command/Service Module
- Survival film, about the film genre, with a list of related films
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