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Apollo 13 A Retrospective Look Back At The Ron Howard Classic - Guest Post By Douglas Meacham

Artist: C.A. Martin

APOLLO 13 - A Retrospective Look Back By Douglas Meacham

U.S. Release Date: June 30, 1995
Starring: Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton
Music by: James Horner
Directed by: Ron Howard


On April 13, 1970, the Apollo 13 spacecraft was three days into its voyage to the Moon. Its lunar module was supposed to be the third manned spacecraft ever to land on the surface. But instead, it ended up serving as a lifeboat for three astronauts striving to stay alive after a routine procedural check of their service module goes wrong.

Twenty-five years later, a film was made to accurately portray the events of the mission that was dubbed “the successful failure.” Directed by Ron Howard, known for hits like COCOON and WILLOW, and starring America’s then leading man Tom Hanks as the spacecraft’s commander Jim Lovell, along with Kevin Bacon as command module pilot Jack Swigert and Bill Paxton as lunar module pilot Fred Haise, the team set out to make a movie that could be just as good or better than any archival footage that existed.
The cast and crew worked closely with real-life astronauts Jim Lovell (who cameos as the aircraft carrier captain at the end of the film) and Apollo 15 commander Dave Scott. They all attended Space Camp together where they partook in training exercises in Apollo simulators.

To achieve the effect of floating in space, a KC-135 plane was used to house the set interiors of the command and lunar modules while it flew parabolic patterns at 25,000 feet. The crew would film the actors “on set” while the plane nose dived for 25 seconds at a time, simulating weightlessness. This had to be done 612 times to film the full-body space scenes as well as some close ups. According to Kevin Bacon, Ron Howard got the idea of using the plane from fellow filmmaker Steven Spielberg.
Cast and crew on the "vomit comet"
Tom Hanks had been wanting to do a film about space for years. After this box office and critical success, he and Ron Howard went on to produce the limited TV series FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON for HBO. Both projects got me interested in researching the moon landings as a kid.

The film’s Oscar nominated score is my second favorite by James Horner, who happens to be my second favorite composer next to John Williams. Two years later he would go on to make my number one favorite score of his, the one for TITANIC.

I consider this film to be one of the few that significantly impacted my childhood, along with SUPERMAN, JAWS, and TITANIC. I of course have many childhood favorites from George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and other great filmmakers, but I feel that these four have left a lasting imprint on me.

  • Jim Lovell wore his old Navy Captain's uniform in the scene where he greets the astronauts aboard the U.S.S. Iwo Jima. When Ron Howard asked Lovell if he'd like to be in the film as the ship's Admiral, Lovell agreed, but pointed out, "I retired as a Captain; a Captain I will be."
  • The famous understatement was actually made twice by two astronauts. Jack Swigert said, "OK Houston, we've had a problem here." Mission Control said, "This is Houston. Say again, please." Then Jim Lovell said, "Ahh, Houston, we've had a problem." On the recording, Swigert is garbled at the beginning, while Lovell is clear, so the recording of Lovell is often heard, leading to the impression he said it, even though Swigert said it first. It's commonly misquoted as, "Houston, we've got a problem," or "Houston, we have a problem." Because "we've had" implies the problem has passed, Ron Howard chose to use "we have".
  • Marilyn Lovell really did lose her ring down the drain, but eventually found it again.
  • The budget for the movie was approx $52 million.  It made $353,148,882 worldwide
  • It was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won two.  Best film editing and best sound.
Douglas Meacham
Douglas is a HUGE movie fan and has a very insightful movie group on Facebook called, Meacham's Movie Madness. Douglas is also a Patreon of The Bearded Trio and a very valuable supporter of the site.

The Bearded Trio - The Site For Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, John Williams and a whole lot more.


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