Playing Neil Armstrong On The Screen: The "Jesus Curse," Redux

Categories: Movies, NASA
NeilArmstrong072009.jpg
Photo by NASA
In the old days of Hollywood, they used to talk of "the Jesus Curse" -- any actor who played JC on screen was thereafter doomed to obscurity.

Does the same thing happen to actors who play Neil Armstrong? There aren't as many Apollo 11 movies as you might expect, but the evidence still is strong:

5) Apollo 11 -- A 1996 made-for-TV movie, Armstrong is played by Jeffrey Nordling. Yes, the Jeffrey Nordling, the one who had played Coach Ted Orion in Mighty Ducks 3: Direct to Video!!, or whatever that movie was subtitled. From Apollo 11 he went on to play a lot of TV roles, perhaps the high point being Larry Moss in a 24. Absolutely uncharacteristic bit of dialogue from that show, according to IMBD:

Moss -- The rules are what make us better.
Jack Bauer -- Not today.

4) Moonshot -- Released this year, apparently under the motto "Not so's you'd notice." The wiki summary is almost in English:

Billions of people around the world, with bated breath, watching for a dangerous mission spacecraft Apollo 11, completed an absolute triumph. Against the backdrop of well-known fact-finding mission, Apollo 11, the picture turns fascinating story neizvestnyzh hitherto the circumstances of the flight: the technical complexity and intricacies of relationships astronauts, meticulous presentation of details of travel, supplemented never unpublished archival images in HD quality, advanced special effects, recreating it in its entirety unique experiment.
Man, we can't wait to see those "never unpublished archival images," although it sounds like we already have. Armstrong is played by Daniel Lapaine. Umm, `nuff said.

3) Fly Me to the Moon -- A 2008 animated bomb that followed the hijinks of three flies who found themselves trapped on board Apollo 11. Buzz Aldrin voiced himself in the movie; Armstrong somehow decided he was unavailable. Historians cannot seem to agree who played Armstrong in this epochal piece of fly-related moon cinema. IMDB lists Sandy Simpson; wikipedia lists J.P. Manoux. In the end, it doesn't really matter.

2) From the Earth to the Moon -- This one, at least, is famous -- it's the Tom Hanks-produced HBO miniseries that had its ups and downs but overall was not bad. Armstrong was played by Tony Goldwyn, who's gone to do as much directing as he's done acting since. (He actually directed Armstrong once; the astronaut was the narrator for a moon documentary Goldwyn helmed.) While not his meatiest role, he really brought to life Richard Nixon's charismatic-but-doomed elder brother in Oliver Stone's underrated Nixon.

1) Apollo 13 -- The most famous fictional spaceshot movie; Armstrong shows up very, very briefly as a liaison sent by NASA to comfort Jim Lovell's mother when the crisis hits. He was played by Mark Wheeler who, in the 14 years since, has had exactly two movie roles, only one of them in a movie you've heard of (EdTV).

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