The Right Stuff

D: Philip Kaufman
Warner Bros./Ladd (Irwin Winkler & Robert Chartoff)
US 1983
192 mins


W: Philip Kaufman [based on the book by Tom Wolfe]
DP: Caleb Deschanel
Ed: Glenn Farr, Lisa Fruchtman, Stephen A. Rotter, Tom Rolf & Douglas Stewart
Mus: Bill Conti
PD: Geoffrey Kirkland

Sam Shepard (Chuck Yaeger), Scott Glenn (Alan Shepard), Ed Harris (John Glenn), Dennis Quaid (Gordon Cooper), Fred Ward (Virgil "Gus" Grissom), Barbara Hershey (Glennis Yeager), Kim Stanley (Bancho Barnes), Veronica Cartwright (Betty Grissom), Pamela Reed (Trudy Cooper), Scott Paulin (Deke Slayton)

The subject matter of this aviation biopic is incredibly esoteric, so regarding on which side of the fence the audience sits it will either mesmerise or bore them, there isn't really much middle ground.
Charting the United States "race for space" against Russia, the film begins with the day of test pilots and their quest to break the sound barrier, before introducing the Mercury Seven, who became the first Americans sent into orbit.
For the most part, the film is faithful to fact at the expense of quick pacing, but the performances of the ensemble create some iconic moments, particularly the attempts at oneupmanship during the astronauts' training.
Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, Fred Ward and Sam Shepard are standouts of the cast, playing Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom and Chuck Yaeger, respectively.
The film struggled to set the box office alight, possibly due to a lack of promotion or coming to screen a little too late after the actual events, but the critics developed a fondness for the film, especially the Oscars, for which it won 4 awards and was also nominated for Best Film of the Year. A category it may even have won had it not been for poor box office business. Either way, it's a film which will be more noted for its educational value and meticulous recreation of historical events, rather than for entertainment.

The Right Stuff
The Right Stuff