Ryan Gosling Defends American Flag Controversy in Neil Armstrong Biopic 'First Man'

First Man has not even been released yet, but after the film's debut screening at the Venice Film Festival revealed there is no scene of Neil Armstrong planting the American flag on the moon, the filmmakers have been criticized as being unpatriotic.

Actor Ryan Gosling, director Damien Chazelle and Armstrong's sons have all come out to defend the film.

Although the film earned positive reviews after the Venice screening, the lack of a flag-planting scene caught the attention of the media. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio even commented on it before seeing the film, calling it "total lunacy."

"I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that's how we chose to view it," Gosling, who plays Armstrong in the film, told reporters after he was asked about the omission, reports Variety.

"I also think Neil was extremely humble, as were many of these astronauts, and time and time again he deferred the focus from himself to the 400,000 people who made the mission possible," Gosling added.

Chazelle also issued a lengthy statement, insisting his decision was not political. His goal with the film was to tell the personal aspects of Armstrong's life that many may not be aware of.

"To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is no," Chazelle said. "My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America's mission to the moon — particularly Neil Armstrong's personal saga and what he may have been thinking and feeling during those famous few hours."

The Oscar-winning filmmaker went on to share how he wanted the primary focus to be on Neil's solitary moments on the moon.

"His point of view as he first exited the LEM, his time spent at Little West Crater, the memories that may have crossed his mind during his lunar EVA. This was a feat beyond imagination; it was truly a giant leap for mankind," he said. "This film is about one of the most extraordinary accomplishments not only in American history, but in human history. My hope is that by digging under the surface and humanizing the icon, we can better understand just how difficult, audacious and heroic this moment really was."

Armstrong's sons Rick and Mark also released a joint statement with First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong author James R. Hansen on Friday, defending the film. They stressed that the film celebrates the lives of Armstrong and the men and women who helped make Apollo 11 the first manned-mission to land on the moon. They also point out that Chazelle did in fact include many shots of the American flag on the moon.

"In short, we do not feel this movie is anti-American in the slightest," the Armstrongs and Hansen said. "Quite the opposite. But don't take our word for it. We'd encourage everyone to go see this remarkable film and see for themselves."

Armstrong died in 2012 at age 82.

First Man is based on Hansen's book and was written by Spotlight's Josh Singer. It marks Chazelle's reunion with Gosling after directing him in La La Land, which won Chazelle the Oscar for Best Director.

The cast also includes Jason Clarke as Ed White, the first American to walk in space, Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin and Claire Foy as Armstrong's first wife Janet Shearon.


First Man hits theaters on Oct. 12.

Photo credit: Universal Pictures