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Unveiling a Blend of Apollo History and Moon Landing Hoax in ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ Trailer

If you have even a passing interest in the history of space exploration, viewing the latest trailer for the movie might lead you to believe that it is entirely a work of fiction. And to a large extent, you would be correct.

The synopsis from Columbia Pictures and Apple Original Films describes “Fly Me to the Moon” as a “comedy-drama set against the high-stakes backdrop of NASA’s historic [missions].” The film stars Scarlett Johansson as the fictional character Kelly Jones, a marketing expert tasked with improving NASA’s public image. In the process, she disrupts the plans of launch director Cole Davis, played by Channing Tatum.

“I work here now, to sell [products],” Jones (Johansson) explains her presence at NASA to Davis (Tatum) in the trailer.

In the 2-minute and 30-second clip, Jones is depicted arranging commercial endorsements for the mission and, when unable to secure interviews with NASA’s engineers, she substitutes them with actors. This leads to the central plot point of the movie, “Project Artemis” (distinct from NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the moon fifty years after the Apollo missions ended.

“The whole world will be watching, we can’t afford to lose to the Russians. We need to shoot a backup version,” a character portrayed by Woody Harrelson asserts.

Essentially, they need to simulate a moon landing, although the actual historical context differs significantly from the portrayal in the film.

As the trailer concludes, Johansson’s character is seen enlisting a director (Jim Rash) and embarking on the task of recreating the lunar surface on a soundstage.

“If you fake this mission,” warns Davis (Tatum), “every single thing that we have sacrificed will have been for nothing!”

In reality, NASA did not film a backup or fake the moon landings. However, television networks like CBS and NBC utilized puppets and stand-ins, including Northrop Grumman, to fill in visuals when live video feeds were unavailable.

While NASA did not engage in paid product placements for the Apollo program, manufacturers whose products were used by astronauts recognized the marketing value of associating their brands with the missions.

The movie “Fly Me to the Moon” incorporates a blend of real endorsements and fictionalized elements. For instance, Omega continues to leverage its connection to the moon landing in its marketing campaigns. Additionally, Snoopy’s presence in the film is a nod to the character’s longstanding association with NASA through an agreement with Charles M. Schulz and Peanuts Worldwide.

The filmmakers made efforts to authentically capture the era, sourcing props and costumes that mirror the actual hardware used during the Apollo missions. While there are deviations from historical accuracy, such as the portrayal of a Saturn V rocket and a Saturn IB in a configuration that was not utilized until the Shuttle-Centaur program.

Certain scenes of the movie were filmed on location, with NASA permitting the production to shoot at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in March 2023.

Although the film assigns fictional names to its main characters, it features actors portraying real individuals, including the tragic Apollo 1 crew.

Jones’ (Johansson) role at NASA is not entirely fictional, as the agency did employ a team of public relations specialists who played a crucial role in shaping public perception of the space program through various media channels.

“Fly Me to the Moon,” set to premiere in theaters on July 12, was directed by Greg Berlanti, with a screenplay by Rose Gilroy and a story by Bill Kirstein and Keenan Flynn. Alongside Johansson, Tatum, Harrelson, and Rash, the cast includes Nick Dillenburg, Anna Garcia, Noah Robbins, Colin Woodell, Christian Zuber, Donald Elise Watkins, and Ray Romano.

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