August 16, 2007
Buzz, Opie, Space..."It's game over, man!"

Last night's screening of David Sington's exceptional documentary "In the Shadow of the Moon" was a coup for 42 West and ThinkFilm. The factions wheeled out filmmaker Ron Howard (who "presents" the film in a PR ploy but who genuinely was affected by Sington's doc), astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the ubiquitous Ariana Huffington...even Bill Nye the Science Guy. Seriously.

Speaking to Howard was a treat, a kind and sincere man no matter what one may feel about his particular brand of cinematic artistry. Buzz Aldrin is still electrifying and willing to talk your ear off about what the next step in space travel should be, detailing a need for permanence in space with an eye toward Mars. He also gets slightly riled at the mention of conspiracy theorists who do not believe the space landing happened (my father is among them). I asked Buzz what he would say to such a crowd and his response was actually on point and considerable. "The Russians knew everything we were doing," he noted. "If we faked it, wouldn't they have called foul?" As much as I've looked into the conspiracy theories myself, this common sense point never popped into my head for some reason.

Sington, the film's director, is a classy Brit with a genuine affection and awe for the Apollo space program. It was a pleasure hearing why he chose to tackle the subject matter the way he has (solely from the point of view of the astronauts, each of them burning with vibrant personality). The entire shindig was really just the right sort of move and everything felt great.

But the REAL moment of elation last night - for me anyway - was a half hour conversation with Bill Paxton that was enlightening and exciting all at once.

You see, I didn't want to interview Paxton at first. I knew he wasn't there in that capacity, that listening to a journalist drill him for a few minutes would have been slightly out of bounds. It's not his film, his publicist wasn't always around to guide that ship, it just wasn't the "thing" I was looking to do. So after a few customary "what did you think of the flick" questions, things suddenly turned to conspiracy theorists and the JFK assassination.

You may have read the news a while back (I actually haven't heard this yet) that Paxton, along with Tom Hanks, has recently acquired the rights to Vincent Bugliosi's "Reclaiming History," wherein the author sets out to prove, rather than disprove, the conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination. In so doing, he pretty much obliterates every theory. Paxton went on and on about this with so much passion, I was transfixed. Especially considering the JFK event is something I'm personally obsessed with. I haven't read Bugliosi's book yet, but I will be buying it today to be sure. It was amazing shaking hanbds with a legend like Buzz Aldrin, but I live for the kind of fire Paxton lit underneath me regarding something totally off the cuff and outside of the realm of journalist-subject.

Paxton and Hanks will be developing the book into a long form HBO mini-series hoping for a 2010-ish debut.


Awesome story.

I'm a newbie at the journalism game (interning with Variety), and I've yet to have any celebrity conversation that got beyond the basic reporting questions.

At premieres and after-parties, there is always a group of people wanting to congratulate to the person I'm interviewing, and I feel bad if I make them wait longer than 5 minutes.

So I marvel at the fact that you seem to somehow pull it off.

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