Why Scarlett Johansson fought to get space race romance Fly Me to the Moon made?

Johansson gives an exclusive look at her “nostalgic” space race romance, about whether or not NASA faked the moon landing.

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Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum are ready for takeoff.

Entertainment Weekly has an exclusive look at the two stars in Fly Me to the Moon, a sweeping romantic dramedy set during the 1960s space race. It’s a charming tale about the rumors that NASA faked the moon landing, one that Johansson has wanted to tell for years. Not only does she star in the film, but she also serves as a producer, working with Sony and Apple Original Films to get the story off the ground.

“The most challenging projects to find are romantic comedies and dramedies,” Johansson tells EW via email. “The totally original script by Rose Gilroy was what excited me most about this film. It is a big picture movie that feels both nostalgic and so modern and the kind of movie I’m always reaching for that you rarely get to see in theaters these days. Audiences are hungry for original films!”

“I think it’s such a huge testament to her that for her first big film that she’s producing, she chose an original story for a broad audience,” director Greg Berlanti adds. “Those are some of the toughest to execute these days because there’s a lot of competition for people’s attention. I hope everyone will really appreciate her performance in this movie but also appreciate her efforts behind the camera to help make it happen.”

Fly Me to the Moon chronicles the highs and lows of the 1960s space race, following PR specialist Kelly Jones (Johansson) as she’s brought in to sell the idea of space flight to the American public. Along the way, she strikes up a relationship with NASA employee Cole Davis (Tatum) and is tasked with choreographing a fake moon landing, just in case the real thing goes sideways.

“It plays with this concept of whether or not we faked it,” Berlanti explains. “I’ve always been a huge NASA fan and space nut, and [I loved] to read something that both celebrated NASA but also keyed into the importance of the truth — especially in this era right now when it seems like every other thing is a conspiracy story. What is the origin of that? Why does the truth still matter?”

Surprisingly, Fly Me to the Moon is Johansson and Tatum’s first time working togetherBoth appeared in the Coen brothers’ 2016 comedy Hail, Caesar!, but apparently, they never actually crossed paths while filming. “I kept asking them on set, ‘Are you sure you guys haven’t worked together before?’” Berlanti says. “They’re not only perfect together, but off camera, they got along really well. In the film, they can be total opposites at times. It’s in that great tradition of all the old screwball comedies, or the Rock Hudson-Doris Day movies.”

Johansson confirms that she and Tatum were fast friends, even if he became the set’s resident prankster. He was “constantly pulling my pigtails,” she says — sometimes literally. “My favorite memories of working with Channing are giggling with him before takes, especially when he tried to stick his fingers under my wig,” she adds.

Although the film is a fictionalized look at the space race, Berlanti wanted the setting to feel as real as possible, which meant dressing every background player in period-appropriate clothing and carefully recreating locations like the original firing room. Given that the film is about a potential fake moon landing, Berlanti wasn’t sure whether NASA would give their blessing, but he was pleasantly surprised (and grateful) at how welcoming they were, allowing production to shoot on location at Cape Kennedy in Florida.

“Everything was really meticulously done, from the headsets to every knob and dial on every computer,” Berlanti explains. “When we were shooting, we had a number of people who actually attended the original launch, and they were in tears walking into the firing room because it felt like they had walked a step back into time.”

Both Johansson and Berlanti agree that their favorite days were filming the fake moon landing itself. The film’s actual cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski, appears as the moon landing cameraman, and Berlanti wanted every shot to look like it was lifted from the original footage — right down to the tiniest grains of sand.

“When we had to emulate the first step, I think we went through 30 different gravel samples,” Berlanti says with a laugh. “We wanted to figure out, what would the moon look like on film? What would it look like via a TV set at the time? We kept looking at sample after sample, and we all had to wear masks because all of this fine dust. And you had to walk in these silly shoes, so you don’t mess up the moon set. We put a lot of time and thought into making sure it felt as real as possible.”

“We were shooting the choreography of the moon landing on our fake lunar set, watching the stunt actors perform all of the movements to a T, while listening to the actual reporting from Walter Cronkite — it was just incredible,” Johansson recalls. “It was like watching the moon landing live right before your eyes.”

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