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Story Notes for Space Cowboys

Weeknights during prime time on AMC, you can catch Story Notes — real time trivia and facts about your favorite movies. Below is the online version of the Story Notes for Space Cowboys.

Award Notes
Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland were nominated for a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Action Team.

Space Cowboys was nominated for an Oscar for Best Sound Editing.

Clint Eastwood has four Oscars — two for directing and two for producing — for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby.

Biographical Notes
Clint Eastwood was the mayor of Carmel, CA from 1986-1988.

Frank is 69 years old, the same age Eastwood was during filming.

James Garner also plays gunslinger Bret Maverick on Maverick, where he once dueled with Eastwood.

Tommy Lee Jones also plays a former military pilot in Fire Birds (1990).

James Cromwell also plays a two-faced authority figure in L.A. Confidential (1997).

In a TV movie, William Devane played JFK, who set the goal of landing a man on the moon.

Co-writer Ken Kaufman later wrote The Missing (2003), also starring Tommy Lee Jones.

Donald Sutherland has some experience as a ladies man — he plays Casanova in the 1976 Fellini film.

Rade Serbedzija also plays a Russian general on 24 and in X-Men: First Class (2011).

James Cromwell was also involved in a massive conspiracy on 24.On that show, he plays the father of Kiefer Sutherland, son of Donald.

Courtney B. Vance (Roger) is married to actress Angela Bassett.

Marcia Gay Harden earned an Oscar nod for her next Eastwood-directed movie, Mystic River (2003).

Clint Eastwood pilots helicopters, but he’s never had a desire to go into space. Eastwood: “To me, that’s claustrophobic as hell.”

Blooper Notes
Port-a-potties weren’t made of fiberglass until the 1970s. Hawk’s story takes place pre-1958.

There is actually no sound in space because there are no air molecules for it to travel through.

In low-gravity, flames behave differently than on Earth, spreading out in all directions like a blob.

Casting Notes
The same year, Marcia Gay Harden was in Pollack (2000), which earned her an Oscar.

William Devane stars in Knots Landing and plays the Secretary of Defense on 24.

James Cromwell is in Babe (1995), The Artist (2011), and Six Feet Under.

Loren Dean is in two other movies involving space travel: Apollo 13 (1995) and Gattaca (1997).

In 2000, Clint Eastwood was on a run of playing heroes who refuse to “act their age.” His previous two movies were Absolute Power (1997) and True Crime (1999).

Barbara Babcock (Frank’s wife) stars in Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman and Hill Street Blues.

James Garner is best known for TV’s The Rockford Files and movies like The Great Escape (1963). Tank (his character’s name) is also the title of an 1984 movie Garner stars in with James Cromwell.

Donald Sutherland and Eastwood play U.S. soldiers in the same platoon in Kelly’s Heroes (1970).

Mad Men star Jon Hamm makes a brief appearance in Space Cowboys. It was his first movie role.

At 53, Tommy Lee Jones (Hawk) was a bit younger than his co-stars. Jones: “I tried as hard as I could to fit in… I have not heard anyone complain about my youth.”

Sean Connery was originally cast to play Hawk, but he dropped out for unknown reasons.

In 2000, Rade Serbedzija (General Vostov) is also in Mission: Impossible II and Snatch.

Blair Brown (Doctor) plays Nina Sharp on Fringe.

After this movie, Courtney B. Vance (Roger) started a five-year stint on Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Stuntman/actor Nils Howard Stewart also plays a guy named Tiny in Anger Management (2003).

Gossip Notes
Eastwood was rumored to be a vegan after he said he didn’t like hunting animals — the rumor is false.

Health Notes
The average man in his 60s can bench press 116 lbs.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most deadly type of cancer. It has a very low survival rate.

Historical Notes
The Bell X-2 was developed to research flying at incredibly fast speeds. Only two were ever made.

President Eisenhower formed NASA in 1958, replacing the military’s NACA program. Eisenhower was in a “space race” with Russia, who had just launched Sputnik, the first satellite in space.

Skylab was the U.S.’s first space station (1973-79). It was the site of over 300 scientific experiments.

Skylab was built to prove humans could live in space and to improve our understanding of astronomy.

In 1998, 77-year-old John Glenn became the oldest person ever in space.

John Glenn is both the oldest person ever in space and the first American to orbit the Earth.

Despite the Cold War, U.S. and Soviet Academies of Science shared information in the ’70s and ’80s.

Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 21, 1969.

1986 was the year the Soviets launched their space station Mir into orbit.

The Snellen chart was developed by Dutch ophthalmologist Herman Snellen in 1862.

One of the space shuttle’s computers failed on its last mission in 2011. Fortunately, a backup took its place.

NASA sent John Glenn back into space partly to renew public interest in space travel.

The space shuttle was used on 135 missions, starting in 1981. Its final mission ended in July of 2011.

Alan Shepard was the first American in space and the fifth person to walk on the moon.

Russian spies were also responsible for stealing the plans for the atomic bomb in the 1940s.

The first explosive hatch on a spacecraft was built for the Liberty 7, which made the second U.S. flight to space.

Location Notes
The scenes that are supposed to be Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert of California were shot in nearby El Mirage Dry Lake, where part of Lethal Weapon (1987) was filmed.

The amusement park ride is the Viper at Six Flags Magic Mountain in L.A. It has the world’s tallest vertical loop.

One scene was shot at the Halfway House Café in Agua Dulce, CA. It was also used in Georgia Rule (2007).

The Outpost Tavern in Houston was a favorite hangout for astronauts until it closed in 2010.

The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center is the world’s largest indoor pool. Astronauts spend about seven hours training underwater for every hour they will be spacewalking.

The scenes of Team Daedalus heading to the shuttle were shot at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. All of the Apollo missions to the moon launched from Kennedy.

Music Notes
“The Best Is Yet To Come” by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, 1959, performed by Joshua Redman

“I Only Have Eyes For You” by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, 1934. The song is performed by Clint Eastwood’s daughter, actress/director Alison Eastwood.

Composer Lennie Niehaus has worked with Clint Eastwood on several of his movies. He won a BMI Film Music Award for Space Cowboys.

“Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra, 1964. Buzz Aldrin plays this song on his Apollo 11 trip to the moon.

Pop-Culture Notes

Clint Eastwood stars opposite an orangutan in Every Which Way But Loose (1978).

The Boeing-Stearman 75 is the same plane Randy Quaid flies in Independence Day (1996).

Eastwood’s fight scene in Any Which Way You Can (1980) is 11 minutes, one of the longest in movie history.

There’s a headline in the movie that parodies The Right Stuff (1983), a movie about John Glenn and the first men to go into space.

Space Cowboys opened the Venice International Film Festival in 2000.

Space Cowboys has been described as”The Right Stuff meets Grumpy Old Men meets Armageddon.”

Jonny Quest is an 11-year-old cartoon boy who often got into trouble on adventures.

The popularity of hula “dashboard dolls” started with soldiers stationed in Hawaii during WWII.

Press Notes
The New York Times said, “Mr. Jones gives his deepest, most controlled performance since Blue Sky (1994).”

The San Francisco Chronicle called Space Cowboys the “best movie of the summer” in 2000.

Quotation Notes
Garner: “If Clint Eastwood calls you to do a picture, you jump at it. There is no hesitation.”

Tommy Lee Jones: “I’m not a pilot. Clint is the pilot. I’d rather be my own dentist than my own pilot.”

Eastwood says that age is all in how old you feel: “I am about 12 and the rest of the guys are about 14.”

Clint Eastwood nicknamed the movie “Geezer Power.”

Chief NASA Scientist Kathryn Clark: “[G-force] sort of feels like a gorilla stepping on your chest.”

Eastwood: “There was a lot of joking and fooling around [on set], but everybody knew when you yelled ‘roll ’em’ [it was] back to business.”

NASA trainer Yvonne Cagle helped teach the actors how to use all the training equipment. Cagle: “I learned a thing or two from them. They came prepared.”

James Garner: “I practiced with [the arm] and got quite good at it, but the rest I left to the other guys.”

Eastwood: “I believe the human element is the thing that sells [the movie]. Without the story, the effects become like a tour of a national park or something.”

Jones has said that his ideal way to go out would be on stage at his 999th performance of King Lear.

Set Notes
In earlier scenes, the voices of Tommy Lee Jones and Clint Eastwood are dubbed over younger actors.

Eastwood likes to keep things simple as a director; he often completes movies early and under budget.

Clint Eastwood was initially just going to star in and produce Space Cowboys, not direct it. After potential directors thought filming space travel would be too difficult, he decided to do it himself.

Eastwood would film the actors improvising a scene, then use that footage in the movie. Eastwood: “Donald would say, ‘Are we rehearsing now; what are we doing?’ and I’d say, ‘No that’s it.'”

Filming was hard on the actors: Garner dislocated his shoulder, and Sutherland cracked a knee.

The simulator is the same that real astronauts use to train for their missions.

The interview with Jay Leno was filmed in front of a real Tonight Show audience. Leno made monologue jokes about Viagra, Matlock, and prostate problems.

Leno ad-libbed with the actors like he would in a real interview.

The Mission Control set was built using blueprints of the real Mission Control, provided by NASA.

In the real space shuttle, four sit up front and two in the back, but Eastwood wanted everyone together.

Real astronauts who saw an early screening of the movie were impressed by how realistic space looked.

To create “weightlessness,” the actors clung onto objects as if they were grounding themselves. Eastwood opted against using the “Vomit Comet,” the plane used to film weightlessness in Apollo 13.

Symbolism Note
In Greek mythology, Daedalus builds wings for himself and his son Icarus so that they can fly.

Tech Notes
“Avionics” is the term for all the electronic systems on an aircraft.

The SR-71 Blackbird holds the world record for the fastest manned, air-breathing jet aircraft.

George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) helped Eastwood create a realistic outer space. ILM has also created effects for Star Wars, Men in Black, Jurassic Park, Titanic, Contact and Avatar.

A 1/22 scale miniature model of Ikon was used for the space scenes, shot in front of a black tarp.

The scenes out in space are entirely computer graphics; the actors’ faces were added in digitally.

Eastwood’s team initially thought they’d need 40 special effects shots – they ended up with about 300.

The visual effects crew made a “test run” animation of the entire landing sequence. The shots were drawn out, then animated into a mini cartoon movie as a preview of the final product.

The space shuttle’s descent is 20 times faster than a commercial airplane.

Eastwood used actual footage of the space shuttle landing for the movie’s landing shots.

Trivia Notes
Space Cowboys (2000) is the 19th movie directed by and starring Oscar-winner Clint Eastwood. Eastwood says the movie gets its name from the men who pioneered the space program in the 1950s.

There were two Miss Octobers in 1958; one was Mara Corday, a longtime friend of Clint Eastwood.

A sonic boom is caused by traveling faster than the speed of sound, at a speed called Mach 1.

The record altitude for an ejection is 102,800 feet, set by Joe Kittinger in 1960.

The first chimp in outer space was actually named Ham, after Holloman Aerospace Medical Center. Ham was in space two-and-half months before the first human, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

NASA’s Mission Control is in the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.

Today, there are about 3000 satellites operating in orbit. The majority are from the U.S. and Russia.

The rate of decay is how quickly a satellite is losing altitude.

Poor eyesight is the number one disqualifier for aspiring astronauts.

In a recent study, astronaut beat out pro athlete and superhero as the dream job for kids 10 and under.

The B-2 Spirit “Stealth Bomber” was designed to penetrate anti-aircraft defenses. It first flew in 1989.

An object in geosynchronous orbit takes one day to orbit the Earth, matching the rotation of the planet.

Astronaut candidates undergo exhaustive training for two years before the final selection process.

The highest G-force a human has ever experienced is 46.2 G’s, a record set by John Stapp on a rocket sled.

A roller coaster can reach up to six G’s.

On real simulations, 15-20 things will go wrong to train the astronauts for worst case scenarios.

As of 2011, less than 50 female U.S. astronauts have gone into space.

At least 30 astronauts have graduated from MIT, including Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon.

The actual world record for jets is 123,523 feet.

In 2009, NASA relaxed their vision requirements, allowing applicants with LASIK surgery.

MS stands for Mission Specialist.

The countdown clock at Kennedy begins ticking off 43 hours before the scheduled launch time.

Negative return is the point at which astronauts can no longer abort a launch and return to Earth.

Space officially begins 62 miles above Earth’s surface.

In 2011, the U.S. announced plans for a new satellite self-defense system, called SASSA.

EVA stands for Extravehicular Activity, the formal term for a space walk.

Since the moon has an elliptical orbit, its distance from Earth varies from 221,463 to 251,968 miles.

“Deadstick” means landing a plane that has lost power.

The heat generated by re-entry can get as high as 3000 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt steel.

Wardrobe Notes
Hawk’s shirt is from a Wyoming bar where Eastwood shot scenes for Any Which Way You Can (1980).

Global Effects Inc. designed ten space suits for the movie, using the same woven Teflon as real suits. They’ve also created space suits for Armageddon, Deep Impact and the MTV Moonman.

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