The new film First Man, which chronicles the 1960s experiences of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong (first to land on the moon in 1969), reunited composer Justin Hurwitz and director Damien Chazelle — both of whom earned Oscars for their musical La La Land in 2016. On Oct. 14, Hurwitz and Chazelle joined me for a lively discussion of their collaboration on the film; why they felt that a theremin and vintage Moog synthesizer sounds were appropriate musical choices; and the advantages of a composer having his studio literally next door to where the film was being edited. The occasion was a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening at the Linwood Dunn Theater.
I couldn’t wait to see First Man — in part because manned spaceflight was my obsession all through the 1960s and I have very vivid memories of watching Neil Armstrong set foot upon the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, and also because I was fascinated by how director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz would top their Oscar-winning work on La La Land in 2016. I spent time on the recording stage as Hurwitz conducted all of the key musical sequences and then interviewed him in his studio (complete with Moog synthesizer, theremin and vintage Echoplex machine), followed by a phone conversation with Chazelle. The results, published in Variety, are here.