Courtesy of Warner Bros.
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Dir. Philip Kaufman. 1983, 193 mins. 35mm. With Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, Fred Ward, Scott Glenn, Barbara Hershey, Sam Shepard. Kaufman’s mammoth adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s bestseller about the selection and lift-off of NASA’s first astronauts, known as the Mercury Seven, is a singular Hollywood epic. Part satire of American gung-ho machismo, part reverent dramatization of the mission that would change the world, The Right Stuff
is a dazzlingly mounted production that effortlessly mixes broad comedy and stirring drama. Nominated for eight Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and winner of four, The Right Stuff
helped launch the careers of Ed Harris, Fred Ward, and Scott Glenn, but the real standout is Sam Shepard's supporting turn as sound-barrier breaker and proto-astronaut Chuck Yeager. Perfectly cast and with big screen charisma to spare, he plays the legendary test pilot as a stoic cowboy, as comfortable on horseback as he is in the cockpit, doggedly pursuing neither glory nor celebrity but quiet, elusive transcendence, pushing the envelope and chasing demons in the sky.
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