LOS ANGELES — With 2005 marking the anniversary of one decade since the release of "Apollo 13" and 35 years since the space mission it dramatized, two of the nation's most notable science centers recently paid tribute.
The Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the California Science Center in Los Angeles hosted simultaneous events on Tuesday while rolling out a futuristic red carpet for an anniversary DVD as unique as the mission it memorializes.
Smoke poured out from vents along the California Science Center's IMAX theater red carpet, attempting to give a "Star Trek" look to Tom Hanks, co-star Kathleen Quinlan and producer Brian Grazer. Once inside, the three participated in a Q&A session with their Cape Canaveral counterparts, director Ron Howard and astronaut Jim Lovell.
"I would never have pictured myself as a guy that could have played an astronaut," remarked Hanks, keeping things casual in jeans and a corduroy jacket. "I thought I would have been faking it too much. You know, our concept of them all is rock-chinned throttle jockeys who drink tequila all night and drive through the Mexican desert at 600 miles an hour.
"It's a responsibility when you're going to do it," the two-time Oscar winner said of playing a real-life character like Lovell. "You want to be authentic, and you want to be real, and you don't want to try to explain somebody's motivations or, even worse, alter those motivations into something else."
While reiterating how pleased he was with Hanks' performance, the 77-year-old Lovell said that because the Apollo 13 mission was technically a failure, it came to represent far more than just a space voyage. "It was a triumph in the way humans can get together and determine success from failure, and get themselves out of almost certain catastrophes by looking to how we overcame the problems we faced."
Grazer, whose production credits since include "A Beautiful Mind" and "8 Mile," said the human element drew him to "Apollo" rather than the outer-space component. "It's not that I'm not a fan of sci-fi, it's just a language that is hard for me to grasp," he admitted. "I mean, I never really watched 'Star Trek' when every kid in the world was watching 'Star Trek.' I guess I just happen to gravitate towards true stories. I'm always looking for something that's inspirational and empowering. There are so many stories that do that, and this happens to be one of them."
"[Hanks] just kept underlining the fact that we really had to trust this story and not Hollywoodize it, not dress it up, and I agreed," remembered Howard. "I actually wrote across the front of my script 'Just show it,' because the more I kept learning about every facet, whether it was home life, the mission controllers or the guys in the capsule, the details were in fact really incredible and really amazing."
Smiling, Hanks offered a possible alternative cut of the movie. "We could have made 'Apollo 13' about a guy who screwed up, or made a mistake, or told a lie, or was drunk at the time he tied bolts on the oxygen tank, but we didn't. We just told the story of an inexplicable thing that happened and how they got back. I think that is the reason the movie itself is as iconographic as it is."
Iconographic enough that Universal is anticipating high demand for the two-disc anniversary edition that arrives in stores this week. With features that include commentaries by Howard and Lovell, a documentary on the history of space travel and a making-of featurette, the DVD has plenty of what fans have come to expect — and then some.
An IMAX cut that's "a little more action packed," Grazer said, appears on disc alongside the standard theatrical release. Due to the length restrictions of IMAX film projectors, Grazer and his team had to trim 23 minutes, and thus, he said, it's probably "a bit more of an adrenaline-pulsing experience."
Whether it's the original or the slightly larger version, Grazer said it's important that the film be remembered because it brings so much awareness to space travel.
"People get complacent," agreed Lovell, who compared today's apathy to that of the era when Apollo 13 took flight. "We had some very good Apollo flights. So by the time Apollo 13 came around, everybody said, 'Hey, we've been there, we've done that.' ... It's typical that when everything goes right, people are complacent. But when something happens and suddenly the crash at the first turn of the race occurs, then everybody gets really interested. And of course, that's what happened on Apollo 13."
Resiliency, it seems, is always more fascinating than success. After 35 years, Jim Lovell knows that as well as anybody.
Check out everything we've got on " Apollo 13."
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