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THE ASTRONAUT FARMER

The Line Between "Dreamer" and "Crazy"
"Charles Farmer is a little bit eccentric, but that's because he's doing what he wants to do,” says "The Astronaut Farmer” director and co-writer Michael Polish. "Any time you contrast that with people who seem to have a normal life, who are likely not doing what they want to do, you're going to see someone who looks a little bit out on the edge. 

"Everybody's allowed to dream,” Polish continues. "Hopefully, the dream isn't so big that the ride to achieve it will kill you. But anyone who is chasing something has to give something up. There's always a sacrifice involved. I think what holds people back from fulfilling their dreams is that sacrifice.” 

Charles Farmer has already sacrificed plenty and is willing to go the distance in pursuit of his dream of space flight, even after circumstances and expulsion from NASA seem to have closed that door to him forever. Billy Bob Thornton, who stars as Farmer, puts it pragmatically: "Once you get something stuck in your craw, you gotta do it. What else can you do? Do you sacrifice everything to achieve that dream or do you crawl in a hole and give up? One way or another, the people who try are the ones we care about.”

Award-winning independent filmmakers Mark and Michael Polish first earned critical attention in 1999 with their debut drama "Twin Falls Idaho,” which they wrote, directed and starred in. They followed with the 2001 feature "Jackpot,” which earned them an Independent Spirit Award, and "Northfork,” which premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. The Polish Brothers understand the power of conviction and the value of pursuing a goal, as well as the compromises and losses that are often required along the way. 

"What's most important is that Farmer does everything he can to succeed,” offers award-winning producer Paula Weinstein. "Then, even if he doesn't, he can still live with himself. That's something he feels is vitally important to show his children. It's what America is founded on and it's the message of this movie: if you do your best, if you dream high enough and let nothing stop you from climbing all the way to the top of your particular mountain, then, even if it doesn't work out, you are still fulfilled as a human being for having done your absolute best.” 

Personally inspired and fascinated by the 1960s space race that culminated in Neil Armstrong's historic walk on the moon, the Polish Brothers gave their hero a similar passion. "Charles Farmer is a guy who watched the first man step foot on the moon and that was probably the single most dramatic moment of his childhood,” suggests Mark Polish, who co-wrote and was a producer on the film. 

Adds Michael, "The story was sparked by our interest in space exploration, but beyond that, it's about a need to dream of adventures, whether it's Neil Armstrong or Lewis and Clark. I think that, as a society, we've stopped dreaming about exploration. With space being the contemporary frontier, we got to thinking how would a common person do this? What if you don't have the means or you're not in the military or the NASA program?”

Farmer starts out on a conventional path, paying his dues and rising from the Air Force ranks to NASA's astronaut training program, but, unfortunately, life intervenes. When his father dies unexpectedly, Farmer makes the tough choice to return to the family farm to make the necessary arrangements and, ultimately, to pay off a mountain of debt, knowing that it means losing his position in the space program and his dream of piloting a rocket. "But, rather than give up what he was so close to achieving, he decides to take it into his own hands and build his own rocket,” says Mark. 

Farmer's quest not only costs him his savings and strains every professional relationship in his life, it regularly puts him at odds with his neighbors, local law enforcement, his chil

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