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THE ASTRONAUT FARMER

Casting
Whether or not Charles Farmer is able to launch himself into space with his homemade rocket, it was his drive to reach that goal that resonated with Billy Bob Thornton, cast as the amateur astronaut and quintessential adventurer. "It's a dream he had since he was five years old, to go up into space,” states Thronton. "He wants to see what this place looks like from up there. That's what he set out to do and he decides he's going to do it…even though it's not particularly legal and it gets him into trouble with a lot of people, especially the FBI.” 

It wasn't just the role and its message that appealed to Thornton, it was the tone and sensibility of the story itself, reminiscent of favorite films from the past. "It doesn't matter when you were born, at some point in your life you've seen movies from the 1940s and 50s, you know the emotions they evoke, and I feel this movie delivers in much the same way. I think the movie business was created to move people, to take them out of the worlds they live in and put them into another world for awhile, and that's what happens here. It's a good old-fashioned movie, but in a modern setting.” 

"Thornton brings undeniable charisma to the role,” Mark attests. "He's truly one of the greats, a real star, but he also has that working-class quality of a guy you'd just naturally want to be around, like a buddy. He's strong, subtle, endlessly impressive—it's a rare blend.”

For the role of Farmer's wife, Audie, the filmmakers cast Virginia Madsen. "People always say that behind every successful man is a strong woman,” says Michael. "It can be a cliché, but in this case it's completely appropriate. Audie is supportive, but she's also an individual who has not lost herself in this marriage. She can stand on her own and she has her own questions.” 

Audie's commitment to the project grows from her love for her husband. As long as it's something he believes in and wants to do, she is right beside him. That rings true with Madsen, who drew inspiration for the role from her sister's nearly 30-year marriage, acknowledging that, "Audie and Charles are real partners. They have weathered the storms together, and when you have a real partnership you can do just about anything and survive just about anything.” 

But there comes a point when Audie has to wonder if he has gone too far. Says Madsen, "Maybe the difference between pursuing a dream and turning that dream into a dangerous obsession is when it starts to become destructive. This is Audie's dilemma. She realizes they may lose their house to foreclosure and Charles is truly putting his family at risk, and she needs to take a stand.” 

"Audie is the heart and soul of the movie, as both the loving and supportive wife and a fierce advocate for her family,” says Weinstein. "She's not willing to have a marriage without criticism. She's tough on Farmer. She may believe that this dream they share makes the family strong and unique, but her children should not suffer for it. When he takes them out of school she gives him hell.”

Meanwhile, Audie's father, Hal, played by Bruce Dern, takes a positive approach to his son-in-law's lofty ideas as long as Audie is happy. He sees how Farmer's dream has united and inspired the entire family, which is more than he himself was able to do as a father, and in that way he admires him. As Dern sees it, "Hal is a booster; he's with the program. He loves his daughter and his grandkids, he's learning to love his son-in-law and genuinely wants him to succeed, though he might have his private doubts. It's a fantasy, sure, but that doesn't make it impossible. When you think of it, it's not any crazier than some other things people do. People say goodbye to their families all over the world on the first week of May to go climb Everest. How crazy is that?”

Offering more than moral support is Charles Far

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