Forty-two years after his $300 million hit Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss is watching the skies again — this time in Shelagh McLeod's indie flick Astronaut. He plays Angus, a widower who shared a dream of space travel with his late wife. So Angus enters a billionaire's national contest to win a ride on his brand-new spaceship. Dreyfuss, 71, tells AARP about his films and his own ambitions, in the heavens and on Earth.
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What perfect timing for your latest space movie — the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, when everyone's looking up.
You hope you don't make a movie where the whole subject bores people. But we didn't time it that way, it's just when we got financing.
From 1964 to 1971, Pan Am actually took reservations for its first moonflight, and 100,000 people signed up. Did you get a ticket?
I did. I have reservation number 86. This was an actual, legit plan. Pan Am had already honored the reservations they took in the ‘30s for their first flight across the Pacific. So we all scrambled for those moon-shot reservations. And I am absolutely convinced that had the entrepreneurs involved been given an OK, they would have honored them in a minute.
Is Astronaut's Angus, who's battling grief and the problems of aging, anything like the yearning young UFO rider Roy Neary in Close Encounters?
There's a strange, wonderful symbiotic relationship between Astronaut and Close Encounters, the first film ever made where the story was about there being no reason to fear looking up. And that gives it a nobility that no other film will ever have. Angus shares with Roy and millions of other people the desire to go up there and see what it's like, and didn't move on it until he was given this crazy contest opportunity. When we landed on the moon in 1969, we had every right to think that that was going to happen more often. But after a while the entrepreneurial spirit was able to replace the government's timidity.