‘The Right Stuff’ still goes to unbeatability and beyond
The film has the ‘right stuff’ by the rocket-load – more than any other space movie
To play the role of pilot and astronaut “Gordo” Cooper in The Right Stuff, Dennis Quaid really did learn to fly. He surprised director Philip Kauffman and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel with his new skills – by taking off as they sat together in a small plane. “What the fuck’s going on here!?” Kauffman recalled them saying. “Caleb and I were terrified.”
The real-life Gordo Cooper was a member of the Mercury Seven, the US’s first men in space. Each of the Mercury Seven troupe had been a test pilot and was specially selected for the US’s competitive (but sometimes losing) efforts against the Russian space programme.
Quaid learned to fly to get in the “heads and souls” of those pilots-turned-astronauts, the next generation of American frontiersmen. Quaid was searching, perhaps, for that very thing the film sets out to discover: the right stuff...