The Right Stuff: An Oral History

Posted on December 2, 2014 at 3:53 pm

What a treat to see an oral history for one of my favorite films of all time, “The Right Stuff.” The story of the first astronauts in the early days of the space program, based on Tom Wolfe’s book, is fascinating, with wonderful characters and gorgeous cinematography by Caleb Deschanel (Zooey’s and Emily’s father). Special visual effects supervisor Gary Gutierrez explained that they wanted effects that were more old-school than those in “Star Wars.”

Make it like they did in the old days” became our marching orders. So I opened the window and had my director of photography go stand downstairs with his back to the wall and a handheld camera looking up toward the sky. On the street, crew people were holding a large parachute to catch the plane that I was going to throw out the window. Our model of the X-1 was 4 and a half feet long and cost $6,000. The model makers were holding their breath. The next day we showed Phil the footage and he loved it….We did various kinds of shaky-cam movement to give it a sense of urgency. We attached a vibrator to the lens or a power drill to the camera mount to make it all move like crazy.

Deshanel added, “At one point I shook the camera so hard, I gave my operator a black eye.”

I was also very intrigued to hear that it was writer/director Philip Kauffman who came up with the idea for Indiana Jones to be seeking the Lost Ark of the Covenant. It’s a great read.

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Behind the Scenes Film History