First things first: Ad Astra, an upcoming film starring Brad Pitt and directed by James Gray, is not to be confused with Ad Astra, the Elon Musk-run school for genius children interested in “blowing shit up.” Instead, the film is about a fully grown man named Roy McBride, who’s followed in his father’s footsteps by pursuing a career as an astronaut. Naturally, he’s played by Pitt—and he just might also earn Pitt an Academy Award. Here’s everything else we know about the film ahead of its September 20 release.
It’s your chance to see Brad Pitt in space.
Even before he began filming Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, Pitt landed the lead role of Roy McBride, an astronaut who crash-lands back to Earth after his spacecraft malfunctions. Rather than a warm welcome home, he’s almost immediately greeted by an order to turn around and head right back up into the great unknown—this time, with the responsibility to save the world. (Oh, and according to the film’s director, James Gray, Roy also has “schizoid tendencies.”)
It’s also your chance to see Brad Pitt to work out some daddy issues in space.
Sixteen years before Roy crash-landed back to Earth, his father, Clifford McBride, disappeared in the midst of the so-called Lima Project, a mission to search for advanced extraterrestrial life. But is Clifford actually dead? Well, Tommy Lee Jones is on the IMDb page under his name, but it’s clearly a question that the filmmakers were hoping you’d be asking anyway. The latest trailer kicks off with Roy’s coworkers encouraging him to attempt to speak with Clifford, even though there’s no hint of him in sight. Roy, undismayed, carries on addressing his father, reminiscing about their time together on Earth even until he begins to tear up.
The fate of the entire solar system lies in his hands.
If Clifford has caused Roy some hardship, well, it’s nothing compared to what he apparently has in store for the rest of the solar system. As it turns out, Clifford had—or has—been experimenting with a “highly classified material,” which has made it so that “all life [will] be destroyed” if Roy doesn’t haul his ass back to the outermost edges of the solar system, stat. (Gray summed up Clifford to Vanity Fair as thus: a “Buzz Aldrin-type figure—if he’d gone mad in deep space.”)
Liv Tyler is there.
Roy isn’t just a tortured astronaut; he’s also a husband and a dad. It’s thanks to his wife, played by Liv Tyler, that he first learns exactly how much is at stake: “They’re calling in ‘The Surge,'” she says in the trailer, pointing out the plane crashes and fires that are “everywhere” on TV. Apparently, her character isn’t important enough for the film’s cast and crew to publicize her name, but “Roy’s wife,” as she’s currently known, also keeps in touch with her husband via video chat while he’s in space. (Ruth Negga and Donald Sutherland also round out the film’s cast.)
After space, Cannes just might be up next.
Of the five features that the film’s director, James Gray, has made since his directorial debut in 1994, four have been nominated for the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious Palme d’Or. They include 2013’s The Immigrant, which starred Marion Cotillard, and The Lost City of Z, which starred Tom Holland, Charlie Hunnam, and Robert Pattinson. (Come to think of it, Gray might want to putt Pitt in touch with the latter, seeing as Pattinson recently also played a doomed astro-dad in Clare Denis’s film High Life.)
From the sound of it, with his latest, Gray is aiming even higher: “What I’m trying to do is the most realistic depiction of space travel that’s been put in a movie and to basically say, ‘Space is awfully hostile to us,'” the director told Collider in 2017.
It might mark the end of an era for Brad.
Earlier this month, Pitt let GQ Australia in on the fact that lately, he’s been feeling a little old—and therefore a little at odds with Hollywood, which he considers to be “a younger man’s game.” But when it comes to awards season, Pitt is already looking like he’ll be in his prime. Between Ad Astra and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, the stars for his fourth Best Actor Academy Award nomination are already aligned.