After two release date delays, we began to worry that James Gray’s space epic Ad Astra would never arrive. But the cerebral and original sci-fi feature has finally made its worldwide premiere at the Venice Film Festival and will land in theaters this fall. Once it does, star Brad Pitt hopes the film—which follows his astronaut protagonist Roy McBride on a journey to the farthest reaches of the solar system to find his lost father (Tommy Lee Jones)—will deconstruct the traditional notions of masculinity.
“Having grown up in an era where we’re taught to be strong, not show weakness, don’t be disrespected,” Pitt said at the film’s Venice press conference. “There’s a certain value in that, but there’s also a barrier that’s created with this kind of embracing of the self, because you’re denying, in a sense, those pains or the things you feel shame, whether real or imagined.”
He continued: “We were asking the question, is there a better definition for us? Does being more open provide you with a better relation with your loved ones and with yourself? At the end of the day, that’s certainly what we were after.”
The movie may question humanity’s place in the cosmos, but it will do so through the lens of a very personal and singular trek.
Gray wants to ground this science fiction tale and display “the most realistic depiction of space travel” ever put to film. Presumably, one motivation behind that beyond the visual ambition is to center the emotional journey of Pitt’s character in a relatable way. The character may be the film’s ostensible hero, but he must be accessible to general audiences and authentic first and foremost—something the director saw in Pitt.
“The key is you cannot worry about being liked or hated or sympathetic or unsympathetic,” Gray said at the press conference. “You can only worry about being honest to who you are, and about being willing to be vulnerable or open. Sometimes that will lead you to dark places and people will love it or hate it, but you can’t worry about that. I tried to establish that dialogue with Brad; Brad certainly did with me, and you let the chips fall where they may.”
Ad Astra will hit theaters on September 20.