Neil Armstrong Movie Draws Scorn for Decision to Omit Planting of American Flag on Moon: ‘Total Lunacy’

Edwin E. 'Buzz' Aldrin, Jr. salutes the US flag / Getty Images

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An upcoming movie about the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, is drawing conservative criticism for omitting the iconic image of him planting the American flag on the moon in 1969.

Actor Ryan Gosling, who portrays Armstrong in First Man, said the decision was deliberate because the filmmakers viewed the moon landing as a "human achievement."

"I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that's how we chose to view it," he told The Telegraph. "I also think Neil was extremely humble, as were many of these astronauts, and time and time again he deferred the focus from himself to the 400,000 people who made the mission possible."

Gosling said the moon landing "transcended countries and borders."

"He was reminding everyone that he was just the tip of the iceberg—and that’s not just to be humble, that’s also true," Gosling said. "So I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero. From my interviews with his family and people that knew him, it was quite the opposite. And we wanted the film to reflect Neil."

Armstrong, who died in 2012, once said of the decision to plant the flag that "in the end it was decided by Congress that this was a United States project." It was not considered a territorial claim.

The successful Apollo 11 mission flown by Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins was the culmination of a goal set by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, as part of the "Space Race" with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. He famously remarked in 1962, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) tweeted the omission was "total lunacy" and snarked it "wasn't a UN mission," pointing out it was an American-funded space achievement with American technology and American astronauts. Apollo 11 launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Rubio's state of Florida.

"Fox & Friends" host Pete Hegseth called Gosling an "idiot" for his remarks.

"Here’s what I think: Ryan Gosling is an idiot," he said. "OK? He’s a global citizen who thinks a bunch of humans got together and said, ‘We’re going to go to the moon,’" he said. "No, one country, compelled by capitalism, by free people, with a vision, said, ‘We’re going to do this.’ Part of it is a space race to beat the Russians because the Cold War matters. Yet revisionist actors in Hollywood then preach to us that it was a human achievement, and Americans had nothing to do with it?"

National Review film critic Kyle Smith slammed Gosling's logic as "daft," adding, "History sure can be inconvenient when patriotism makes you queasy."

Weekly Standard editor at large Bill Kristol took an implicit shot at the story, tweeting a picture of Aldrin next to the flag and calling it "a human achievement—and an American achievement."

First Man had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday and opens to wide audiences on Oct. 12. The movie is directed by Damien Chazelle, who previously helmed the Oscar-winning films Whiplash and La La Land—the latter also starred Gosling.

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