Ad Astra Director Broke the Rules of Space for Brad Pitt's Acting

There’s no crying in spaceball.
There’s no crying in spaceball.
Image: 20th Century Fox (YouTube)

It’s no surprise that most movies and shows don’t follow space logic. Even works like Firefly or Gravity, known for attempting a sense of realism, bend or break the rules. Director and co-writer James Gray may have promised Ad Astra will have the “most realistic depiction of space travel” ever, but he did make one concession for star Brad Pitt—even though the actor didn’t want him to.


Ad Astra is about an astronaut named Roy McBride (Pitt) who assigned a dangerous mission to travel across the universe in search of his father, played by Tommy Lee Jones. It may be about the fate of the universe, but it’s also a deeply personal quest that promises to explore McBride’s complex relationship with his father (a.k.a space daddy issues). So, it’s no surprise that Pitt got into it.

In an interview with IndieWire, Gray revealed that there was one moment he made a conscious decision to defy space logic for the sake of the story... against the actor’s wishes. According to Gray, Pitt started crying during a pivotal moment before the film’s finale. After they shot the scene, the actor told him that the tear should be edited in post-production to not stream down his face, because that’s not what would happen in space. But Gray wouldn’t have it.

“‘You gotta replace my tear, that’s not how it works in zero-gravity,’” Gray said. “I said, ‘Sorry, I’m keeping it. The acting’s too good, buddy.’”

Ad Astra lands in theaters on September 20. And yes, it comes complete with pirates on the moon.

Clarification: A previous version of this article mentioned Gray saying that Pitt wanted the tear to bubble off of his face, but a commenter pointed out that’s not actually what would happen. It wasn’t a direct quote in the original article, but paraphrased, so it’s unclear whether this is actually what Gray said or something added. Either way, we’ve removed that note in this article because space logic.


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Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.



Firefly and Gravity are your benchmarks for the attempted realism of physics in microgravity? That’s super fucking sad. Moonraker is the only legitimate science-based space film. Outlander is a close second.