Jack Black’s new animated film for Netflix, Apollo 10½: Childhood of the Space Age, tells about the landing of the Apollo 11 spacecraft on the Moon, but it is surprisingly close to the actor and musician who has a personal connection with the historical moment.
Black’s late mother, Judith Love Cohen, was an aerospace engineer who worked on the Apollo space program in the 1960s, and is credited with helping develop the abort control system in the Apollo lunar module.
“She was working on the Apollo mission at the time, but what she was doing wasn’t used until Apollo 13, a few years later, when the astronauts were in an emergency, and her interrupt control system, which she was working on as a programmer, helped save the lives of some astronauts,”- Black explained in a conversation about his upcoming film with ET’s Matt Cohen.
In fact, Cohen was such a dedicated employee that her son told: “There is a legend about how when she went to the hospital to give birth to me [on August 28, 1969, just a month after the Apollo 11 moon landing] that she had some documents, she was still working on the problem. And after she gave birth to the baby, she called work and they said, “Hi, congratulations, you just had a baby! How are you?” And she says, “Okay, okay, I’ll fax you the documents, the mathematical equations.”
In “Apollo 10½,” filmed live by writer and director Richard Linklater and then animated in a process similar to his early 2000s films “The Awakening of Life” and “The Grim Scanner,” Black tells the story of a young boy growing up in Houston. during the space race and his idea of what it would be like to go to the moon.
This story, like many of his other films, is based on Linklater’s real life experience. The director himself grew up just a few miles from the Johnson Space Center, which influenced him from an early age.
“I moved into the second grade and thought I was living next to NASA,” Linklater recalled, wondering as a child. “That summer we walked on the moon… It was such an important human achievement, maybe the biggest from the point of view of a child.”
It was a far cry from Black’s childhood in Southern California, when he listened to rock and found “the roots of his musical comedy” in unusual personalities such as the Strange Al Yankovic and Dr. Demento, but the actor knew that he would be in good hands with him. Linklater after the couple’s favorite collaboration on “School of Rock” in 2003.
“I thought a lot about ‘School of Rock’ while we were shooting this movie, because it’s also a collaboration of Richard Linklater, and that’s when we first met,” Black said of the film. “He brought the same realism, humor and genius to both projects. Despite the fact that these are very different films, they have the DNA of Richard Linklater.”
“He has a special style, and he brought to this project just a desire for it to be believable and real,” he continued, recalling their first joint work on “School of Rock”, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next fall. “Even though it’s a crazy story about a substitute teacher who becomes a fraud and takes these kids on a fraudulent journey, he wanted to keep it down to earth because that’s where the real juice is. When it’s a real relationship, it’s funny, not stupid. somehow, but in a way plausible. I think that’s why this movie lasted so long – we’re still talking about it 20 years later.”