Oscar season is getting a double dose of Brad Pitt thanks to his leading turns in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and James Gray’s “Ad Astra.” Tarantino’s movie arrives this summer, while Gray’s long-awaited space drama hits theaters in September after numerous delays because of the movie’s extensive post-production. “Ad Astra” marks a reunion between Gray and Pitt after “The Lost City of Z,” which the actor produced (but did not star in) under his Plan B banner.
In “Ad Astra” Pitt gets in front of the camera as Roy McBride, an Army Corps engineer who embarks on an ambitious space mission to find out the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of his father. Clifford McBride, played by Tommy Lee Jones, was an astronaut who set out on a journey to Neptune looking for signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence but never returned. The supporting cast includes Liv Tyler, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland, Kimberly Elise, and Jamie Kennedy.
For Gray, “Ad Astra” marks a major jump not only into VFX filmmaking but also into the studio world. 20th Century Fox set up the movie and Disney is releasing it following the merger. Gray has been a respected voice in the independent film world for well over a decade, making his debut with the 1995 crime drama “Little Odessa” and earning acclaim for follow-up films “The Yards,” “Two Lovers,” and “The Immigrant.” The last time Gray directed a studio film was in 2007 with the crime movie “We Own the Night,” starring Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg.
Fox originally set “Ad Astra” for January 11 before pushing back the release date to May 24. Gray said last December he was unsure if he could meet the May release date given how extensive the visual effects work is on the movie. “You know usually when you see a science-fiction movie there are a number of shots that don’t look very good?” Gray said during a masterclass. “I do not want to be up against a release date and have stuff looking really bad.”
With the movie’s September release date set, “Ad Astra” is likely to premiere at one of the major fall film festivals. Rumor has it the movie is set for the Venice Film Festival, although the official lineup won’t be revealed until later this month.
Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios will release “Ad Astra” in theaters September 20. Watch the first official trailer in the video below.