James Gray Unveils ‘Ad Astra’ Follow-Up Starring Blanchett, Isaac, De Niro, and Hathaway

"Armageddon Time” will be a coming-of-age tale set before the 1980 election and based on Gray's own childhood memories.
Cate Blanchett, Oscar Isaac, and Anne Hathaway
Cate Blanchett, Oscar Isaac, and Anne Hathaway

Update, July 7: Deadline reports Focus Features has landed distribution rights to “Armageddon Time” out of the Cannes Virtual Market in a deal reportedly worth $15 million. The deal is for worldwide distribution rights.

Earlier: James Gray is assembling an all-star cast for his “Ad Astra” follow-up movie “Armageddon Time,” a coming-of-age drama set in the lead up to the 1980 presidential election of Ronald Reagan. Deadline reports that “Armageddon Time” will star Cate Blanchett, Robert De Niro, Oscar Isaac, Donald Sutherland, and Anne Hathaway. The film is being taken to the virtual Cannes market represented by Wild Bunch (international sales) and CAA Media Finance (domestic distribution sales), where it will no doubt be one of the hottest titles up for sale.

According to Deadline, “Armageddon Time” is “based on Grey’s childhood memories” and is described as “a big-hearted coming-of-age story that explores friendship and loyalty against the backdrop of an America poised to elect Ronald Reagan as president.” Gray is gearing up to shoot the project as soon as possible on location in New York.

“Every film you make is different, but I’m trying to do something that is the opposite of the vast, lonely and dark void of the movie I just directed,” Gray said, referring to his acclaimed Brad Pitt-starring space drama “Ad Astra” (now streaming on HBO Go). “I’m anxious to make something that is very much about people, about human emotions and interactions between people, and I want it to be filled with warmth and tenderness. In some sense, yes it’s about my childhood, but an illustration of familial love really on every level. I’m of the belief that most people do their best and that they try their best under difficult circumstances and in some sense that’s a beautiful thing and very moving to me.”

Gray tells Deadline he wants the film “to be political and historic.” The director said, “What happened with me, very simply, I got in big trouble when I was around 11, though the boys are 12 in the movie, and the story is about my movement from the public education that I got into private school and a world of privilege. This film is about what that meant for me and how lucky I was, and how unlucky my friend was and about that break meant for me and what it meant for him.”

The way Gray tells it, his “working class family” pulled all the connections they could to get him into a private school that ended up saving his life and “awakening [him] to real racism and anti Semitism.” It’s this story of social mobility that Gray will be digging into in “Armageddon Time,” plus the emotional core of the family as they experience the historical change of America in 1980.

Head over to Deadline’s website to read more from Gray about his new project.

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