Richard Linklater's Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood Touches the Animated Stars

Glen Powell talks life on set of the Austin director's latest

Milo Coy in Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood (by Netflix © 2022)

When Richard Linklater was doing press for his semi-autobiographical college baseball movie, Everybody Wants Some!!, he mentioned to me that he had a dream project. That he wanted to make a great movie about Houston. Not set in Houston, or filmed there, but about the city that he grew up in, at the peak of the space race.

“He said the exact same thing to me,” said Glenn Powell. The Austin native recalled conversations with Linklater when he was on set for Everybody Wants Some!! playing the rambunctious upperclassman Finnegan, about “capturing the magic of Houston, that nobody’s been able to do that in the movies. Which is crazy – it’s one of the biggest cities in the world, with every color and creed and socioeconomic background. There’s people moving in and through all the time, and in addition to that there’s NASA.”

“[Linklater’s] energy really brings out the best in people.” – Glen Powell

The Manned Spacecraft Center towers over the film that fulfills Linklater’s wish, Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood, in which adult Stanley (Jack Black) narrates his childhood as a kid (Milo Coy) in the Houston suburb of El Lago. It’s spring of 1969, and the moon landings are about to expand his world in most unexpected ways.

Powell might have known Linklater would make his movie, but he didn’t think those conversations would mean he’d be in it. They were just relaxed, on-set chats. “Rick is the most approachable person,” Powell said. “He’s such an open book and loves to talk with people around his ideas.” Still, he was surprised when he got a call from the filmmaker in early 2020. “He just said, ‘Hey man, I know you’ve played John Glen [in Hidden Figures] and you’ve been to space before, but I don’t know if you’d want to return to NASA and play this guy who’s one of the heads of the space program.’ I was like, ‘Dude, absolutely.’”

That’s how he and Zachary Levi ended up on a green screen set with Coy, laying down the performances for Linklater’s return to character animation for the first time since 2006’s A Scanner Darkly. It’s a long way from the dugout hangout mood of Everybody Wants Some!! but Powell said, “It’s just a different sandbox. ... You just get to play all the same.”

What was a constant was working with Linklater. “His energy really brings out the best in people,” said Powell, who said the director always put performance first. “Yes, he likes playing with new technology, yes, he likes pushing the boundaries, but the only time you saw him thinking something outside of the performance for a second was when somebody goes, ‘Hey, by the way, if you do this shot you’re going to have to paint over all this which means you won’t have the shot in the turnaround,’ and he’d go, ‘Cool, that’s great.’”

Moreover, Powell said that Linklater has pulled off what he wanted to make. “He’s done a really Houston movie.”


Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood

World Premiere

Sunday, March 13, 8pm, Paramount Theatre

Saturday, March 19, noon, AFS Cinema

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Sound and Vision: The Meow Wolf/Spatial Connection
Sound and Vision: The Meow Wolf/Spatial Connection
Did SXSW give a preview of the technology behind the next portal?

Richard Whittaker, April 14, 2022

MSNBC Gets Behind the Story of <i>Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets</i>
MSNBC Gets Behind the Story of Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets
New documentary talks to the people who bought Gamestop shares

Ikram Mohamed, April 8, 2022

More by Richard Whittaker
Review: <i>Disney’s Frozen</i>
Review: Disney’s Frozen
Broadway in Austin brings all Arendelle’s magic to the Bass

June 15, 2024

Memorial Announced for Film Giant Tom Copeland
Memorial Announced for Film Giant Tom Copeland
Former Texas Film Commission head oversaw massive growth in industry

June 13, 2024


SXSW 2022, SXSW Film 2022, Glen Powell, Richard Linklater, Apollo 10 1 / 2: A Space Age Childhood

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle