The Animated Childhood of Milo Coy in Apollo 10½
The young Austin actor takes one giant leap in Richard Linklater's tale of the space race
Milo Coy is living every homegrown artsy Austin kid's dream – for his first movie role, he was cast as the lead in a Richard Linklater movie. The director behind classics such as Slacker and School of Rock is finally back with a beautiful and incredibly personal coming-of-age comedy, where Coy stars as a kid growing up in Houston in 1969, when NASA and the space race were the talk of the town.
Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood is about Stan (voiced by Jack Black), who shares his surreal childhood experience growing up in the Houston suburb of El Lago. Coy plays the younger Stan of those reminiscences, a kid secretly recruited to test pilot the Apollo Lunar Module prior to the first moon landing. Young Stan goes through intensive training to get to the moon, but truly the heart of Linklater's film is his summertime memories before his mission, intertwined with his story of his space flight, and watching the Apollo 11 mission from his television.
"I'm pretty sure everybody's wanted to go to space at some point, but I never really wanted to go to space when I learned you have to do a bunch of school," Coy insisted very seriously. However, after a moment's thought, he rephrased his answer. "I like space [and] I would want to go to space, but I wouldn't want to do the preparation work."
Although Coy is young, and Apollo 10½ is his first film, he's always had his sights set on acting. "It was in pre-K, so I don't remember super well, but we were asked what we want our future job to be. I said that I wanted to be an actor because I wanted to be Bumblebee and drive down a building."
Starring in Apollo 10½ is not far from off the dream of being a CGI Transformer. As in two of his earlier films, Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, Linklater utilizes character animation to create his nostalgic vision of the Houston from his childhood. The experience was exciting for Coy: "It was awesome seeing myself animated. It was like a whole movie with me on an Instagram filter. It was just super cool and crazy."
Although Coy can't connect as much to the era the film is set in, he still found his character to be relatable. "It's a lot like how I've grown up, as I'm definitely a nerd, but not when it comes to schoolwork – when it comes to comics and stuff. Like how [Stan] is with NASA." Coy's love of nerd culture is quite sweet, but it's also pretty awesome to see that's he's also gotten into some of the same things his character Stan is into.
One of Coy's favorite moments in Apollo 10½ related to another cinematic trip to space, when Stan's talking at a kid from school about 2001: A Space Odyssey, and his friend suddenly loses interest and walks away. Stanley Kubrick's classic was one of many films and shows of the era that Linklater encouraged his cast, including Coy, to watch, but it was the one that stood out to Coy the most. "It was a great movie. I loved that," he gushed, almost like Stan himself. (Coy's favorite part? The deactivation of HAL 9000.) "We watched a clip from that in school, in like real school, this year, it was cool."
It's clear Coy is really into all things nerdy, sci-fi, and superhero. He's well versed in the world of comics, and hopes that someday he can even be in one. "Oh yeah, Old Man Logan – favorite comic of all time," Coy exclaimed, only to matter-of-factly clarify: "Probably was too young when I read it. It's really gory." He divulged that someday he'd like to play the baby Hulk from the comic.
Coy, akin to his character Stan, is an extremely creative and imaginative kid. During the audition process for Apollo 10½, he was asked, "If you could make your own world, what would it be?" and his answer was brilliant: "I said that I wanted a world where there was a part of it made of candy, and a part of it where it was a zombie apocalypse, because that would be awesome."
More in line with Stan, Coy also would embellish little details to make a story funny and entertaining, like insisting his father did not read the paperwork before signing him up for the film. "There are times whenever I'm trying to tell a story and my parents are like, 'That never happened,' and stuff, but ... I'm like pretty sure it happened," he says with an all-knowing grin.
One of Coy's favorite scenes to film was one of the prep scenes for Stan's mission to space. "It's the one where I'm in that plane and it's zero gravity or whatever. And I'm in that orange spacesuit ... and I got to be on wires and stuff." Coy preferred the orange test jumpsuit to the actual astronaut suit. "I hated that suit," he said deadpan. "Now, [the suit] was comfy, but it was melting ... they had to put ice packs in it." His dislike for the suit had no end, and he vented, "I had to, in between takes, unzip the back and take it off. All the time."
Outside all the fun green screen tech and dreams of space, perhaps the most genuine part of Apollo 10½ is how Linklater shapes growing up in a sprawling, big Texas city. There's none like him doing it, and even Coy mentioned that being in the film was special to not only him, but to his father, who grew up in both Houston and Austin. "My dad has nostalgia from it because he was born in 1973, and he remembers a lot about it."
Like Boyhood, Apollo 10½ is a touchingly personal film, a true love letter to growing up and the cherished memories you keep. Coy said, "It was really cool being in this movie because [this] is a movie that Rick's wanted to do for a while is what I've gathered, and it's personal to him. I just think it's super cool that I got to be in it."
Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood opens in theatres March 25, and blasts off onto Netflix April 1