National Geographic, with Appian Way and Warner Horizon Scripted Television, announced at the Critics Association Press Tour that The Right Stuff, an adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s iconic, best-selling nonfiction account of the early days of the U.S. space program, has been greenlit to series. Production will begin this Fall 2019.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson are executive producers, along with Mark Lafferty (“Castle Rock,” “Halt and Catch Fire”), who signs on as showrunner. David Nutter (“Game of the Thrones,” “Band of Brothers”) is set to direct and executive produce the series premiere episode. Will Staples (“Animals,” “Shooter”) will also executive produce.
The Right Stuff takes a clear-eyed, non-nostalgic look at the lives of these ambitious astronauts and their families, who became instant celebrities in a competition that would either kill them or make them immortal.
The first season, which uses the book as its starting point, takes place at the height of the Cold War in 1958, when the Soviets are dominating the space race. The public is in fear of a nation in decline, so the U.S. government conceives of a solution — NASA’s Project Mercury — creating the country’s premier astronauts from a handful of the military’s adrenaline-junkie test pilots. Seven individuals, known as the Mercury Seven, are plucked from obscurity and soon forged into heroes long before they have achieved a single heroic act. Within the heart of this historic drama that’s populated by deeply human characters, two archrivals — John Glenn and Alan Shepard — jockey to be the first in space.
Subsequent seasons of The Right Stuff will carry through to the epochal Apollo Space Program, where humankind saw one of its greatest achievements — man setting foot on the moon — and missions beyond.
“The behind-the-scenes stories of the astronauts in Tom Wolfe’s bestseller The Right Stuff are engaging, provocative and timeless,” says Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice president, global scripted content and documentary films. “The book’s narrative aligns perfectly with the qualities that we look for in scripted projects: fact-based, wildly entertaining and pushing the limits of human achievement.”
“The Right Stuff is about a moment when the country looked in the same direction to achieve the stuff of fantasy, and on a timeline that was nearly impossible,” says Lafferty. “The story is a reminder of what we’re capable of, but it also shows how much we’ve changed and diversified over time. National Geographic is the perfect home to showcase the ambitious and colorful characters at the center of this pioneering era.”
This project marks the second collaboration between National Geographic and Appian Way, following the release of the critically acclaimed climate change documentary Before the Flood, which reached more than 76 million unique total viewers worldwide across linear, digital, streaming and social platforms — making it the one of the most watched films ever released.
National Geographic is set to be a major part of Disney’s new streaming service, with Disney CEO Bob Iger saying last week that “We look forward to leveraging National Geographic to provide even more unique content for Disney+.”.