The real Lovell likes 'Apollo 13' but swears there was no cursing

July 24, 1995|By Jeff Guinn | Jeff Guinn,Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Back home in Texas, Jim Lovell is a "reasonably" happy man.

It has been almost four weeks since the release of "Apollo 13," a cinematic re-enactment of the heroics of Mr. Lovell and two crew mates as they overcame in-space disaster to get back to Earth safely. Mr. Lovell, 64, is pleased by the movie's box office success and said it comes as something of a surprise.

"I never expected the film to do so well at all," he said from his secluded home near Marble Falls, Texas. "It came as a windfall after the book. I thought the book got the story right, that it all rang true. But the book never got going like I'd thought it would, as far as the New York Times' best-seller list or anything."

The movie "Apollo 13" is based on "Lost Moon," co-authored by Mr. Lovell, who commanded the ill-fated moon mission in 1970, and Jeffrey Kluger. The book, written in matter-of-fact third person, was published last summer to first-rate reviews and lukewarm public response.

But director Ron Howard loved "Lost Moon," signed Tom Hanks to star as Mr. Lovell in his film, and hired the former astronaut as a technical adviser. The public has loved the result, and Mr. Lovell counts himself as pleased with it, although he has some specific nits to pick.

"The movie is very authentic, but they did use some . . . I guess you'd call it 'artistic license,' when they felt they had to," said Mr. Lovell, noting it exaggerated a confrontation scene between fellow astronauts Fred Haise and Jack Swigert.

"They built up our lack of sleep, the coldness," he said. "And there was a party scene at the beginning that was fabricated, but they explained they had to do that to introduce the characters, so that's all right."

But the Hollywood insertion that bothers Mr. Lovell and Mr. Haise most (Swigert died of cancer in 1982 after being elected to Congress, but before he could take office) is what they consider gratuitous use of obscene language.

"I've talked to Fred about this, and of course he knows this as well as I do," Mr. Lovell said. "The filmmakers used freedom of speech, and the language is, I suppose, why the movie is rated PG. But we never used those words. To be certain, Fred went back and went through the entire air-to-ground transcripts from the mission. He couldn't find one instance of swearing."

Even as Mr. Hanks makes him a larger-than-life screen idol, Mr. Lovell said he's just glad to get home after months on the interview circuit and some time spent at the second home he and his wife, Marilyn, maintain in Chicago.

"We love Texas, but my wife has family in Chicago, and her idea was that it gets so hot in Texas during the summer that it would be good to go north during that time," Mr. Lovell said with a laugh. "Well, it's cooler down here."

His plans are limited. "With the movie done, I'd sort of like to just retire," he said. "I'd like maybe to help my sons in business more, and keep busy otherwise trying to get away from everything. Oh, I'll be doing some work. My main occupation other than my family will be giving talks on the space program. It can't be forgotten, can't be eliminated in the future."

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