James Gray first met his Ad Astra star Brad Pitt at the Sundance Film Festival in 1995. His debut feature, Little Odessa, had played there on a road that started at the Venice Film Festival in 1994, and Pitt responded instantly to it, setting up a meeting with Gray that, while it took more than 20 years to bear collaborative fruit, nevertheless resulted in a friendship that endures to this day.
Pitt plays Major Roy McBride, whose dreams of the stars come from the legendary astronaut his father (Tommy Lee Jones) represented. Missing in space since Roy was 16, and presumed dead, Roy receives word that, in fact, his father might be alive, and responsible for energy attacks that are crippling Earth’s infrastructure. He must journey through the solar system to learn the truth.
The movie was coming together as Gray was working to finish The Lost City Of Z, his previous film, which marked his first collaboration with Pitt, who produced it through his company Plan B. It was during the editing process on The Lost City Of Z, Gray says, speaking shortly before the Venice premiere of Ad Astra, that he and Pitt started to discuss a reteaming that would cast Pitt as the star of one of Gray’s movies for the first time.