Lured out of retirement to defuse a dangerous Cold War era satellite, the elderly astronauts in Clint Eastwood’s ”Space Cowboys” prove they’ve still got the right stuff despite their creaking joints. But director actor Eastwood and his crotchety costars James Garner, Donald Sutherland, and Tommy Lee Jones weren’t always as spunky about their own aches and pains on the set.
”The space suits were uncomfortable,” groans Jones, who at 53 is the young whippersnapper in the cast. ”They’re painful to put on, painful to take off, painful to wear. And they have little air conditioners you have to carry around which are always breaking down, and lots of hoses that are always getting kinked. They’re always biting or scratching or pinching you somewhere.”
Still, pinching was the least of the cast’s problems with the cumbersome NASA approved suits. ”They were so heavy that Donald [Sutherland] accidentally fell back and cracked his knee,” says Eastwood. Garner, 72, fell during filming of another scene and dislocated his shoulder.
Still, the actors hung tough when wounded. Both Sutherland and Garner continued filming despite their injuries, and Eastwood himself administered on set medical attention to Garner’s shoulder. ”I had a chronic shoulder dislocation on the set of ‘Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’ back in ‘73, so I knew how to pop it back in,” says the 70 year old director. ”Jim went right back to work and finished the day. But he didn’t play golf for a while.” Garner refuses to attribute his fall to the infirmities of old age. ”That was plain clumsiness,” he shrugs. ”It’s not that we’re too old to do certain things. I don’t believe that for a minute.”
The only time the four actors suspected they may not be aging so gracefully was when they filmed a scene in which their bare backsides faced the camera. ”That was 250 years of ass sitting in front of you. My wife died laughing,” says Sutherland, 66. ”I was frantically looking to see if there was anything that could redeem my ass, and nothing could. Gravity had taken its effect.” The weightlessness of outer space is looking better all the time.