Clint Eastwood's Space Cowboys Shoot Caused The Cast Some Serious Pain

"Space Cowboys" plays against the conventions of usual astronaut-themed films of its time. Instead of a massive asteroid, the movie's heroes have to dismantle a Soviet satellite (although it's equipped with six nuclear missiles that pose a threat to mankind.) And in lieu of muscular, spry action heroes, there is a quartet of elder actors: Clint Eastwood (who also serves as director/producer on "Space Cowboys"), Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland (who's also appeared in other space-themed films like Roland Emmerich's "Moonfall"), and James Garner. In addition to staving off a potential nuclear apocalypse, the four have to deal with the specter of Death creeping up on them — quite literally in the case of Jones' character William "Hawk" Hawkins, who has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The limits of age weren't just limited to the film's story: The veteran actors faced physical challenges on Eastwood's shoot, as well.

In space, no one can hear you pull a muscle

During an interview with Entertainment Weekly on the week of release, the principal actors revealed that filming took a toll on them physically, especially when it came to depicting the harrowing process of becoming an astronaut.

One of the most challenging aspects of filming "Space Cowboys" was the heavy spacesuits that the principal actors had to wear. Jones' comments alone would probably discourage anyone from working at NASA.

"The space suits were uncomfortable...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."

The weight of the spacesuits also led to the cast suffering multiple injuries. Sutherland cracked his knee, and Garner wound up dislocating his shoulder — with Eastwood stepping up to pop it back in! Garner went straight back to work, which is simultaneously horrifying and impressive; I think I'd have passed out if I was in his situation. 

That's saying nothing of the moment where the quartet had to bare their behinds for the camera; Sutherland talked about how embarrassing it was to do the scene in front of his wife — and that's saying something, considering he was in "Animal House."

Fly me to the moon

Despite all the injuries and indignities that the actors suffered while filming "Space Cowboys," they delivered phenomenal performances. Jones and Eastwood are the standouts — the friendship between Jones' Hawkins and Eastwood's Frank Covin is the bedrock on which the film is built. Hawkins even winds up sacrificing his own life in order to launch the satellite into deep space, as his friends solemnly look on. This scene is not only a heartbreaker, but it also has Jones' character literally strapping himself onto a massive rocket — a feat that takes on a new dimension once you learn about the hardships he and his co-starts went through. 

While there have been other astronaut focused films — most notable James Grey's "Ad Astra" — I doubt that many of them featured their cast going through the same level of physical stress. Also: how many of those films have made haunting, yet effective use of Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me To The Moon" in their closing credits?