One of the most memorable lines in “Apollo 13” takes place after Jim Lovell’s (Tom Hanks) wife Marilyn (Kathleen Quinlan) tells his mother there’s been an accident with the shuttle he’s flying on in space.
The mission, which originally had Lovell’s crew heading to the moon, is being rerouted home, but no one’s sure if they will make it.
While Lovell’s family looks grim and teary-eyed, his mother reassures them everything will be ok with the following line: “If they could get a washing machine to fly, my Jimmy could land it.”
It’s a great moment written by John Sayles, who goes uncredited in the film. You can watch it here.
If you didn’t know, it’s director Ron Howard’s mother, Jean Speegle Howard, who plays Hanks’ mum in the film.
During a panel at the Tribeca Film Festival Saturday on Howard’s lengthy career as both an actor and director, he explained that it was his father, Rance, who suggested he cast his mum in the blockbuster.
“My dad called me up and said, ‘Ya know, I just read the rewrite’ [on “Apollo 13″] … you know your mum would be good playing Lovell’s mother. And I said ‘I don’t know dad. It’s kind of a tricky thing and what if it doesn’t go well? And ya know, it’s an important, pivotal scene and she’s just only started acting again a couple years.”
Howard explained that his mother, who was an actress in movies and television, gave up acting while she was raising him and his siblings. When she eventually returned Howard said she became “a woman who worked quite a bit as sort of the new little old lady on the sitcom.”
After considering it, Howard eventually told his father he would audtion her for the role.
“I thought, I thought, and I thought, Well, this is a very important movie to me. There’s a lot riding on it. I knew I would have to audition her. So I didn’t want to do it at the office. So I said, ‘Well I’m going to come by the house and we’ll just read through the scene.’
I came by, she was nervous, and had a little housecoat and was prepared to do it. And we went through it a couple times and she made me cry just because I was proud of her as a son, but also I saw that she could do it and this was an opportunity.”
Howard said on the day of shooting they only needed one or two takes.
“It was a great moment,” he added.