Tom Hanks, famous for his roles as an astronaut in Apollo 13 and as a toy in the Toy Story series, is going to get to play both an astronaut and a toy in a film under developed by Universal based on the 1960s action figure, Major Matt Mason.
The Major Matt Mason toys were first introduced by Mattel in the 1960s to tie into the excitement of NASA’s lunar program. The Matt Mason action figure came with three other figures, Sgt Storm, Doug Davis, a civilian astronaut, and Lt. Jeff Long, an African American, remarkable twenty years before an actual African American astronaut, Guy Buford, flew on board the space shuttle. The Matt Mason action figures came with a three level “space station” (actually a lunar base), and various battery powered vehicles and accessories. The Major Matt Mason line was discontinued in the 1970s as interest in the US space program waned.
The Major Matt Mason film will be a live action feature, starring Tom Hanks as Matt Mason, who will also produce along with Gary Goetzman. Graham Yost, who collaborated with Tom Hanks in the series From Earth to the Moon and who wrote the Brian De Palma film Mission to Mars, will write the screenplay. There is no word on who will direct at this time.
The Major Matt Mason film will be just the latest in a series of movies based on toys that are either being filmed or under development. The most famous of this genre is the upcoming GI: Joe film being directed by Stephen Somers.
Tom Hanks will bring to the project, along with considerable artistic talent, a passion for the space program and space exploration. That passion certainly showed in Apollo 13 and From Earth to the Moon, the later the definitive dramatization of the Apollo lunar exploration program that originally aired on HBO. Tom Hanks also produced, co-wrote, and narrated a 3D documentary about the Apollo Moon landings entitled Magnificent Desolation.
Clearly a Major Matt Mason film will serve as a tie in to the current American lunar effort, scheduled to return astronauts to the Moon about 2019. The Orion lunar effort has been endorsed by Presidents and Congresses of both parties and thus there seems every chance of it navigating the political shoals that might have wrecked such a high profile undertaking. Oddly enough, like Major Matt Mason’s crew, the Orion lunar expedition is designed to have a crew of four astronauts.
And one would expect a new line of toys to be marketed by and by.
Source: Apollo 13: A True Life Space Adventure, Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, December 7th, 2005
Tom Hanks circles ‘Major’ toy story, Michael Fleming, Variety, March 24th, 2009
Major Matt Mason, Wikipedia
Magnficent Desolation: Tom Hanks’ Vision of Lunar Exploration, Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, October 16th, 2009