Not all biopics are made equally. Over the years, we’ve seen a mix of movies based on real figures that do and do not involve the people they're depicting. But when it came to adapting the story of José Hernández and his lifelong dream of joining a NASA mission, A Million Miles Away writer/director Alejandra Márquez Abella made it a priority to involve not only the man himself but his family as well. And that's incredibly understandable, as they're very important to the story. On that note, Abella discussed the sweet way Hernández's relatives were part of the filmmaking process.
When CinemaBlend spoke to Alejandra Márquez Abella about her new film, she discussed a number of topics. That included her inspired decision to shoot A Million Miles Away completely in Mexico. But we also talked about how the Hernández family came into play during its production. Abella had these lovely sentiments to share about them:
We had a very close relationship throughout the whole process. Me and his family and his daughters, his sons, his wife Adela, his parents. I met all of them, and it was a very close relationship from the beginning. He couldn't be on set as much as he wanted to, but he was always available for us for any technical question that I had or anything that I wanted to share with him, he was there. So it was a very nice thing to have him in the process.
The inspirational movie tells the story of José Hernández (played by Michael Peña), the son of Mexican-American migrant farmworkers who's raised in California. Despite facing numerous obstacles throughout his life, he becomes a successful engineer and goes on to join the NASA program, after being rejected 11 times.
In addition to telling the astronaut’s story, the movie also delves into the sacrifices his family had to make in the process. That includes those of his wife, Adela, who's played by Alita: Battle Angel alum Rosa Salazar. She's a real standout among the A Million Miles Away cast. Alejandra Márquez Abella spoke to her abilities as a performer as well as Adela's arc in the movie, saying:
It was a very important thing to have her experience juxtapose to his. It didn't matter if he was flying a T-38 and she was taking out the trash, but those two things were running in parallel and given the same importance. And for me, as a feminist, I thought that that was an important action to take to have on the film. And Rosa Salazar, what can I say? I mean, she's just the most clever, funny, resourceful actress. And she has Peruvian American experience. She knows how it feels to be left out. And, I just think she was such an amazing creative element that brought light into the film.
Another memorable element of this production is how it implements the advice José Hernández received from his father as a kid, which he uses to help reach his dreams throughout the movie’s chapters. The director shared how this element of the astronaut’s life was brought into the film in such a memorable way. In her words:
[The chapters] was a finding that I had in post [production] when I was editing the film that wasn't on the script. I suddenly realized that the film had the structure of the recipe, and it was a nice finding. It was like, ‘Ah, it's here. We should chapter this and we should take the audience through the whole lesson’. And, I think it made sense because I thought that what was supposed to have a bigger [resonance] in the film… That actually is the recipe that his father gave him when he was a kid. That's a big thing that he speaks about in his conferences and his books.
It’s great to hear that José Hernández and his family got to play a big role in the telling of their story. Alejandra Márquez Abella clearly put a lot of care into this endeavor and made sure to bring in their perspectives accordingly. José is an inspiring figure to the Latino community. who's unfortunately not always mentioned in the history books. With this film though, his journey is not only more accessible to audiences, but it can perhaps also immortalize his trip to the stars.
A Million Miles Away is available to stream now with an Amazon Prime subscription. It's one of many great movies to watch during Hispanic Heritage Month, which is being observed through October 15. You can also read up on other great new films by checking out the schedule of 2023 new movie releases.