'Apollo 13' at 25: Ron Howard explains how Steven Spielberg helped him solve the space drama's daunting gravity issue

“I never got to space, but I got weightless,” Ron Howard says about the significance of Apollo 13 on his eclectic filmmaking resume that now extends 40-plus years.

The film, which starred Tom Hanks , Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon as stranded astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert, turns 25 today.

How exactly they got weightless — or simulated zero gravity for its actors in the module — was one of the trickiest propositions facing Howard and his team when beginning pre-production on the film.

And he said, ‘Well, you know what, I don’t know if it’s possible or not, but they used to bolt the capsule down in the plane in the [Project] Gemini era and train astronauts to sort of open the hatch and get out.

“NASA at first said, ‘No,’ then for a minute we were trying to get this retired Russian plane that you could charter, but no one would insure that and I was pretty relieved that they wouldn’t,” Howard explained.

Because the aircraft only achieved weightlessness for its actors for 25 seconds at a time, Howard, Hanks, Paxton and Bacon had to make roughly 600 dives (also known as parabolas) throughout filming.

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