Adam Sandler's Spaceman – Release Date, Cast, Director, And More Info 

When Paul Thomas Anderson went against the industry grain and cast Adam Sandler as the lead in his fourth feature, "Punch Drunk Love," many people in Hollywood felt the brashly talented filmmaker's ego had inflated to Welles-ian proportions. After the dazzling excess of "Magnolia" (which was more divisive at the time than it is now), there was a sense that he was provoking for provocation's sake. Outside of Steven Seagal, it's possible there wasn't a more critically loathed star in America — and it wasn't just the movies they hated. They detested him. They considered him a charisma vacuum who needed someone as irresistibly lovable as Drew Barrymore to render his presence in a film tolerable.

Anderson shattered these misconceptions. Though Sandler didn't dive headlong into dramas after "Punch Drunk Love," he'd take on a non-comedic part every few years and remind us of his untapped potential — which he fully realized in Noah Baumbach's 2017 dramedy "The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)." Two years later, he electrified audiences as a doomed degenerate gambler in the Safdies' "Uncut Gems." Though he was robbed of an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, it now feels like only a matter of time before he gets his Oscars due.

Could his day at last arrive as the star of Johan Renck's 2024 science-fiction drama, "Spaceman?" It's far too early to say, but the material sounds like it could put Sandler through the emotional ringer and, perhaps, elicit his most sympathetic performance since James L. Brooks' criminally underrated "Spanglish."

When does Spaceman premiere?

"Spaceman" was shot in New York City and Prague two years ago, and was initially slated for a 2023 debut on Netflix. That plan was scrubbed when the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers decided to wage a two-front labor war against the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Radio and Television Artists. Given that "Spaceman" is not a franchise movie or based on a well-known intellectual property, the streamer was wisely reluctant to release the film sans its star making the press rounds.

"Spaceman" is now set for a March 1, 2024 premiere on Netflix, which, if we're gauging its awards potential (and 'tis the season), suggests this might not be a major prestige player. Then again, if Netflix wanted to generate early Oscar buzz, their only decent option would be to take "Spaceman" to the Cannes Film Festival in May, and the streamer hasn't screened a film there since 2017 due to France's restrictive streaming laws. So don't read too much into this release date.

What are the plot details of Spaceman?
Adam Sandler stars as Jakub Procházka, a Czechoslovakian astronaut sent on a solo mission into the cosmos to check out a strange, possibly toxic cloud of "intergalactic dust." Jakub's errand coincides with the collapse of his personal life, which leads him to strike up a friendship with Hanuš (Paul Dano), an alien being to whom the dust belongs. Hanuš also turns out to be a voice of tremendous reason who just might be capable of imparting the wisdom critical to Jakub's earthly salvation. So this probably isn't going to be Adam Sandler's "The Martian."

Depending on how Sandler plays it, the evidently lofty themes combined with the star's sheer unpretentiousness could make for an accessibly brainy sci-fi yarn. Audiences who wouldn't touch Steven Soderbergh's adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's "Solaris," let alone Andrei Tarkovsky's deep and very deliberate take, might find themselves wrestling with existentially disquieting concepts they've never once considered. I haven't read the book on which "Spaceman" is based, but it apparently has a sense of humor. And, yes, there is a book!

What is the source material for Spaceman?

Published in 2017, Jaroslav Kalfar's "Spaceman of Bohemia" drew positive reviews for the levity with which it deals with issues of loneliness, heartbreak and human existence. In an interview with Daniel Ford, Kalfar cited inspirations ranging from Daniel Defoe and Jules Verne to Terry Pratchett and Ursula K. Le Guin (as well as "The X-Files"). In other words, he's not afraid to take an irreverent approach to the big questions of what it is we're doing in this vast, seemingly endless universe, and how/why we were created in the first place.

In his review for The New York Times, Hari Kunzru praised Kalfar's ability to tell a cosmically massive tale that, at heart, is really about one man's struggle to understand and, perhaps, mend his life. Tibor Fischer of "The Guardian" opined that Kalfar's novel is "'Solaris' with laughs, history lessons and a pig killing." I could do without the pig killing (says the guy who ate a sausage breakfast burrito this morning), but as a fan of Lem's classic, this absolutely sounds like the kind of intellectually challenging science fiction we don't see much of in film (because it typically bombs in theaters, which is why, for all their faults, Netflix still has value for cinephiles).

Who is the cast of Spaceman?
The Sandman playing a Czech astronaut makes this a must-see alone, but wait until you get a load of the supporting cast. Future Academy Award-winner Carey Mulligan plays Lenka, Jakub's unhappy wife who leaves him when he accepts the lengthy and quite dangerous mission. "The Big Bang Theory" star Kunal Nayyar will play Jakub's friendly mission engineer Petr. The great Isabella Rosselini ("Blue Velvet") is on board as Jakub's understanding grandmother. Swedish national treasure Lena Olin ("The Unbearable Lightness of Being") will appear in an as-yet-undisclosed role. And for Hanuš, Renck has secured the services of the always fascinating, often brilliant Paul Dano.

That, my friends, is a banger of a cast, which speaks to the quality of the screenplay and, let's face it, the esteem in which Sandler's fellow actors hold him.

Who is the director of Spaceman?

Johan Renck's launched his entertainment career as a musician under the nom de plume Stakka Bo and scored a hit with the 1993 single "Here We Go." He eventually segued to filmmaking via music videos, collaborating with such music industry titans as Madonna, Beyoncé and David Bowie (Renck helmed the unforgettable videos for the rock star's swan song, "Blackstar").

Renck has only directed one feature, "Downloading Nancy," a divisively bleak film that sent many 2008 Sundance Film Festival attendees bolting for the exits. The reviews were mostly negative, but Vince Gilligan was impressed enough to hire Renck for three episodes of "Breaking Bad." Renck also worked on "The Walking Dead" and "Halt and Catch Fire," but his breakthrough came in 2019 when he won a Primetime Emmy for directing Craig Mazin's masterful HBO miniseries, "Chernobyl."

Now he's back in the feature directing saddle for the first time in well over a decade, and, having loved much of his post-"Downloading Nancy" work (I'll confess that I could not finish that movie), I'm excited to see what he's pulled off with the Sandman.

Who are the writers and producers of Spaceman?

Though Adam Sandler currently has a $250 million production deal with Netflix, "Spaceman" is not a Happy Madison film. The biggest behind-the-scenes names here are oil billionaire Timothy Headington of Tango Entertainment and Channing Tatum. They're joined by Reid Carolin, Peter Kiernan, Michael Parets, Lia Buman and Max Silva.

Renck's novel was adapted by up-and-coming screenwriter Colby Day, who is set to have a big 2024 between this and his script for Andrew Stanton's ambitious, shrouded-in-secrecy sci-fi epic "In the Blink of an Eye" (starring Kate McKinnon, Rashida Jones and Daveed Diggs). According to Day's official website, "Colby is currently developing projects about ghosts, monsters, chaos theory, and a choose your own adventure film." His bio also states, "The stranger the idea, the more impossible the story, the more likely he is to dive in." Sounds like Day was a perfect fit for "Spaceman."

Has Spaceman released a trailer?

Netflix just released a teaser for "Spaceman," and, at a total run time of 24 seconds, even the term "teaser" feels generous.

There's not much here. All we get is a spacesuit-clad Adam Sandler wading through a creek in a forest, with Paul Dano's Hanuš intoning, "Just like you I fled my planet. Through galaxies, black holes, through time. And then I found ... you." That's it, and I'm fine with the lack of detail/imagery. Feel free to keep me in the dark until the film hits on March 1, 2024 (which Netflix will never do because their first calendar quarter of 2024 is likely hinging on "Spaceman" making a streaming splash).

What is Spaceman rated?

"Spaceman" is currently unrated, but, unless there's nudity or a good deal of violence (perhaps the aforementioned pig killing is especially grisly), I'm guessing the MPA will hand down a PG-13. This doesn't sound like a four-quadrant movie (it's certainly not as clear-cut of a commercial play as Ridley Scott's "The Martian"), but Netflix will probably welcome all the eyeballs they can get.

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