The True Story Behind Lucy in The Sky | Time

What is lucy in the sky movie about

In 2007, the world was captivated by the sensational details surrounding an “astronaut love triangle”, turning the story into a media spectacle.

That story is the inspiration for Lucy in the Sky, a new movie starring Natalie Portman that hits theaters in October. 4 after its September premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film is loosely inspired by the life of NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak, who was widely reported to have worn a diaper on a 14-hour cross-country trip to confront her ex-lover’s new love, becoming the first female astronaut. in being arrested.

lucy in the sky, the big screen directorial debut from fargo and legion showrunner noah hawley, follows the fall of fictional astronaut lucy cola, who upon returning to earth from a space mission finds herself discontented with the smallness of his normal life. . Lucy becomes obsessed with going back to space and becomes entangled in an affair with a handsome co-worker played by Jon Hamm. When things begin to unravel professionally and personally for Lucy, she falls into an epic spiral that lands her in police custody. Fueled by her jealousy and anger, Lucy goes berserk when her NASA colleagues deny her the opportunity to participate in an upcoming mission.

While Lucy in the Sky reflects some important events in Nowak’s life, the film uses her strange fall in real life more as a backdrop to a larger story about the psychological effects of space travel on astronauts. , similar to what happened to the apollo 11 astronaut. buzz aldrin has described the experience of his return to earth after his famous mission to the moon.

“There was no goal, no sense of vocation, no project worth dedicating myself to,” Aldrin wrote in his magnificent autobiography Desolation.

Lisa Nowak’s attorney, Donald Lykkebak, tells the time in a statement that Nowak has had no desire to comment on the film, which he describes as “a completely fictional story and not based on reality.”

“it should be noted that the film is advertised as ‘loosely based on the story of…’ even though that’s the line they’re using, the key word is ‘loosely’. lisa nowak is not the ‘lucy’ in the film,” says lykkebak.

here’s a breakdown of the story that vaguely inspired lucy in the sky.

who is lisa nowak?

lisa marie nowak was born on may 10, 1963 in washington, d.c. Raised in Maryland, Nowak entered the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, and in 1985 she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering.

in 1996, nowak was selected to be an astronaut at the johnson space center in houston, qualifying as a mission specialist in robotics. According to friends and family, Nowak was a dedicated mother and wife, who invited neighbors to Easter lunches and whose hobbies included riding bicycles, growing African violets, and collecting rubber stamps. Friends and family said Nowak was deeply affected by the 2003 Columbia Shuttle explosion, which killed one of his best friends, Laurel Clark.

“It’s devastating for everyone, and when it comes to friends, people you know, it’s even more difficult,” Nowak told NASA in a pre-mission interview in 2006. “Three of those people were in my class whom he knew very well. right. so that’s hard. but I remember that day, sitting there with my son, and we were both watching everything that was going on together, and he reached over and took my hand and said, ‘mom, I still want you to go,’ so it’s a terrible tragedy, but we know that there is a cause behind it and that we will continue to follow it.”

Three years after the explosion, Nowak flew her first mission, STS 121, in July 2006 aboard the space shuttle Discovery as the mission’s flight engineer, spending nearly two weeks in space.


Despite all her previous accomplishments, she may be known forever for a single night in February 2007, when nowak set out on a 900-mile journey to confront her ex-lover’s new girlfriend.


In particular, according to a police report, Nowak told a detective that she brought baby diapers along the way to avoid pit stops, a claim that became more florid in the recount. Soon, many media reports, not to mention late-night talk show monologues, said that she had been wearing a “maximum absorbency garment,” an adult diaper commonly worn by astronauts at launch and re-entry, a story that was denied by nowak. attorney Donald Lykkebak, who called it “an absolute fabrication.”

nowak was initially charged with attempted murder and kidnapping, but the charges were eventually reduced to robbery and misdemeanors. nowak pleaded guilty in 2009 and was sentenced to one year of probation. The following year, Nowak was discharged from the Navy. He now lives in Texas and works in the private sector.

In Lucy in the Sky, Lucy Tail follows a similar path. Portrayed as a lifelong achiever at the behest of her domineering grandmother (Ellen Burstyn), the queue’s competitive drive is what sets her apart from her peers. returning from a space mission, she becomes obsessed with going back and begins training immediately. But she’s distracted by a budding romance with Mark Goodwin (Hamm), a love affair that sends her into a downward spiral.

Lucy’s competitive nature ultimately leads to her downfall. when she is rejected romantically and at work, she refuses to take “no” for an answer and goes to extreme measures to make things right. While Portman plays her character, she is completely unaware of her erratic behavior and how others perceive her.

Who was involved in the astronauts’ love triangle?

Not much is known about the exact nature of the actual relationship between Nowak and William Oefelein. Nowak described it to police as “more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship.” nowak was married to her husband richard nowak for 19 years. the couple had three children; At the time of her arrest, her son was a teenager and her twin daughters were 5 years old.

nowak met the commander of the navy. William Oefelein in 1996, and they trained together on NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. Oefelein told police the relationship began in 2004, before Nowak separated from her husband of 19 years, and ended before he began dating Colleen Shipman, a 30-year-old American woman. air force captain and engineer based at the kennedy space center in florida, in november 2006.

oefelein, who described her relationship with nowak as “somewhat exclusive,” told police she broke up with nowak when her relationship with shipman escalated. According to police, after going through Oefelein’s computer and finding romantic emails with Shipman, Nowak discovered Shipman’s travel plans. That’s when she decided to make the trip to Orlando to confront her.

Following Nowak’s arrest, he was ordered to stop having contact with Oefelein. Nowak and her husband divorced in 2008, and in 2010, Shipman and Oefelein married and moved to Alaska, where they live with her son.

In Lucy in the Sky, Lucy and Mark’s relationship begins almost immediately after Lucy returns from space. Lucy has been married to Ella’s husband Drew (Dan Stevens) for six years. The couple had put off having children due to Lucy’s focus on advancing her career, but they agree to try having a child when she returns from her next mission. Meanwhile, they help raise Lucy’s brother’s teenage daughter, Blue Iris (Pearl Amanda Dickson).

While training for a position on the next space mission, Lucy develops a crush on Mark, who has a reputation as a womanizer. the two slowly grow closer until lucy is completely captivated by her co-worker. While Lucy is head over heels in love, Mark is shown to be more casual in their relationship.

Unlike Nowak, who never met Shipman until their confrontation, Lucy competes with her rival Erin (Zazie Beetz) for a ranking spot on an upcoming space mission. Lucy doesn’t seem threatened by Erin until an awkward encounter reveals that she and Mark are a romantic couple.

Lucy’s life begins to unravel after several setbacks, including rejection from a distant brand, and things come to a head when she is told she is no longer being considered for a space mission and learns that the brand contributed to his rejection.

lucy in the sky gives its protagonist a less sinister motive than the one police records allege happened in real life. Lucy doesn’t seem to have animosity towards Erin and never tries to hurt her.

the infamous “diaper” drive

in the early hours of February. On January 5, 2007, Nowak arrived in Orlando after making a 14-hour, 900-mile journey from Houston, armed with a steel mallet, a BB gun, a 4-inch knife and large bags of garbage, according to the new york times . Despite the already bizarre nature of the case, the detail that grabbed most of the headlines was the police report that Nowak was wearing and using baby diapers on his trip to save time and avoid pit stops. p>

Wearing a dark wig, sunglasses and a trench coat, Nowak approached the sailor in the Orlando International Airport parking lot, followed her onto a bus and then into a parking lot where he cornered her in his car, banging on her window claiming that she needed help. When the sailor opened the window, Nowak pepper-sprayed the sailor, according to police. The sailor walked away from the scene and alerted police, who found Nowak dumping her wig and her shotgun into a trash can.

When police arrested Nowak, she claimed that she intended to confront Shipman about her relationship with Oefelein, but prosecutors alleged that Nowak had a well-thought-out plan to harm Shipman and charged her with attempted murder and kidnapping.

During the trial, Shipman asked the judge to sentence Nowak to jail time, claiming that Nowak had every intention of harming him. “She was going to kill me. She was in her eyes: a chilling expression of boundless rage and glee,” Shipman said in court.

after reaching a plea deal, nowak was sentenced to one year of probation, community service and counseling. In one of his only public statements about the case, Nowak apologized to Shipman in front of a Florida court.

“I know this has been very hard on Colleen Shipman as well and I would like you to know how sorry I am for scaring her in any way and about the subsequent public harassment that has haunted us all,” Nowak said. reporters.

lucy in the sky’s climax also involves the protagonist heading on an ill-fated interstate trip, but with key differences from nowak, most notably the exclusion of headline-grabbing diapers. In the movie, Lucy heads to the airport (to San Diego instead of Orlando) to confront Mark, not Erin. When Lucy locates Mark, she sees Erin join him.

lucy follows mark to the parking lot and erin sees her, but instead of taking her anger out on her, she sprays mark with pepper spray. unlike nowak, lucy is also accompanied on her journey by her niece, who at one point hides a loaded gun from lucy for fear she might use it. Lucy’s ill-fated trip is fueled by her jealousy of Mark and Erin’s relationship, but her intention differs from Nowak’s, who confessed that she intended to confront the new girlfriend of Lucy’s ex-lover. her.

Anyone with any knowledge of Nowak’s cross-country journey will be surprised to find that the movie doesn’t mention the infamous diaper detail. Many people on Twitter, after the initial reviews of Toronto came out, lamented the absence of this story feature. Portman, the film’s star, addressed the film’s lack of diapers in an interview, saying that the film is not specifically based on Nowak’s life, only inspired by it.

“It was an interesting detail because it was something that seemed very radical to all of us who were listening to it,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “But it’s actually part of the life of an astronaut. they wear diapers all the time because that’s what you do in space. It’s not like it was an unusual choice. it seems much crazier if that’s not something you do every day. but I guess I still have a diaper movie in my future to meet everyone’s expectations.”

write to gina martinez at

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