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Astronaut’s Wife, The (1999, Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron)



In The Astronaut’s Wife and for the second time in her career – after Devil’s Advocate – Ms Theron finds herself on the Eastern Seaboard at the mercy of supernatural forces offering genuine suspense and a compelling plot. Theron plays Jillian Armacost, wife of NASA hero Spencer (Johnny Depp), who has left space travel behind after suffering a brief blackout on his last trip. The incident sparks eccentric behaviour and is mirrored by his fellow astronaut Alex (Nick Cassavetes), who dies in mysterious circumstances shortly after returning to Earth.

Discovering she is pregnant with twins, Jillian encounters Sherman Reese (Joe Morton), a NASA whistleblower who claims her husband has been possessed by an alien force. As evidence mounts, she begins to suspect the truth of his claims, and decides to induce a miscarriage. But Spencer has other plans for her, and moves to ensure his new family thrive, whatever the cost…

Rand Ravich’s debut feature may not be wholly original – see Rosemary’s Baby – but it knows how to shock, working as both conventional horror movie and psychological thriller. As with A Beautiful Mind, the central figure’s dilemma is ambiguous, deriving from either justifiable evidence or mounting paranoia.

Depp and Theron perpetuate the suspense and follow the director’s instructions to ‘carry the audience along on an impending sense of doom,’ helped by Allen Daviau’s photography (using some of the same washed-out tints he applied when working on E.T. ). Special effects are marginalised in favour of character development, with Jillian’s neuroses mirrored in the depiction of Manhattan as a claustrophobic and threatening arena.

production details
USA | 109 minutes | 1999

Director: Rand Ravich
Script: Rand Ravich,

Tom Noonan as Jackson McLaren
Tom O’Brien as Allen Dodge
Clea DuVall as Nan
Samantha Eggar as Dr. Patraba
Blair Brown as Shelly McLaren
Gary Grubbs as NASA Director
Julian Barnes as Waiter
Joe Morton as Sherman Reese
Johnny Depp as Commander Spencer Armacost
Charlize Theron as Jillian Armacost
Nick Cassavetes as Captain Alex Streck
Donna Murphy as Natalie Streck
Lucy Lin as Shelly Carter
Michael Crider as Pat Elliott
Rondi Reed as Dr. Conlin
Conrad Bachmann as Reporter
Sarah Dampf as Paula, 2nd Grade Student
Charles Lanyer as Spencer’s Doctor
Gary Carlos Cervantes as Doctor
Seth Barrish as Yuppie Shark
Ellen Lancaster as Dried Up Socialite
Priscilla Shanks as Woman
Jennifer Burry as Second Woman
Susan Cella as Third Woman
Linda Powell as Fourth Woman
Elston Ridgle as Security Guard
Robert Sella as Maitre D’
Samantha Carpel as Reporter (Video)
Stephen Berger as Doorman
Michael Luceri as Waiter at Party
Ben Van Bergen as Storage Facility Client
Edward Kerr as Pilot
Cole Sprouse as Twin
Dylan Sprouse as Twin
Carl Burrows as Businessman (uncredited)
Buck Holland as Mission Control (uncredited)