Together They Surprised
America and Made History

Based on the true story of the first chimpanzee in space, James Woods stars as Wilhelm Von Huber, a NASA scientist who transfers to Florida with his son, Billy (Alex Linz). Billy dreams of becoming a hero like the young astronaut Alan Shepard. Wilhelm dreams of Billy becoming a scientist like him.

When Billy is hired by Dr. Donni McGuinness (Annabeth Gish) to help train the chimpanzees for the NASA space mission, he develops a close bond with Mac, one of the chimps. But when Mac is chosen to become the first chimp sent into space, Billy soon realizes that if Mac is successful on this mission, something could go terrible wrong.

Father and son put aside their differences and work together in hopes of bringing Mac home safely.


Earl Vestal is a top NASA executive head of the program to put the first man into space. He's under pressure from Washington after some rocket launches fail, and he's also worried the USSR will obtain "worldwide domination" by winning the race to space. A strong-willed but good humored man, Vestal will not sacrifice humans to achieve his goal. He advocates German engineer Wilhelm Von Huber (James Woods) plans to send a trained chimp into orbit in a space capsule.

Regretfully, in the final film Barry appears only in one short scene, however, the DVD release has three more previously deleted scenes, two of them being extensions of that scene. You can download all 4 scenes in the
Video Segments section, or listen to them below, along with Director Sean McNamara's commentary explaining why they were omitted. McNamara especially liked the scene when Barry calls President Lyndon B. Johnson "old peckerwood" over the phone.


VESTAL: Does anybody want to hazard a guess as to what these are? To the untrained eye, they could be just chunks of scrap metal. But in fact, what they are, is the sum total of our race to space. Now, please, tell me what the hell happened out there today.
WILHELM: In short, telemetry data indicates malfunction of the guidance system.
VESTAL: Hooey and horsepucky. If I wanted textbook answers, I'd buy a textbook! Our military intelligence tell us that the Reds are ready to put a man in space yesterday. I'm getting pressure from congress to put one of our Mercury boys into orbit in January.
WILHELM: January?! This is too soon. The capsule is not even man-rated yet.
STANTON: The Astro-C rocket might be ready.
WILHELM: Don't be ridiculous! The Astro-C is sheiße. The Astro-C is months behind the Redstone.
VESTAL: Boys, boys! (Whistle). Now, nobody is suggesting that we light a faulty candle under a human being. No, we're going to send up a test subject first. An Air Force chimpanzee. We have a Dr. McGuinness, who's a world-renowned veterinary scientist, who's going to do the training. Now, we've got nine weeks until launch time. What I need to know from you, Wilhelm, can you do it?
WILHELM: If that is what you require of me, then we will.
VESTAL: Good. I'd hate to wake up one morning and find the world looking like this. (USSR)
WILHELM: Nor would I. Thank you, sir.

COMMENTARY BY DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER: "We knew we wanted to set at the punching going, cut into James Woods, his Dad, going through the same frustrations at work. And Barry Corbin, great actor to work with. This is actually kind of interesting, because our first assistant director found out that he was actually related to Barry Corbin. Jeff January, our first assistant director. He was saying "He's a cousin of mine"...

DELETED SCENE · 3) "Worldwide domination."

VESTAL: What we're talking about here, gentlemen, is domination. Worldwide domination. Like Alexander the Great did in the East, Like Hitler tried to do in the West.
WILHELM: If my patriotism concerns you--
VESTAL: (Chuckles) Hell Wil, nobody's questioning your loyalty. What I'm questioning is...your will to win. Your average Communist couldn't give two hoots in hell about systems malfunctions. All he cares about is WINNING!
STANTON: We've tried to explain that to him, sir.

COMMENTARY BY DIRECTOR SEAN McNAMARA: "Now, this scene was just cut down for time. It was a great scene. I hated cutting all of it. But for the overall length of the movie- the movie was too long, and I went through it and found pieces that were a little bit redundant. But as far as actor performances, it was amazing. I just think this was a great scene, I think Jimmy was ripping it up, and Vestal (Barry Corbin) here was just great.

DELETED SCENE · 4) "Can we trust him?"

STANTON: Sir, a lot of the senators are concerned that we're putting the entire American space program into the hands of an ex-Nazi. I mean, it's only a few years ago, his rockets were aimed at us.
VESTAL: Von Huber's the best man we've got. If anybody can put a man in space and bring him back down here, it's Wilhelm and his boys.
STANTON: I understand that, but can we trust him?
VESTAL: (Chuckles) He could have surrendered to the Russians in '45. He didn't do that! He surrendered to us. Why? Because he knew we'd give him a fair shake.
STANTON: Only I'd say a fair shake in Florida is better than no shake in Siberia.
VESTAL: He's a naturalized American citizen. That means we're all working on the same team!
STANTON: Yeah. So, the senators --
VESTAL: What the senators are interested in, Ralph, is to get reelected. That's the reason you're here. Let's let Wilhelm and his boys do their job. And we can keep ours.
Hello, Lyndon, you old peckerwood! HA-HA-HA-HA-HA !!!

COMMENTARY BY DIRECTOR SEAN McNAMARA: Now, this was the end of that same scene, after Von Huber leaves. They talk about him, and it's kind of a back story of Von Huber. And I love they were just saying it was his rockets for pointing at us. We were pointing out the prejudice that was going on at the time with the Germans and Americans. And again, this is one of the scenes that attracted me to the script in the first place. But it was ultimately necessary to lose for the overall timing in the film. And we felt like a lot of the prejudices came out in other scenes. But I love the last line here, when he's (Barry) talking to Johnson, and he calls him an old peckerhead - peckerwood - one of those peckers. Anyway, it was a great scene. And this was shot at NASA out in Edwards Air Force Base. Love that scene.

DELETED SCENE · 11) "The Lab Becomes a Petting Zoo"

STANTON: Sir, the boy is becoming a problem.
DR. McGUINNESS: Please. The chimps needed exercise.
STANTON: With batting practice!
VESTAL: I understand how concerned you are, Ralph. But Washington is going to be wearing my ass for a hat if we don't put an American in space.
STANTON: Sir, the senators see a kid, the lab becomes a petting zoo. They stop taking the whole space program seriously. I see this in them.
DR. McGUINNESS: Look, we need the chimp to test the capsule and we need Billy to train the chimp.
VESTAL: The boy stays.
STANTON: Sir, please --
VESTAL: Will you uncork yourself, Ralph?! For crying out loud. Dr. McGuinness, I suggest that you discipline your staff.
Batting practice, huh? (Chuckles).

COMMENTARY BY DIRECTOR SEAN McNAMARA: Another great scene. A little static from me where this scene ended up in the movie. But we were establishing everybody's feeling towards having the boy in the hangar where they're training the chimps. Again, the actors are doing a great job pulling off the scene, but ultimately I didn't think the film needed it. But I thought the actors did a terrific job. Also, a little bit of humor here. To show that even the adults think it's kind of funny.



Release Date
  • Theaters: Wednesday, March 13, 2002.
  • DVD: Tuesday, August 13, 2002.
  • Family / Drama / Fact Based.
Directed By
  • Sean McNamara.

Executive Producers

  • Peter Lambert.
  • Al Lapin, Jr.
  • Neil P. White.

Produced By

  • David Brookwell.
  • Sean McNamara.


  • Lions Gate Films.
  • Brookwell McNamara Entertainment.
  • Century Entertainment.

Running Time

  • 1 Hour 44 Minutes.


Main Cast

  • James Woods as Wilhelm Von Huber.

  • Annabeth Gish as Dr. Donni McGuinness.

  • Alex D. Linz as Billy Von Huber.

  • William Devane as Roger Thornhill.

  • Barry Corbin as Earl Vestal.

  • William Atherton as Ralph Stanton.

Filming Locations

  • Edwards Air Force Base.

  • California Cape Canaveral, Florida

MPAA Rating

  • PG (For Some Language and Peril).

DVD Special Features

  • 16 x 9 Widescreen.
  • 5.1 Dolby Digital.
  • Production Commentary.
  • Deleted Scenes.
  • Bloopers.
  • HAM Featurette.
  • Making of Race To Space.
  • Filmographies.
  • Kennedy Space Center Promo.
  • Storyboard Comparisons.
  • Interactive Menus.
  • Scene Access.
  • English & Spanish Subtitles.
  • Trailer.




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