Al Reinert, who covered NASA for the Houston Chronicle and went on to co-write the screenplay for Apollo 13 which earned him an Oscar nomination, has died. He was 71. Reinert died New Year’s Eve of complications of cancer at his home in Wimberley, Texas, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Reinert began his career as a crime reporter for the Chronicle, then moved into covering NASA in the 1970s where he discovered his love and fascination for space. He directed the 1989 documentary film For All Mankind, which earned him his first Oscar nomination for best documentary feature. The film concentrates on the beauty of the Earth as seen from space, along with interviews with Apollo crew members and mission control staff played over original mission footage.
Reinert told the Houston Chronicle in a 2015 interview that he didn’t want For All Mankind to be a traditional documentary with talking heads.
“Tom Hanks told me it’s not a documentary,” he said. “He said it’s an art film. And in a way he’s right. I didn’t know any better at the time. I’d seen films with astronauts talking, and they just didn’t do anything for me.”
Reinert wanted to interview astronauts about a mission that had been long enough in their past, that they had time to reflect on their experiences.
“Think about a long drive,” he said, according to the Chronicle. “You’re checking your speed, your gas, traffic, all these things around you. When you get back weeks later, then you really can process and articulate what you thought about the Grand Canyon.”
In 1996, Reinert was nominated for a second Oscar for co-penning the screenplay for Apollo 13 with William Broyles Jr. He also co-wrote the 2001 film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, worked on Armageddon, as well as an unproduced James Cameron film about Mars.
Reinert also wrote episodes of HBO’s 1998 miniseries From the Earth To the Moon.
Reinert is survived by his wife, actress Lisa Hart Carroll, best known for her role as Patsy in Terms of Endearment.