Michael Pena©Courtesy of Prime Video
New movies

Michael Peña stars in ‘A Million Miles Away,’ the inspiring true story of a migrant astronaut

Peña plays José Hernández, the first migrant farm worker to go to space.

Michael Peña plays José Hernández, the first migrant farm worker to go to space. In a new interview, Hernández revealed that he recommended Peña for the role in “A Million Miles Away,” the movie based on his life, after he’d seen his work in the film “The Martian.”

A Million Miles Away©Courtesy of Prime Video
Michael Pena and Rosa Salazar

“I said, ‘He has experience already. He's been an astronaut!’” said Hernández in an interview with People. “Luckily, they listened to me and they did contact Michael and he agreed to it,” he said of the movie’s producers and writer-director Alejandra Márquez Abella.

Hernández revealed that Peña has an approachability that makes him perfect for the role. “I'm normal-looking,” he said. “You don’t want an Antonio Banderas because people won’t have empathy with that person!”

In 2009, Hernández became the first itinerant farmhand to enter space. As a man born in California to Mexican parents, it’s an achievement that’s notable and that unites the Latin American community. It’s also a type of story that’s perfect for the movies, except that Latino characters rarely get to star in these stories. Following his experiences with NASA, Hernández wrote his memoir, titled, “Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut,” which ultimately became the inspiration for the film.

Director Márquez Abella said that it was very important for her to highlight Hernández’s humble origins and to make that one of the most important parts of the story. “People think about big achievements in migration communities as things that happen despite their origins,” she said. “And I wanted to portray this story as one of, you become who you are because of your origins.”

“A Million Miles Away” is playing in select theaters and is available to stream on Prime Video.

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