Inspiration for the Amazon Prime Video, A MILLION MILES AWAY

On August 29, 2009, José Hernández prepared to meet his heart’s desire: space. He would travel 14 days as a crew member on the Shuttle Discovery, transporting seven tons of equipment and supplies to the International Space Station.

Hernandez pursuing his dreams is the story of Amazon’s Prime Video film, A MILLION MILES AWAY, debuting globally on Prime Video on September 15. Based on the book, Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut, by José Hernández, a first-generation immigrant who pursued his dreams to become a NASA astronaut, A MILLION MILES AWAY is a powerful reminder that pursuing your own dreams can launch reality.

Directed by Alejandra Márquez Abella, A MILLION MILES AWAY stars Michael Peña, Rosa Salazar, Bobby Soto, Sarayu Blue, Veronica Falcón, Julio César Cedillo, Garret Dillahunt and Eric Johnson.

BuddyHollywood’s Paula K. Parker recently had the opportunity to chat briefly with José Hernández about the film, the process of bringing his story to the big screen, and his father’s Five Ingredients Recipe for Success.

PKP: I have to tell you, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I grabbed a box of tissues and went through them while watching it. There were moments that reminded me of my own family; I’m third generation Italian. Watching your family throughout the film, I thought. “Oh, yeah, that’s how my family is.”

JOSÉ HERNANDEZ: Yeah, isn’t that great? You know, it doesn’t have to be a Latino family or Mexican-America. It’s like anybody who has some inkling of how is to be an immigrant, I mean, there’s something you can relate to.

PKP: What was it like to see your life on the big screen?

JOSÉ HERNANDEZ: It was surreal. Because I’ll tell you, one does not grow up saying, “I hope one day they’ll make a movie about me.” One grows up wanting to be an astronaut, and the movie chronicles how that dream was conceived from watching an Apollo mission.

José Moreno Hernández, American engineer and former NASA astronaut

But when I get selected, I got this attention because I was the first first-generation immigrant farm worker to get selected as an astronaut. I realized I became an instant role model. I started giving talks, especially after leaving NASA. I wrote my books—motivational books—I become a polished motivational speaker.

The next natural step was, “Hey, is this story good enough to be made into a movie?” The film producers say yes. Then we go pitch it to the studios and thank God for Prime Video Amazon agreeing to take on the project.

And here we are; on September 15, the film opens in 240 countries.

PKP: I think this film is going to be so motivational for many children, especially at the time when math and science don’t seem to hold their weight against fantasy and superheroes.

JOSÉ HERNANDEZ: Exactly! I tell people that I am hopeful this will become an instant inspirational classic that will be shown over and over. Especially when new parents have kids and they want them to get motivated. They will say, “Hey, let’s watch this movie,” and they’re going to see it.  I’m happy to think it’s a good tool.

[L-R] José Hernández and Michael Peña behind the scenes of the drama, A MILLION MILES AWAY, an Amazon Studios release. Photo courtesy of Daniel Daza/Prime.

PKP: You were a consultant for this film. What did that involve for you?

JOSÉ HERNANDEZ: As a consultant I was involved when we started writing the script. Bettina Gilois started the first draft. I provided my feedback to it. Then Hernán Jiménez did the second script and I provided feedback for that. And then our director, Alejandra Márquez Abella, did the final revisions and I provided the input to that.

When they started filming, I was there helping out in any way I could with the technical part of the process. It was a great, great collaborative team effort.

PKP: Before we leave, is there anything that you want to say to my audience?

JOSÉ HERNANDEZ: I think your audience should never, ever be afraid to dream big, as long as you’re willing to work hard for it and you follow my father’s Recipe for Success. I use it to this day and that recipe is sprinkled across the movie, but I’ll summarize it.

  • One: The first thing you got to do is determine your purpose in life.
  • Two:  Recognize how far you are from that.
  • Three: Purpose and draw yourself a roadmap so you know how to get there.
  • Four: Prepare yourself according to the challenge you pick.
  • Five: Work hard; develop a work ethic that is second to none.

And then I had my Sixth ingredient: Perseverance and never give up on yourself.