Albert John Reinert
|Died||December 31, 2018 (aged 71)|
Wimberley, Texas, U.S.
|Occupation||Journalist, director, producer, screenwriter|
|Spouse(s)||Lisa Hart Carroll|
Al Reinert (1947 – December 31, 2018) was an American journalist, film director, screenwriter and producer. He co-wrote the screenplays for the Ron Howard film Apollo 13 and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, but is best known for directing and producing For All Mankind, an award-winning documentary about NASA's Apollo program. He died of lung cancer at his home in Wimberley, Texas on December 31, 2018.
Reinert was born in Tokyo, Japan. He went to high school in Fort Worth, Texas and attended West Point for a year before dropping out with the aim of playing professional baseball. On a scholarship to Texas A&M, Reinert played ball and studied geology. When the lure of pro sports subsided, he turned his attention to student government, winning the college's student body presidency. His grade point average, however, was too low for him to serve. After graduation, Reinert moved to Houston.
In 1972, he was arrested on a marijuana charge. As part of his probation, Reinert was required to have steady employment. Although he had no experience in journalism, he convinced the Houston Chronicle's city editor to hire him as the night police beat reporter, a task he later characterized as "the lowest ranking job you could have as a reporter at The Chronicle or any newspaper."
Reinert was a natural journalist. He soon worked his way up from crime reporting to covering politics, but his own left-leaning political views put him at odds with the newspaper's management. He was fired within a year. Shortly after the dismissal, William Broyles, Jr., the founding editor of Texas Monthly, hired Reinert as a contributing editor for the new magazine.
Reinert's first story for Texas Monthly (So Long, Cosmic Cowboys, March 1973) was a nostalgic take on the heyday of NASA's manned lunar landing Apollo program. The article set the tone for much of Reinert's future career. Other notable stories for the Texas-based magazine were Closing Down La Grange, a tribute to the Chicken Ranch, the "Oldest Continually Operating Non-Floating Whorehouse in the United States;" Billy Lee, an ode to the brilliant, but drug-addicted, political writer and staffer Billy Lee Brammer; and The Secret World of Walter Cronkite, a day in the life of "the most trusted man in America." The Chicken Ranch article was reprinted by The Washington Post.
Reinert's interest in space exploration led to the ambitious project For All Mankind. Although he had no film experience, his goal was to bring images previously seen only on the small screen (television) to the larger-than-life dimensions of the movie theater. It would take Reinert eight years to finish the documentary. He spent hundreds of hours interviewing former astronauts and culled through thousands of hours of NASA footage. To scale up the space agency's images, Reinert had to use an optical printer to scan each individual frame of the original 16mm film and enlarge it to 35mm. Brian Eno was commissioned to provide a soundtrack, which was combined with sound bites from the astronauts in a narration-free film.
The documentary received high praise. New York Post critic David Edelstein wrote, "It amounts to an ode to space travel, and it's awesomely beautiful." For All Mankind received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature of 1989. It won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.
In the mid-1990s, Reinert teamed up with his former editor Bill Broyles to write the screenplay for the space docudrama Apollo 13. Directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, the movie dramatizes the aborted 1970 lunar mission. In 1996, the film was nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Adapted Screenplay, but Broyles' and Reinert's effort lost to Emma Thompson's work on Sense and Sensibility.
Reinert eventually moved to Los Angeles to continue his screen writing career. He would spend 15 years there. Projects included a two-year stint on an unrealized James Cameron movie about Mars, an uncredited rewrite on Armageddon and preliminary work on Gravity. He co-wrote and shared an Emmy Award for the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. During this time frame, Reinert also traveled to Japan, where he co-wrote the screenplay for the video game-to-film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
Tired of Los Angeles' "dehumanizing" film industry, Reinert sought a project that would take him back to Texas. The result was his first feature documentary since For All Mankind. The 2013 film, An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story, told the tale of the wrongful conviction of a Williamson County man charged with murdering his wife. Morton spent nearly 25 years in prison before he was exonerated through DNA evidence. The documentary debuted at the SXSW Festival, where it won the Documentary Spotlight Audience Award. It was later picked up by CNN Films.
In 2016, Reinert's film Audubon was released. Also known as Rara Avis: John James Audubon and the Birds of America, the documentary tells the story of the 19th century ornithologist, naturalist and self-taught painter. Reinert took the film across the U.S. where he showed it in private screenings at Audubon Society meetings and museums. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has since aired the documentary several times and sells it in DVD format through the PBS website.
At the time of his death, Reinert was working on another space-based documentary, Above It All, about the International Space Station. A sponsored project of the International Documentary Association, the yet-to-be-finished film is described as a "profound example of human cooperation...circling our planet every day. Men and women from 24 countries have flown on the International Space Station, living together in outer space for months at a time. Not only peacefully but constructively, resolutely pursuing a shared dream. It is the model for a hopeful human future, and Above It All is an effort to tell the story."
Reinert felt much more at home in the hills of Central Texas than those of southern California. He kept his battle with lung cancer private and died at home in Wimberley New Year's Eve morning 2018. Carroll is hopeful her husband's final film will be released some day.
Awards and nominations
1989 International Documentary Association
- Won – IDA Award – For All Mankind
1989 Sundance Film Festival
- Won – Audience Award, Documentary – For All Mankind
- Won – Grand Jury Prize, Documentary – For All Mankind
- Nominated – Best Documentary, Features – For All Mankind (shared with Betsy Broyles Breier)
- Nominated – Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published – Apollo 13 (shared with William Broyles, Jr.)
1996 PEN Center USA West Literary Awards
- Won – Literary Award, Screenplay – Apollo 13 (shared with William Broyles, Jr.)
1996 USC Scripter Award
- Nominated – Apollo 13 (Shared with William Broyles, Jr.)
1996 Writers Guild of America, USA Awards
- Nominated – Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published – Apollo 13 (shared with William Broyles, Jr.)
2013 SXSW Film Festival
- Won – Audience Award – An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story
- Chen, Wei-Huan. "Former Chronicle reporter Al Reinert, co-writer of 'Apollo 13' script, dead at 71". chron.com. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
- "Rag Radio 2014-03-14 – Award-Winning Writer and Filmmaker Al Reinert & Singer-Songwriter Sima Cunningham". Rag Radio with Thorne Dreyer. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- Nova Lomax, John. "Al Reinert, Who Chronicled Houston's Space Age in Magazines and Film, Passes Away at 71". Texas Monthly. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
- Reinert, Al (October 1973). "Closing Down La Grange". Texas Monthly. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- Reinert, Al (February 1979). "Billy Lee". Texas Monthly. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- Reinert, Al (January 1976). "The Secret World of Walter Cronkite". Texas Monthly. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- "La Grange Revisited, The Roar of the Crowd (Letters to the Editor)". Texas Monthly. February 1974.
- Stafford, Jeff. "For All Mankind". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- "Sundance Film Festival, 1989 Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- Dansby, Andrew (November 12, 2015). "Filmmaker Al Reinert prefers Texas to L.A." Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
- "The Filmmakers". Above It All. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
- Leydon, Joe. "Film Review: 'An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story'". Variety. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- "CNN Films: An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story". CNN. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- "Audubon DVD". Shop PBS. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
- "Above It All". International Documentary Association. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
- Reinert, Al (July 2014). "High-Heel Homicide". Texas Monthly. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
- Herrick, Holly. "Remaindering Filmmaker Al Reinert (For All Mankind)". Austin Film Society. Retrieved 10 January 2019.