In the book, Wolfe likens the astronauts to 'single combat champions' from an earlier era, receiving the honour and adoration of their people before going forth to fight on their behalf.
The movie was adapted by Philip Kaufman from the book, with contributions from screenwriter William Goldman. It was directed by Kaufman.
It won Academy Awards for Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing; Best Film Editing; Best Music, Original Score and Best Sound. It was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Sam Shepard), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Cinematography and Best Picture.
At the time that the movie came out, former astronaut and current Senator John Glenn was running for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. It was felt that the movie might help his chances, but in fact, his candidacy did not go far. In fact, many said, not-so-jokingly, after having seen Sam Shepard's performance, "Forget John Glenn, I want Chuck Yeager for President."