Armageddon Time: Is the Movie Inspired by a True Story?

Set in the 1980s, ‘Armageddon Time’ is a family-drama film that follows an adolescent boy named Paul (Banks Repeta) pursuing the American dream. When he meets a black kid named Johnny (Jaylin Webb) in the neighborhood, the two form an instant connection and are always up to some mischief. However, one of their seemingly harmless acts takes a radical turn. Directed by James Gray, the movie tackles subjects such as systemic racism, inequality, and generational trauma.

The film portrays how the most subtle events in a person’s life can have deep-rooted significance, which kids understand only later in life. The film flaunts an excellent ensemble, including Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, and Sir Anthony Hopkins, among others. Their depiction of the 80s mindset is so authentic and convincing that it makes us wonder if the story is based on real-life events. Well, look no further because we’ve got an answer for you.

James Gray Draws on His Own Life for Armageddon Time

Yes, ‘Armageddon Time’ is based on the real-life of writer-director James Gray. The story is inspired by various events during his adolescence and the realizations he had because of them. While talking to A.Frame, James Gray told how he wanted to rediscover the medium of cinema and create something that moved him. So he wrote the script much before the COVID-19 pandemic and the events surrounding the killing of George Floyd. In the same interview, he also mentioned how his brother loved the film and found it “extremely accurate to his recollection.”

Several events and characters in the movie share a semblance with the director’s real-life counterparts. For instance, in the story, Paul’s friend, Johnny, is based on two of his friends, wherein the character majorly embodies one friend while carrying subtle facets of the other. One of the pivotal incidents involving Paul and Johnny is quite close to what happened in reality with James and his friend. As revealed to The Hollywood Reporter, the latter two tried to steal Star Trek blueprints from Bloomingdale’s but were caught and held in the security room.

While James was let off the hook because of his father, his friend stayed behind. He said, “It ended up with us in this room at Bloomingdale’s with their security people and, basically, he stayed behind. My father got me out of there. I never did see him again. [Revisiting that moment] was a way to use the past to reflect upon the problems of the present. And on a plain, personal level, the loss of that friendship was painful for me.”

The director uses nuances of the aforementioned experience and a few other events to fuel the movie’s narrative, which depicts how societal stigma manifests in various situations. Besides this, Paul’s grandpa, Aaron Rabinowitz (Sir Anthony Hopkins), is inspired by James’ grandfather, who, like Aaron, had run away from Europe and entered the USA to start afresh. In the film, we see Aaron as Paul’s moral compass, making him understand the concept of racism and how one should not blindly follow it.

The grandson faces this after he shifts schools due to his mischievous behavior with Johnny. He goes to the Kew-Forest School, which is an elite place for kids who prepare to go to college. Moreover, in one of the scenes, we see Maryanne Trump (Jessica Chastain) and Fred Trump (John Diehl) visit the school, and the former gives a speech that stirs something within Paul. Interestingly, James Gray did get into Kew-Forest, where Donald Trump‘s father was one of the trustees on the school board. The scene with Maryanne Trump in the film did occur in real life, and James Gray recreated it for the movie from his memory.

When it comes to the vintage vibe of the film, James Gray ensured the sets of his house were constructed and designed to be as close to his real home as possible. In fact, the director titled the film ‘Armageddon Time’ because while growing up under Ronald Reagan’s presidency, he used to hear the word ‘armageddon’ a lot from him. According to the former president, people were closer to the end of times. Another reason for choosing the name was the director’s interest in the band The Clash, specifically their song ‘Armagideon Time.’

The movie touches upon sensitive subjects which, unfortunately, are relevant today despite a gap of 4 decades. The intricacies with which the director brings the stories onto the screen make the audience introspect, and by the end, they are left with profound questions that require answers. If we look at James Gray’s filmography, the filmmaker has included nuances of his life in various films such as ‘Little Oddessa’ and ‘The Immigrant.’ With ‘Armageddon Time’ he added several events from his childhood into a story that needs to be told.

Read More: Where Was Armageddon Time Filmed?