The appropriately-named Project Director Dan Truman is Armageddon‘s stalwart NASA salaryman, whose quiet dedication to the mission at hand earns the respect and friendship of macho roughneck Harry Stamper. Flashes of a brace can be seen at the heel of Truman’s shoe if you look closely, but he only alludes to NASA’s notorious unwillingness to take a less than perfect physical specimen into space once in conversation:
I went into the engineering program. Kinda had to. But boy, I wanted to go up there. I wanted to be one of those guys with a mission patch on my arm.
When Stamper eventually sacrifices himself for the good of the planet, it’s Truman he sends his ripped-off mission patch to. (We at Disability Movies like to interpret that as an acknowledgement from the average man that space must be made for us as well.)
Director Michael Bay originally envisioned the character of Dan Truman as a flashy space cowboy when he asked Billy Bob to play the part. Billy Bob delivered Truman as a straight government man, right down to the dark suit. No “asteroid the size of Texas, Mr. President,” no host of bizarre demands from our heroic drillers, no rapidly approaching deadline to collision, not even the release of a rival asteroid film several weeks before Armageddon’s release could dampen Billy Bob’s sincere, standout work. It was Billy Bob who came up with the idea of giving Dan Truman a leg brace from an old injury to preclude Truman’s own dreams of astronaut glory.
Truman’s character resonated with the beleaguered Japanese workingman, and was very popular there. A line of toys (including a replica of the armadillo drilling vehicle) was developed for the U.S. market, but Truman did not become an action figure.
But though the inclusion of one respectable character with a minor disability is subtly and masterfully done, Armageddon does not manage to avoid negative stereotypes entirely. Another former roughneck endangers the mission with reckless disregard for safety, and his hijinks with a machine gun (a machine gun in space? What?) are chalked up to “space dementia”, a made-up diagnosis if I ever heard one.