Mark Hamill remains one of the most beloved American actors of all time, partly because he played Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films, but also because he’s such a genuinely self-deprecating person. Hamill just took his Skywalker charm to a new level; he’s roasting one of his original screen tests from roughly 1976. The result is equal parts hilarious and heartwarming.
This week, as part of a promotion for the charity group Omaze, Hamill is offering fans a chance to have dinner with him before “The Rise of Skywalker” hits theaters. All they have to do is donate to a good cause and they’ll be entered to win. To entice his fans, Hammill shot a short video that’s essentially what having dinner with Mark Hamill would be like. It seems freaking amazing.
“Why did I call him ‘Hans’ instead of ‘Han,'” Mark Hamill laughs as he watches the audition. This anachronism is just one of many interesting tidbits Star Wars die-hards will notice in the dialogue. In fact, the exchange between Hamill and Harrison Ford doesn’t really resemble any particular scene from the finished film, though it could be an early version of the scene in which Han and Luke argue about the best way to rescue Princess Leia from the Death Star.
“When I did this scene, I thought Han Solo was the lead character and I was the sidekick; I thought Harrison Ford was Captain America and I was Bucky!” Hamill says with deadpan honesty. He also points out that George Lucas was barely helpful when it came to figuring out the right tone to strike.
But the person Hamill is the hardest on is himself. “Show a little fire, Luke,” he says as his younger self gets sassy. For those of us who grew up with Luke, and saw ourselves in that character, this video feels like a weird bit of therapy. Because if Luke can laugh at himself this much, what are the rest of us stressed out about?
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
In 1999, writer/director Todd Robinson was at Kirtland Air Force Base to attend a PJ graduation ceremony. In attendance was William F. Pitsenbarger, the father of Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger, a PJ who was killed in action on April 11, 1966, when he volunteered to stay behind with the soldiers of the Big Red One during Operation Abilene.
During his speech, Mr. Pitsenbarger lamented the things his son, who died at the age of 21, would never do: fall in love and have a son of his own, and in doing so, understand his father’s love for him.
“I was floored,” recalled Robinson, “I remembered my own father’s fear for me during the Vietnam War and I thought about my own son.” He reflected on the brutality of the draft during the Vietnam War and what the experience was like for the veterans who were called to serve — and their families they left behind.
Robinson didn’t know if he wanted to make a war film until that moment. He became committed to the veterans. “If I could make a small contribution by looking into what the personal experiences were like for these men, it would be the least I could do,” he shared.
“I began to interview the veterans of that battle. Their stories were just so tragic, brutal, moving, unrequited…and they were looking for purpose: it was so important to them to see that this man’s valor was recognized before his father passed.”
He spent the next 20 years creating The Last Full Measure, a powerful retelling of the courageous acts of Airman 1st Class Pitsenbarger and the men who fought for his Medal of Honor.The Last Full Measure – Arrives on Digital 4/7 and on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand 4/21
The Last Full Measure is best described as a military movie made by a director who “gets it” — who understands that war is chaotic and that the complexities of PTSD for combat veterans require a conversation from our society as a whole.
One of the biggest takeaways he gained about the military community through the making and screening of this film was the notion of “service greater than self,” Robinson told WATM. Screening the film for veterans across the country, Robinson saw the spirit of Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice reflected in the men and women in uniform today. When it comes down to the wire, service members are there for the person at their side.
He also noticed that the film triggered a real need to have a conversation about the wellness of veterans — especially combat vets.
“We, as civilians, the people who benefit from the service of these people, don’t understand what they’ve been through. We don’t always embrace our own complicity in sending service members overseas. If you’re a taxpayer or voter, whether you agree with the policy or not, you’re responsible. We’re also responsible for bringing them home. They need to be given more attention than just a pat on the head, a business-class trip home, and some medication from the VA. We need to embrace our military community when they come home. We need to employ them. And we need to say, ‘You’re not alone,'” Robinson affirmed.
Robinson felt like he owed something back and this film was part of what he could give. Of course, it came with many challenges. In his own words, “Making a movie is organized chaos.” Robinson and his producing partner Signey Sherman, noticed a uniform error in one scene and a folded flag that was coming undone in another. They spent ,000 out of pocket to correct the errors in post-production. “It just looked disrespectful to me,” Robinson lamented.
Somehow a bootleg copy was released overseas containing the original errors and viewers complained. “Those kinds of things pop up. I suppose the real challenge is trying to explain to an audience, without feeling too sensitive, that a film is an impression of a story. My job was to identify the metaphor of the story and what we could say about the men who fought in Operation Abilene. It always came back to service before self.”
To help accomplish that goal, Robinson hired veterans on and off camera. In the Medal of Honor ceremony scene, real PJs wear their maroon berets while veterans of Charlie Company fill the audience. There that day was retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant John Pighini, a decorated Vietnam War-era PJ and active member of the Pararescue community.
After that scene, Pighini came on-board as a technical advisor for the shoot on location in Thailand, where Robinson and his cast and crew had six days to shoot the entirety of the Vietnam scenes for the film — no small undertaking.
He had a crew of 300 with battle scenes featuring helicopters and explosions. There was no luxury of time. He gives credit to his editor, Richard Nord, and the expertise of his cast and crew. At the end of the day, the film, decades in the making, wasn’t done for financial profit or gain.
“We made this film for our veteran community. We tried to reflect back and let them know that people see them and we want to be part of the solution to whatever problems they face when they come home.”
The Last Full Measure is available now on Blu-ray/DVD and Digital from Lionsgate and features several special features such as a “Medal of Honor Ceremony Shoot” featurette and “The Others May Live: Remembering Operation Abilene” featurette.
The Medal of Honor is unlike any other accolade in the United States Armed Forces. It’s not something that you “win.” It’s something bestowed only to those who have shown the highest level of valor and sacrifice in the face of the enemy to save their brothers- and sisters-in-arms.
The story written onto each Medal of Honor’s citation tells of the moment a service member risked everything without hesitation. Not all recipients come away from those moments with their life and, oftentimes, it’s their brothers that carry the story onward for the world to hear.
Now, Robert Zemeckis, Academy Award winning director of Forrest Gump, and James Moll, director of the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Last Days, are showcasing these valorous tales on Netflix with the upcoming docuseries, Medal of Honor.
Medal of Honor will be an eight-part anthology series told through a mixture of interviews, reenactments, and real, live-action footage. In order to authentically capture what transpired in those fateful moments, the series will make use of archival footage and commentary from historians, veterans who were present, and family members who know these heroes best.
Creating a series about an award as prestigious as the Medal of Honor comes with a certain gravity, that producer James Moll recognizes. He said,
“There’s a huge responsibility that comes with telling stories of the Medal of Honor. We’re depicting actions that exemplify the greatest, most selfless qualities that any person can embody. We never took that fact lightly. We constantly questioned ourselves, demanding that these stories be handled with tremendous integrity at every step.”
“We were fortunate to have quite a few veterans working with us on the production, and we had quite a few crew members whose close family members had served or were currently serving.”
Roger Deakins has dazzled moviegoers for decades with visuals that have gone on to become the most memorable in modern film history.
The frigid vistas in “Fargo,” the dreamy Western plains in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” the gritty underground world of drug cartels in “Sicario,” and the washed out future in “Blade Runner 2049” (which finally earned him his first-ever Oscar), all came from Deakins.
It’s hard to imagine he could do anything that would top this legendary body of work.
But he has with “1917.”
Marking Deakins’ latest collaboration with Sam Mendes (the two worked together on “Jarhead,” “Revolutionary Road,” and “Skyfall”), the story follows two British soldiers during World War I who have to travel behind enemy lines to deliver a message that will stop 1,600 of their allies from walking into a trap. And in telling that story, Deakins makes it feel like the entire movie is done in one continuous shot.
The hugely ambitious idea paid off. The movie, currently in theaters, has found critical acclaim, box-office glory, and award-season praise as it won three Golden Globes (including best director for Mendes and best drama) followed by 10 Oscar nominations.
“Blade Runner 2049” is the only movie for which Roger Deakins has won an Oscar.
Among them was Deakins for best cinematography, the 15th time he’s been nominated.
If you were looking for a sure bet this Oscars, it’s that Deakins will take home his second Oscar when the awards are handed out on February 9. But don’t count on the man himself to get too excited.
The 70-year-old Englishman has been the frontrunner too many times before, only to leave empty-handed, to listen to any Oscars handicapping. In fact, he’s so modest it’s hard to get many details out of him on how he actually pulled off the ambitious shooting technique that has become the biggest draw of the movie.
“We had a lot of prep and we could just work through all the problems,” he said in a laid-back tone to Business Insider hours after the Oscar nominations were announced on Monday.
But finally he let out something that did scare him. It was something that even a legend like himself, who has come across seemingly every scenario behind the camera, could not control: the weather.
“That was a bit tricky,” he said, with just the hint of dry English humor.
Most of “1917,” which takes place over two days, is shot over grey skies. The gloom adds to the despair of the story’s war-torn surroundings. But Deakins said it was also a choice he kept pushing for early on in preproduction.
“Just practically we had to shoot in cloud,” he said, looking back. “Either you shoot it in real time, at the right time of day, which you never do unless you have months and months of time. Or you shoot in cloud and time it to look that way.”
Knowing most of the filming would be done at Shepperton Studios in Scotland, the movie’s production office looked up what the weather was in the area the year before at the time they were going to shoot. Deakins was disappointed in the answer: “Apparently it was gorgeous.”
But the movie moved forward, which included Deakins and his team rehearsing the shots constantly with the small, light-weight cameras made especially for the movie from Arri Alexa.
Everyone was ready when the first day of shooting came in April of last year, but there was one problem.
“There wasn’t a cloud in the sky,” Deakins said. “It certainly made me anxious.”
While producers were on the phone explaining to the studio, Universal, and financiers why they couldn’t begin production because the weather was too nice, Mendes, Deakins, and the rest of the actors and crew were back to rehearsing in the trenches made for the movie.
Thankfully, the second day was a cloudy one and production was able to get back on track as they also made up the previous day’s shooting. Deakins said that’s how it was for most of production. If clouds weren’t in the forecast, everyone waited around until the day came when there was — and then everyone doubled their efforts to stay on schedule.
“We would literally stand around for hours waiting for a cloud to come by,” Deakins said. “I had five different weather apps on my iPhone. Every radar I could get. You look at them and try to find the one that will tell you what you want.”
Shooting a scene from ‘1917.’
(Francois Duhamel / Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures)
Then the day came when he wanted some sun. At the end of the movie, for a shot where the movie’s lead, Schofield (George MacKay), is sitting by a tree, Deakins said he wanted the shot to show some rays of sunlight in the sky.
“There was this little cloud coming over the sun so before we shot that section we called everyone over and said, ‘Let’s shoot it, we might get lucky,’ and sure enough when it got to the end of the take the sun came out,” he said.
“That was the first take,” Deakins continued, with a certain pride he didn’t show earlier in our conversation. “We shot it another fifteen or twenty times, but Sam liked that first one. And it was the only one where the sun came out. We never got that again.”
Looking back on the experience, Deakins said he would be up for shooting a movie again like this — though he wonders if anyone would want to.
“I don’t think many directors would want to tell the story in that way,” he said. “But it doesn’t scare me off at all. It would be quite fascinating to do it on something else.”
It’s good to see that even a legend has dreams for what the future could hold.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Every year, a new “Call of Duty” game comes out — it’s an annual franchise, like “Madden” and “FIFA,” except it’s a first-person shooter instead of a sports game.
2017 is no different, and this year’s “Call of Duty” is on the verge of being revealed. On Friday we found out one crucial detail about the unannounced game, demonstrated in this image:
The new game is named, “Call of Duty: WWII.”
That’s important for a few good reasons, but one stands out: It means that the “Call of Duty” franchise is returning to a type of warfare it otherwise abandoned years ago. Aside from the setting, the time period means slower weaponry with less precision and fewer bullets — a notable change from the type of futuristic weaponry seen in recent “Call of Duty” games.
2016’s “Call of Duty” was set in space, in a near-future that leaned more sci-fi than gritty realism. You could literally run on the walls, and double-jump with rocket boots.
The newest game in the “Call of Duty” franchise is being created by Sledgehammer Games, the same studio behind “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.” That’s also a good sign, as “Advanced Warfare” was an especially good entry in the annual franchise.
There’s no release date or game console specified in the information provided, but we’d guess that “Call of Duty: WWII” will arrive in November on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. And maybe Nintendo Switch? Maybe.
The new Charlie’s Angels trailer dropped today. Written and directed by Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games), who will also star as the timeless ‘Bosley’ character, the film stars Kristen Stewart (Snow White and the Huntsman), Naomi Scott (Aladdin), and Ella Balinska (Run Sweetheart Run) as the three angels.
After recently writing about the Hobbs & Shaw trailer, I couldn’t help but notice how different the advertising is for female-driven and male-driven films.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – Official Trailer
“We’re gonna need the best trackers in the business. We’re gonna need to operate outside of the system,” said an operative with more substantial priorities.
If you had to boil down these two trailers, this is what they’re communicating about their films:
Charlie’s Angels: Fun, pretty girls fight bad guys.
Hobbs Shaw: Strong, funny men fight bad guys.
The comparison between these two trailers highlights a subversive social construct: in order for men to be heroes, they need to be strong (a feature that can be developed through will and dedication); in order for women to be heroes, they need to be beautiful (something outside of their control without painful surgery, or, I guess, wigs, toys, and clothes?).
I will at least acknowledge that the 2019 Charlie’s Angels description has been improved since the 2000 one:
2000: They’re beautiful, they’re brilliant, and they work for Charlie. In a smart, sexy update of the 70’s TV show from celebrated music video director McG. CHARLIE’S ANGELS revolves around three female detectives as intelligent and multi-talented as they are ravishingly gorgeous and utterly disarming.
(WE GET IT. YOU’D BONE THEM. CALM DOWN.)
2019: In Banks’ bold vision, Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska are working for the mysterious Charles Townsend, whose security and investigative agency has expanded internationally. With the world’s smartest, bravest, and most highly trained women all over the globe, there are now teams of Angels guided by multiple Bosleys taking on the toughest jobs everywhere.
Now here’s the description for Hobbs Shaw:
Ever since hulking lawman Hobbs (Johnson), a loyal agent of America’s Diplomatic Security Service, and lawless outcast Shaw (Statham), a former British military elite operative, first faced off in 2015’s Furious 7, the duo have swapped smack talk and body blows as they’ve tried to take each other down.
But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever — and bests a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Shaw’s sister — these two sworn enemies will have to partner up to bring down the only guy who might be badder than themselves.
Just imagine if The Rock were on a super secret mission that involved coordinated dancing.
These are meant to be fun tentpole films, but stories have always impacted society and culture. These two films clearly have different target demographics, but they each seem to be straying from the path of the hero’s journey against evil. They stray in completely different, but I’d argue equally concerning, directions: for girls, it’s that excessive beauty is the answer to our problems and for men, it’s excessive violence.
What do you think? Are these films saying something about our society or are they just here to show us a good time? Leave a comment and keep the conversation going.
The U.S. Army Recruitment Command has always struggled to find new and innovative ways to connect with the ever-evolving youth. A poster of Uncle Sam saying he “wants you for the U.S. Army” may have worked wonders for one generation, but in 2002, young adults needed something new. The answer was a video game: America’s Army.
Conceived by Colonel Casey Wardynski, the Army’s Chief Economist and a professor at West Point, the idea was to provide the public with a virtual soldier experience that was engaging, informative, and entertaining. Wardynski felt that the best way to convey this was through the booming video-game market.
America’s Army approached the market in a pretty unique way (by 2002 standards). First of all, it was completely free to play — all it required to get started was an internet connection. The game was developed, published, and distributed entirely within the U.S. Army and was built upon the Unreal Engine.
The next major selling point was the game’s realism. When the first iteration of America’s Army was released, many of its competitors were over-the-top action games, like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City or 007: Nightfire. Others popular titles of the time, like Splinter Cell or Ghost Recon, portrayed the military in a fun but unrealistic manner.
America’s Army went in a different direction. It put a heavy emphasis on little things. The focus was on immersion rather than spectacle. The game’s tutorial, for example, placed you with a virtual Drill Sergeant and gave pointers on real-world weapon etiquette — things more important to real life than to the game itself. The game also focused on the Army’s seven core values.
Realism wasn’t just about details, though — it was about gameplay. For example, being shot in the leg would make your character go limp and slug around. The game even went into great depth regarding practical medical aid lessons, and has since been credited with saving lives after a player remembered skills developed in-game as he approached a horrific car accident.
Above all, the game was enjoyable. It’s hard to find accurate recruitment numbers related to the game as it was released on the first 4th of July following the September 11th attacks, but the game was highly decorated within the gaming community and even earned Computer Gaming World Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award in 2002.
Canadian filmmaker Paul Gross was never a soldier, but he has great respect for them. He comes from a military family; his grandfather and his father both served. Gross ended up in the arts, but he believes that soldiers represent their countries with an enormous amount of dignity and honor and they should be acknowledged for that.
“A soldier signed a piece of paper at one point, saying ‘I am willing to die for my country,'” Gross says. “That’s an extraordinary fucking thing. Did you ever sign such a piece of paper? I know I sure as shit didn’t.”
Gross wrote, directed, and stars in Hyena Road, a film about a Canadian Forces effort to build a road into the heart of enemy-held territory in Afghanistan. Gross plays Pete Mitchell, a sage intelligence officer responsible for convincing the local warlords to stop planting improvised explosive devices along the construction path .
“My character is loosely based on this real officer who was my guide,” Gross says. “Through this intelligence guy I started to learn stuff about Afghanistan. Not just the combat, I started to learn about Afghans.”
Mitchell needs to understand Afghan culture as he tries to bring a mysterious former Mujahid known as “the Ghost” to his side of the fight. The Ghost, played by Niamatullah Arghandabi, is a local Afghan elder who has a hidden identity as a legendary warlord who disappeared after the Russians withdrew.
Gross made two trips to Afghanistan to visit the Canadian Forces fighting there. The second time, he decided to film everything he could. He didn’t have a story at the time. A lot of that footage wound up in the final cut of Hyena Road. He talked to a lot of soldiers and took a lot of notes. When he returned to Ontario, he wrote a screenplay.
“Everything in the movie is pretty much based on stuff that I either heard or witnessed or was sort of common knowledge,” Gross says. “In other words, I didn’t make up anything.”
The film also features a very non-traditional actor in Arghandabi. He now serves an advisor to the Afghan government, and in 1979 he was a mujahid during the Soviet invasion.
“Since he was a kid, he was fighting Soviets,” the director says. “When he was 16, he was living in a cave coming out with Stinger missiles to knock down helicopters. I dragged him out and made him an actor.”
The director met the Arghandabi at Kandahar Airfield while on a visit there in 2011.
“I sat down with this guy and talked with him through an interpreter for about two and a half hours,” Gross recalls “I thought to myself, ‘I could spend the rest of my life with this guy and I would not understand one thing about him.’ That’s how different our cultures are.”
‘The Ghost’ told Gross of the time he met Osama bin Laden. To him Bin Laden wasn’t a fighter; he was a “clown.”
“It’s the weirdest thing,”Gross remembers of Arghandabi. “Talking to these people who knew all these bad guys. Bin Laden was one of the baddest guys we ever thought of, and [Arghandabi] thought he was a clown.”
Gross wants people to walk away from the film entertained, but also better informed because in his opinion, everyone should understand what it is they’re asking their military forces to do.
“That doesn’t mean you have to be against war,” Gross says. “It’s just that most of us wander around with blinders on. We should know what our neighbors, our cousins, our friends are doing there because we’re the one sending them there.”
Hyena Road is in theaters and on iTunes on March 11th.
Throughout history, Native American warriors have given a wide mix of motives for joining the U.S. military. Those include patriotism, pride, rage, courage, practicality, and spirituality, all mingling with an abiding respect for tribal, familial, and national traditions.
This Veterans Day, explore the complicated ways the Native American culture and traditions have affected their participation in the United States military when The Warrior Tradition airs at 9 pm ET on PBS. The one-hour documentary, co-produced by WNED-TV and Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc., tells the stories of Native American warriors from their own points of view – stories of service and pain, of courage and fear.
The actor Tom Cruise on May 31, 2018, tweeted a teaser for the long-awaited sequel to the movie “Top Gun” — and in doing so, he wandered into one of the most heated debates in modern combat aviation and delivered a savage burn to the F-35.
The original “Top Gun” film was nothing short of a revelation for the US Navy. People around the US and the world saw fighter jets in a whole new light, and naval aviation recruitment shot up by 500%.
A new “Top Gun” movie, now 32 years after the first, could again spike interest in combat aviation at a time when the US military struggles to retain and attract top talent. But for the most expensive weapons system in history, it already looks like a bust.
Here’s the poster for the new “Top Gun.”
Notice anything? The F-35C, the US Navy’s long overdue, massively expensive new carrier aircraft, is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the F-18 Super Hornet, the F-35’s main competitor, can be seen.
The F-35 community was not thrilled.
“Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years, we all watched ‘Top Gun,'” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, who flew F-35s and actually attended the US Navy’s Top Gun school, previously told Business Insider.
“Damn shame,” Berke said in response to the new movie’s choice of fighter. “I guess it will be a movie about the past!”
While experts agree that the F-35’s carrier-based variant, the F-35C, and its vertical-takeoff sister, the F-35B, represent the future of naval aviation, they’re just not ready for the big time yet.
In short, it’s an embarrassment to the F-35 program that mounting setbacks have pushed it out of a potentially massive public-relations boost.
“It’s a capable aircraft,” retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies, told Business Insider of the Super Hornet. “It’s just last century’s design.”
He added: “It is a missed opportunity.”
Berke pointed out that the producers of the new “Top Gun” may have gone with the Super Hornet over the F-35 because the Super Hornet has two seats, which could facilitate filming and possibly on-screen dynamics.
The popular aviation blog The Aviationist also pointed out that Cruise is holding an outdated helmet and that the photo does not appear to take place at the US Navy’s Top Gun school. But Hollywood sometimes makes mistakes.
“Hollywood doesn’t build movies around what makes sense — they build movies around what makes money,” Deptula said.
But despite what might have come as a slight sting to F-35 boosters hoping a new film could help usher in what they call a revolution in combat aviation, both Berke and Deptula said they were looking forward to the film.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Emmys are right around the corner, and this year, it’s Army versus Marines in a full-on veteran showdown. Before we get into our predictions and recap of this year’s military-centric award season, let’s take a look at the history of the Emmys – it might surprise you!
The Primetime Emmy Awards and the Daytime Emmy Awards Fun Facts
The Emmy is named after the word “immy,” which is an informal term for the image orthicon tube common in the earliest iteration of television cameras. If you have no idea what an orthicon tube is, don’t worry – we didn’t either, but we weren’t surprised to find out it has military roots.
The image orthicon (IO) was used in television for about 20 years. It’s a combination of the image dissector and the orthicon. The IO was developed by RCA and was considered a huge advancement in the way images are transmitted. The National Defense Research Committed had a contract for RCA to help fine-tune the IO. By 1943, RCA was in a contract with the Navy as part of the war effort to transmit images. The first tubes were delivered to the Navy in 1944, and production for the civilian sector began shortly afterward.
But calling the award an Emmy almost didn’t happen. It was almost called the Ike, a nickname for the iconoscope tube. But Ike also happened to be the name of WWII hero and future president Dwight Eisenhower.
Keeping with its scientific history, the Emmy statue shows a winged woman holding an atom. The statue was designed by a television engineer who used his wife as the model. After it was decided to name the award after the IO, it was “feminized” to Emmy to be in line with the statue.
Emmys are divided into different categories relating to different television sectors, and this year, it’s all about the military.
Army vs. Marines
This year, Army veteran and comedic genius Fred Willard is up against Marine Corps veteran Adam Driver. Both are nominated in the Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.
Willard is nominated for his rendition of Frank Dunphy on the final season of Modern Family. Adam is up for the award for his hosting of Saturday Night Live.
Both actors have given stellar performances in their roles, but neither is a sure win. The category is studded with other stars like Eddie Murphy (SNL host), Brad Pitt (SNL host), along with Like Kirby (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) and Dev Patel (Modern Love). The group has collectively earned eight Oscar nominations and two wins, along with nine Emmy nominations and one win.
Last year, Luke Kirby won an Emmy for playing Lenny Bruce, so he may get a repeat performance this year. However, Brad Pitt is definitely on a winning streak. He’s won every single award connected to his “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” so there’s a good chance he’ll walk away with the victory.
But, since Eddie Murphy has never won an Emmy, lots of Hollywood insiders think he’s overdue.
Speaking of overdue, Adam Driver has never won an Emmy either. He’s been nominated three times for his role on “Girls” and two Oscar nominations, so he’s definitely due his props.
Here at We Are The Mighty, we’re going to place our bets on Fred Willard’s Modern Family performance. The late great had four previous Emmy nominations (one for playing Frank Dunphy and three for playing Hank on Everybody Loves Raymond), and he’s never won. It’s almost difficult to believe, especially given his extended and storied Hollywood career.
Of course, there are no posthumous-specific awards, but Hollywood is all about honoring the recently deceased. Chances are pretty good that Fred’s performance might win him the Emmy after all. His Modern Family role was one of the best things about a show that’s lost some of its staying power.
Other military-centric nominations include:
Chasing the Moon, a PBS documentary about the NASA program and the moon landing, has been nominated for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking.
The Plot Against America, HBO’s WWII alternate history series, has been nominated for Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie.
The 1994 movie “True Lies” is a classic Arnold Schwarzenegger action-comedy flick with several memorable scenes, but perhaps none more iconic than Arnold flying in an AV-8B Harrier to (spoiler alert) rescue his daughter from terrorists. That twenty minutes or so of film time involving the Harrier is particularly important for a relatively small community of Marines, Harrier mechanics and pilots, that I happen to be part of.
This may come as a shock to a lot of you: these scenes are riddled with mistakes and inaccuracies. Imagine how betrayed we all felt by the movie that has the bad guy successfully jump a motorcycle from the top of a hotel to land in the pool across the street without a scratch. The movie where Jamie Lee Curtis (Helen Tasker) drops a MAC-10 machine pistol down a flight of stairs, and the gun fires a burst of rounds during every bounce on the steps, dispatching an entire squad of terrorists and leaving the female lead unharmed. The nerve of these Hollywood types to take creative license with the jet we know and love. They went too far!
Alright, the truth is, most of the people I know saw the movie before they even knew what a Harrier was, and even after the fact, the movie is entertaining and good for a chuckle. But on the other hand, picking apart mistakes made by military movies is a favorite past time of all veterans, and we in the Harrier community are no exception. There are some things that stood out to me as immediately wrong, but as I have mentioned, I wasn’t the most knowledgeable Harrier guy on the block, either. I had to put some of these questions to my more qualified friends from those days, and got a lot of help from a current Harrier pilot who asked to remain anonymous. So let’s get to dissecting these discrepancies, one by one.
Harriers are LOUD
The amount of hearing loss alone that would have taken place in this movie is devastating. The “ground noise” of an AV-8B is 140 decibels, which actually falls slightly under that of similarly-sized aircraft like the F/A-18 or F-35, but still well over what it takes to cause permanent hearing damage. When we worked on the flightline and a jet was turning nearby, we were actually supposed to wear double hearing protection in the form of ear plugs and our “cranials” (basically a plastic helmet with earphones). Admittedly, I didn’t always wear both (maybe those class-action lawsuit guys will stop bothering me now that I’ve admitted that publicly), but let’s just say no hearing protection at all would have put a real strain on my marriage considering my wife already gets frustrated with how deaf I am.
However, no hearing protection at all is exactly what we see in multiple scenes. First, the two Harrier pilots land at the end of Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys (1:59:10), where a significant amount of police are seen directing the confused and frightened civilians away from the bridge, and Tom Arnold’s character (Gibb) is instructing them to avoid looking at the flash from the imminent nuclear blast. Presumably, most of these people did not have earplugs handy, but they appear somehow unphased by the two ear-splitting beasts descending upon them.
Within a couple of minutes, Arnold’s character (Harry Tasker) has found out his daughter Dana has been kidnapped, and commandeers one of the Harriers to take matters into his own hands (2:02:10). Once again, plenty of bystanders nearby are mostly unphased by the turning jet only about 50 yards away. One could make the flimsy argument that the police and Gibb have had their hearing ruined by years of service involving firearms, but this seems less likely for Harry’s wife, Helen, who instead uses her hands to cover her mouth in concern.
Then, our protagonist (who, by the way, also has no hearing protection) receives a situation report from their man on the inside using a handheld radio (2:06:15). The only problem is, there’s no way that he could hear a single thing on that radio, according to my pilot source. So the critical information he receives about the location of his targets and the ever-important hostage never would have been possible.
The whine of the Pegasus turbofan engine is only faintly heard while Harry instructs a frantic Dana to “Hang on!” or when the boss bad guy, Salim, trains his AK-47 on Harry and demands he take the plane down. Any pilot or maintainer would be happy to tell you that none of this dialogue would be taking place, and while you couldn’t hear it, they would just be screaming something to the effect of, “Oh my God! I think my brain is leaking out of my ears!”
The gun doesn’t work that way
The Harrier’s GAU-12 Equalizer five-barrel Gatling cannon fires a devastating burst of 25mm rounds at a rate of 3,600-4,200 rounds per minute. There’s just one problem: Harriers are only armed with 300 rounds. Sparing you the math lesson on proportions, that’s a total of five seconds, at best, before the Harrier expends all its ammunition. Were the guns fired for longer than five seconds in the movie? Let’s take a look.
Before Harry takes control of one of the jets, both pilots fire a realistic burst of about four seconds at one of the trucks trying to get across the bridge. The second pilot neutralizes the lead vehicle (1:53:10). Nice shooting, sir!
But that’s the last we see of the cannon, right? Nope. Harry’s first move when he gets to the skyscraper is to hover menacingly up to the floor with the bulk of the terrorists, pausing briefly to allow his badassery to soak in while his enemies realize the error of their ways. He then unloads a 12-13 second burst from what would have been an empty gun (2:07:44).
Then three adversaries in a helicopter begin firing upon Harry as he is trying to retrieve his daughter from the crane she is stranded on. He yaws the jet to his right and returns fire with another six or seven-second burst before the helicopter escapes behind another building (2:09:16). This was a fun trip to imagination-land where a Harrier carries an additional 1,000 rounds or so!
To be fair, “True Lies” is far from the first movie to take liberties with a weapon’s capacity, and it won’t be the last. But there’s another problem with these scenes besides the unlimited ammo cheat code: The Harrier’s GAU-12 runs on bleed air from the engine. While the jet is in its trademark hover, that bleed air is prioritized for use by the Reaction Control System (RCS) that keeps the jet from spinning out of control. My pilot source tells me that it would be “theoretically plausible” to squeeze off a few rounds before the gun jammed, if all the conditions (wind, temperature, weight distribution, fuel load) are perfect, but nothing like the firestorm Harry unleashes.
Hovering is incredibly difficult, for both pilot and jet
Making a 20,000-pound aircraft float on air is no simple task. From the pilot’s perspective, hours upon hours of training are necessary to master the skill, without even mentioning all of the time dedicated to conventional flight. Our hero, Harry Tasker, is evidently a former Harrier pilot. His partner, Gibb, conveniently informs us when he says, “Do you realize it has in fact been ten years since you’ve been behind the wheel of one of these things?”
Ten years… Harrier pilots have to train constantly and are required to qualify multiple times per year in various scenarios just to prove they are worthy of the cockpit. But Harry Tasker is one of the government’s top intelligence operatives. We can play along and cast aside that he hasn’t flown in a decade, because he’s basically a superhero capable of retaining skills at a level far above the average human. Fine, I’ll bite.
But unless “True Lies” takes place in the same universe as the “Terminator” franchise, and Harry becomes one with the jet because he is actually another cyborg sent from the future to prevent a nuclear war (wait a minute, that actually almost makes sense), then there are some things that even he couldn’t do. There is a sequence where Harry keeps the jet steady, while he is focused on trying to keep his daughter alive and also fending off a knife attack from Salim (2:10:15). My pilot source, in particular, takes issue with this:
“Hovering is very intensive with control inputs. There’s no way he let’s go of the stick for more than a couple seconds without the jet going into an irrecoverable situation.”
This is all before mentioning how taxing maintaining a hover is on the jet. Harry is only in a hover for about five minutes of movie time, which actually is line with the Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) flight manual that governs aviation for the Navy and Marine Corps. However, I asked my very helpful pilot about the stresses that would be placed on the jet in this action-packed sequence, and his expert opinion is that the engine would have flamed out at some point.
It would take a dissertation to explore all the different possibilities and permutations, but a brief summary will suffice for our purposes. There are only 90 seconds worth of water in the Harrier. This is both to cool the engine and to improve the aircraft’s performance in a hover, as it creates heavier air for the jet to produce upward thrust. Given the conditions, like increased weight due to ordnance (or children hanging from the nose), and warmer temperatures like you’d expect in Miami, the engine likely wouldn’t have the performance numbers to maintain a hover much longer than that 90-second window.
Then there’s the issue of fuel consumption. The Harrier consumes about 160-170 pounds of fuel per minute while in a hover. Once again accounting for conditions, our pilot says that “best-case scenario” is that Harry’s Harrier (hey, do you think they did that on purpose?) could only have had about 1,200 pounds of fuel remaining in order to be able to take off vertically. It is roughly a 100-mile flight from the end of Seven Mile Bridge to downtown Miami. Considering that time was of the essence in this situation, we can safely assume Harry was at full power and guzzling fuel along the way. Then he is in a hover for five to six minutes during the downtown battle, and all of this coming after a takeoff that is very demanding in itself. The numbers add up to Harry hitting “E” sometime before he safely lands on the street below.
Misunderstandings of the Harrier’s durability
Surprisingly, I’ll start with an instance of the movie actually underestimating the Harrier. The windscreen and canopy of Harry’s aircraft have the structural integrity of a lightbulb when they take a few rounds from an AK-47 (2:08:40), but there are plenty of videos online that show how bulletproof glass will stand up to that. It wouldn’t be in particularly good shape, and you wouldn’t be able to see much through it, but it would still be there.
That is where the slights of the Harrier ended, though. The average viewer of the movie snickers during Harry’s “rusty” take-off where he very likely would have obliterated his nose landing gear, bouncing it off the road and then running over a police car (2:02:25). Every Harrier maintainer, on the other hand, just grimaced and had flashbacks to conditional/hard landing inspections.
That being said, damage to the nose landing gear wouldn’t have jeopardized Harry’s impromptu mission. After all, Captain William Mahoney landed his Harrier on the USS Bataan in June 2014 without the use of his nose landing gear at all. Catastrophic damage to flight controls, on the other hand, would have given the movie a very different ending.
While Harry puts up his heroic fight to maintain control of the jet, the aircraft backs into another skyscraper, sending the entire aft portion of the aircraft crashing into a high-rise office (2:10:50). Skyscrapers, it turns out, are made of quality steel and glass, not paper mache. Harry pulls the jet back out of the wreckage and it’s no worse for the wear, while Harrier mechs everywhere threw up their hands and said “Oh, c’mon!”
In the aviation community, Harriers or otherwise, we were taught that pebbles and screws can take down an entire aircraft by getting into the intake or jamming up flight controls. It’s called FOD (foreign object debris), and we walk shoulder to shoulder across the flight line at least twice a day hunting for it like a reverse easter egg hunt (because you hope you don’t find anything).
So seeing no noticeable decline in performance after a significant impact with a sturdy building that surely would have caused severe damage to the vertical stablilzer, rudder, and rear RCS (at the very least), is a tough pill to swallow for anyone that got yelled at for forgetting their pen on the flight line.
More fun with weapons
There are a few other minor gripes with the movie’s depiction of the Harrier’s weapons that can’t really be proven or disproven, but still cause raised eyebrows for anyone who can’t just watch the damn movie and enjoy it. One thing my overthinking brain had to challenge was a Cherry Point, NC-based Harrier squadron “on maneuvers” out of Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West, as Gibb informs Harry (1:51:50). This part is rare, but not impossible. The two jets armed to the teeth with Mavericks, rockets, Sidewinders and gun pod for a training sortie? Now that’s where I draw the line, and my pilot source confirms:
“Carrying actual AIM-9 (Sidewinders) is super rare. I don’t know any Harrier pilot who has shot a live one… LMAVs are super expensive and rare to shoot as well. For training we typically get maybe one live one a year, if that. If it was a dedicated air to surface sortie, a more plausible loadout would be gun and 2x Mk-82 or GBU-12.”
Fast-forward again to when Harry is about to put an end to the terrorist threat for good. Right before he sends Crimson Jihad’s leader screaming through the air on a missile towards his comrades in the helicopter, he flicks the “Master Arm” switch on. This is a little strange considering he has fired the gun twice in the last few minutes, but maybe he’s just cautious and responsible, and flicked it off after both bursts. If Harry had a motto, it would be “safety first,” right? In fairness, this is the aviation equivalent of every movie bad guy chambering a round in their pistol because it’s cool and intimidating, even though they’d just eject a perfectly good round. Once again, “True Lies” is not the only guilty party on this one.
And finally, there is Salim being attached to the Sidewinder missile itself. The Sidewinder weighs about 190 pounds, and its propulsion system is designed for… 190 pounds. I am not aware of any tests where one was fired with roughly 200 pounds of dead weight attached to it, but it’s at least worth asking how much doubling up its weight and killing its aerodynamics would have on its performance. Where are the Mythbusters these days? I’ve got a job for them.
It’s all in fun
All of this being said, I’ll be the first to recognize some of these criticisms fall into “splitting hairs” territory. The movie is obviously very entertaining, and we Harrier folks still appreciate our fifteen minutes of movie fame from “True Lies” after being overshadowed by F-14s. And yes, veterans are sure to jump all over errors or omissions in military-themed movies, but we’ll also give credit where it’s due. We’re just here to keep you honest, Hollywood. You’re welcome.