The 'reel' Army
November 24, 2009
The summer movie season can be filled with action-packed, blockbuster movies. The 2009 season was no exception, presenting audiences with "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," and "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra." The hordes of '80s children who gleefully cheered on the giant robots and elite military teams may not realize how involved the Army was in helping make these movies.
Army liaisons from both coasts were present on the movie sets to help make dialogue authentic, demonstrate how to hold and fire a weapon, and provide general tips and real equipment.
Lieutenant Col. Gregory Bishop of Army Public Affairs-West was the film liaison officer for both movies. He helped coordinate logistics for the films, making sure dialogue and uniforms were straight, and helped with parts of postproduction on "G.I Joe."
<b>"G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" </b>
The film stars Sienna Miller, Marlon Wayans, Dennis Quaid and Channing Tatum, among others, and is about the elite G.I. Joe team. They use not only the latest in military equipment, but "next generation" weapons, too, while battling a corrupt arms dealer named Destro and the rising Cobra organization.
Bishop also made sure Soldiers were on-set daily to help filmmakers. Chief Warrant Officer 4 John "Buzz" Covington was one of those Soldiers. Covington was with the 21st Cavalry Brigade when he helped film a scene for "G.I. Joe" at Fort Hood, Texas.
Covington, who has been in the Army for about 15 years, is an AH-64D Apache Longbow pilot.
"I was approached to work as a liaison officer with Paramount in August of 2008, and provided them with assistance in finding suitable locations for filming some B-stock for the new 'G.I. Joe' movie," Covington explained.
The producer decided to film some scenes at Fort Hood in an empty hanger. The Army provided director Stephen Sommers and the film crew with an Apache helicopter, extras and help with uniforms and the script.
"I was asked to look over the script, and the director was very receptive to all of the changes I suggested to ensure a more authentic portrayal of an Apache combat flight," Covington said.
The crew filmed two Apaches taking off for an actual mission, as well as filming a third in front of a green screen.
"It was a very long day. Most of us ended up working 18 hours that day," he said.
Because of his expertise, Covington was able to get a little bit of screen time, and even a few lines-which he said was very exciting. Unfortunately, he went to Iraq shortly before the film was released, but said his wife, Maj. Darcy Saint-Amant, said "she was amazed to see how big my face was on the big screen" after the movie premiered.
"The Army is the good guy in this movie," Bishop said, "It shows a fantasy version of the Army, but it captures the Army's values of duty, honor and country."
<b>"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"</b>
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" begins with the Decepticons returning to Earth to take Shia LaBeouf's character, Sam Witwicky, prisoner. The Autobots must team up with Earth's military forces to defeat the Decepticons and save Sam and the rest of humankind.
Megan Fox, Tyrese Gibson and Josh Duhamel also reprise their roles from the first film.
About 20 Soldiers from the 5th Brigade, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, traveled to White Sands Missile Range, N.M., to help director Michael Bay with battle scenes for the film. Among those Soldiers were 1st Lt. John Auger and Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Buettner. They coordinated equipment and tasking details for the Army's support of the film and gave directions to drivers of tracked vehicles via radio.
One day, Auger and Buettner were transmitting orders to the Soldiers driving on camera when Bay asked Auger to be in the movie.
"They asked me to take off my sunglasses," Auger said. "They said 'Yep, you've got good eyes-get out there, lieutenant!'"
"It was an interesting and fun experience to be a part of," Buettner said of the filming, "It's really cool to be able to see the movie and realize how we witnessed the filming of the scenes."
In a separate interview for Military.com, Fox and Duhamel praised the Soldiers and other servicemembers for their contributions.
"We spent a few days out there, stayed overnight with the troops and learned all about it," Duhamel said, "all the basics of learning how to handle a gun, how to shoot the weapon and how to do a lot of basic things."
"It just makes it feel more legitimate when you walk on the set and there's 100 real Soldiers as opposed to 100 actors," Fox added.
The Soldiers reciprocated the appreciation. "The actors, mainly Duhamel and Tyrese, thanked us for what we do for the country," Auger said. "It was very humbling from our perspective. To have these famous people appreciate us was a very heartfelt thing."
The Transformers movie "was one of the largest joint films made with the military; it is a great film and the Soldiers had a lot of fun doing it," Bishop said.
"G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra" and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" are both available on DVD and Blu-ray disc. Watch the movies and see if you can spot the real Soldiers on the screen.