Guard stand-in climbs into Skycrane
An Alaska Army National Guardsman acting as a stand-in for the upcoming movie “Everybody Loves Whales” is seen climbing the ladder of a CH-54 Skycrane helicopter during filming at Bryant Army Airfield, Oct. 4. Stand-ins are used as temporary replacements for stars, providing the production crew a chance to rehearse before filming.

CAMP DENALI, Alaska (Oct. 12, 2010) - The Alaska National Guard is working closely with production crews in the filming of a Universal Studios movie based on a whale rescue that captured the world's attention near the end of the Cold War.

The movie "Everybody Loves Whales," starring well-known actors Drew Barrymore, Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, John Krasinski, Dermott Mulroney and Vinessa Shaw, brings together a Hollywood storyline with the true tale of how people from around the globe came together in 1988 to free three gray whales trapped in arctic sea ice 18 miles northeast of Barrow.

The stranded whales were discovered Oct. 7, 1988 by an Alaska Inupiat hunter after changing weather conditions and shifting ice trapped them in shallow water before they began their journey south to warmer waters.

At the forefront of this international incident, the Alaska National Guard was pivotal in its role to help free the whales using a CH-54 Skycrane helicopter, while working closely with members of President Ronald Reagan's administration and with the former Soviet Union.

Twenty-two years later, Hollywood has come to Alaska and has asked the Alaska National Guard to assist them in the filming of the movie.

"We usually have a Department of Defense representative from our Los Angeles office providing the coordination, advice and daily assistance to the production company," said Vicente "Vince" Ogilvie, deputy director of entertainment media, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. "However, for 'Everybody Loves Whales,' that role is being provided by the Alaska National Guard."

A team of Alaska National Guard memnrtd work daily to assist the production team with the military scenes to ensure the accuracy, attention to detail and correct portrayal of the Alaska National Guard in 1988.

"It's great to work with Alaska National Guardsmen because they are part of the true story," said David Linck, unit publicist and spokesman for "Everybody Loves Whales." "If it wasn't for National Guardsmen like Tom Carroll this may have never happened."

Carroll, former commander of the Alaska Army National Guard, who tragically died in a plane crash in 1992, is the inspiration for Dermott Mulroney's character in the movie, Col. Boyer. He was an Alaska Army National Guardsman who played a pivotal role during the whale rescue.

"It's important we get this right and even though we're not making a documentary, we're still doing a story of real events that happened in 1988 in Barrow," Linck said. "It's always a plus working with the military because this lends us an err of truth."

With scenes being shot all over Alaska, Guardsmen are definitely getting their opportunity to assist in the filming of the movie.

Just ask Alaska National Guardsman, 2nd Lt. Bernie Kale, who interacts with the cast and crew daily as one of two Department of Defense project officers or Pfc. Karina Paraoan, who is one of many Guardsmen cast as an extra in the movie. They are getting the chance at a once in a lifetime experience and are enjoying every minute of it.

"It's an honor to be a part of this project," Kale said. "The production company is a pleasure to work with and they are very open to our suggestions. The fact they also want to use Alaska National Guard members as extras and have enlisted our help to make sure every military scene is accurate, speaks volumes to their desire in wanting to get it right."

The movie also presents a key opportunity to highlight the National Guard, a first according to Ogilvie.

"In my tenure, this is the first movie centered on a mission that was exclusively National Guard and supported by the National Guard," Ogilvie said. "This movie presented us a unique opportunity to work with the production company, and the support from them and the Alaska National Guard has been phenomenal."

The feeling is mutual and is reflected in the attention to detail, accuracy and portrayal of the National Guard by the production company.

"We're very happy to work with the Alaska National Guard. We have been treated well and I hope it's a relationship that continues to grow for the film community and the National Guard here in Alaska," Linck said.

"Everybody Loves Whales" will film in Alaska until late November with a scheduled release to movie theaters in 2012.

(Maj. Guy Hayes serves with the Alaska National Guard.)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16