USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- Twenty crew members from Columbia Pictures stepped aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), the mighty "Gold Eagle," in late January to spend six days filming for the upcoming major motion picture "Stealth," slated to debut in Summer 2005.
The feature film stars Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Josh Lucas and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sam Shepard, and portrays the introduction of three futuristic stealth fighters called "Talons" into the Navy. To further increase the new birds' success ratio, officials decide to use a supersonic unmanned version, lined with a breathable, titanium exo-skeleton. However, when technology goes haywire, Navy pilots are called in to save the day.
Choosing the right sea-going backdrop was not an easy task according to Kwame Parker, "Stealth" production supervisor.
"We looked at many ships, but we chose the Vinson primarily for two reasons: The ship and crew have experience dealing with film crews, and during those past interactions, the merge was easy," he said.
Keeping up the tradition of hospitality, all departments from the CVN 70 and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 team collaborated to provide round-the-clock food, safety gear and the strength of their own backs to ensure the 20-man Hollywood-style working party was able to capture what Parker called "the spirit of carrier life."
"We wanted to get 'behind-the-scenes' footage of not just the jets and technology, but the people, too," said Parker. "We were nervous at first, because we weren't sure how easy it would be to get the shots we needed. Once we started interacting with the Sailors, though, the merger became seamless. We had three or four Sailors helping us almost all the time, getting us safely where we needed to go. We could not have done it without their help."
The teamwork Parker described was most apparent when the crew hit what's commonly known as the world's most dangerous work center, an aircraft carrier's flight deck.
"It was the most intense when we were in between the 'bow cat,'" said Dave Niednagel, "Stealth's" visual effects artist. "The heat was blasting, and the looks on all the guys' faces were just priceless. Now I know what Kenny Loggins meant about the 'Danger Zone.'"
Volunteers from around the ship took joy in escorting the production team as they braved jet exhaust and 30-plus knots of wind, both testing the strength of the team's new sea legs. Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 1st Class (AW) Roberto Melendez, V-1 leading petty officer, was a key player in escorting the crew. He admits the task helped kill some preset stereotypes of "Hollywood people."
"I didn't think they would be as cool and down-to-Earth," said Melendez. "We were on the flight deck, and they let me look at some footage they just took. They asked my opinion and wanted to know if I would give it a 'thumbs up.' They called me their main man, and if they come back, I would love to be their main man again."
The buzz of the crew's visit seemed to stretch throughout the ship. Parker said the trip inspired a greater sense of patriotism in him, and after talking with Capt. Rick Wren, Carl Vinson's commanding officer, he felt as though he could conquer the world. He also spoke of how Hollywood may be able to benefit from future visits aboard Navy ships.
"The leadership seemed really cool, gentle, good-spirited and great with the crew under them," Parker said. "I was on such a high after talking with [Capt. Wren]. He's a great motivator."
Carl Vinson and CVW 9 recently completed carrier qualifications and sustainment training off the coast of Southern California.
For related news, visit the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn70.