NORFOLK Va. (NNS) -- SH-60 helicopters are making high-speed landings on the flight deck. Embassy personnel, Marines and SEAL Team members jog to the safety of the island structure and rainbow side boys post to greet a U.S. ambassador as he clings to an American flag tucked under his arm.
This scene may have all the elements of a successful mission to evacuate an embassy if not for the cameras, microphones and more than 70 production crewmembers on hand to capture every frame.
Upon closer scrutiny, the SEAL team commander bears a striking resemblance to actor Bruce Willis and the ambassador looks remarkably like the ship's Senior Medical Officer, Cmdr. Lee Mandel.
The Navy's newest aircraft carrier was recently transformed into center stage for the upcoming movie, "Tears of the Sun."
USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) will be portraying a carrier forward-deployed in the Atlantic after a military coup overthrows the government of Nigeria.
The movie's producer, Ian Bryce, known for such films as Saving Private Ryan and Spider Man, said shooting aboard a floating airport was not logistically difficult.
"It wasn't as hard as some people might imagine," he said. "Given your immense capacity for logistics, it dwarfs what we normally do for a movie. It actually went smoothly because you were asking us the types of questions we normally ask ourselves."
The stars, including Tom Skerritt, of Top Gun fame, and Eamonn Walker, known for his role as Kareem Said in the HBO series Oz, were as fascinated by the men and women of HST as the crewmembers are of Hollywood.
"Being out here was a real eye opener for me," said Willis. "This really is a floating city with more people than I think we have in my little town in Idaho."
The carrier and crew left a lasting impression on the world-famous actor.
"From the captain on down, I was impressed with the amount of training that goes into running the thousands of systems you have here. It makes me smile when I think of this ship parked off the coast of another country and the influence it provides."
Willis plays the part of a SEAL team commander, tasked with rescuing workers from the American embassy in Abuja.
To prepare for the role, he worked closely with former Navy SEAL Harry Humphries.
"We spent a lot of time trying to get in the mindset of a SEAL and worked hard to portray the right attitude," Willis said.
Following the 14-hour day of shooting on the flight deck, the SEAL team actors took time to sign autographs in the hangar bay. The session wrapped up after two hours with many Sailors still standing in line. Before leaving, Willis took the time to meet and shake hands with every single person that stood waiting.
"These men and women are out here for months at a time, defending our version of a free and democratic society. For me, taking the extra time was no big deal and allowed me to give something back," he said.
The scenes shot aboard HST also included some less famous "stars," HST crewmembers. The embassy personnel, several Marines, the ambassador and his wife were all played by the men and women assigned to the carrier.
"It was interesting and I had a lot of fun," said Chief Aviation Electronics Technician (AW) Jay Bachrach. "It took a lot of planning and coordinating for each scene to work out right."
The ship also paved new ground during filming when a civilian helicopter landed on the flight deck. The helicopter was used to capture images of the ship as it pushed through the water as well as the military helicopters landing and taking off from the flight deck. This was the first time a non-military helicopter operated from HST.
The two-day production wrapped up just before HST returned to Norfolk following a carrier qualification period. The ship has been operating off the coast of Florida, assisting new pilots in earning their carrier landing qualifications.
In just a few weeks, the HST battle group will enter the largest phase of the workup cycle which will include two Tailored Ships Training Availabilities, a Composite Training Exercise, Final Exam Period and a Joint Task Force Exercise.
Although none of these exercises will hold the glamour of shooting a major motion picture, they will bring HST further along the road to deployment. 'Tears of the Sun' is due to be released in the summer of 2003.
For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), go to their custom NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75.