The rebuilt flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Leyte was filled Friday with classic military aircraft, along with actors, directors and technicians that are part of the Korean War-era film “Devotion.” The $90-million major-motion picture is filming several action scenes at the Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport for the next few weeks.
On Friday, hundreds of the film crew and extras shot scenes for the movie that is based on true life events surrounding the story of Jesse L. Brown and Thomas Hudner.
Brown, born in rural Mississippi, was the first African American to complete the Navy’s basic flight training program for pilot qualification and to be designated a naval aviator. Hudner was a white New Englander who decided to become a Navy pilot rather than attend Harvard University.
The two became friends and wingmen in the same fighter squadron.
In December 1950, Ensign Brown took off from the aircraft carrier USS Leyte in a Vought F4U-4 Corsair for a mission the Chosin Reservoir area of North Korea. Antiaircraft fire struck the Corsair and Brown crash-landed his plane on the side of a mountain in the snow.
Flying over the crash site, then Lieutenant Hudner saw Brown had not gotten out of the cockpit and decided to emergency crash land his plane next to Brown to see if he could help his friend.
The movie, which is based on a book of the same name by Adam Makos that was published in 2014, tells the story of Brown and Hudner.
Devotion is being produced by Black Label Media, which, among other movies, has produced the well-known films “La La Land” and “Sicario.” It will star Jonathan Majors, who is known for the HBO series “Lovecraft Country, as Brown, and Glen Powell, who was in the films “Hidden Figures” and the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick,” as Hudner. Also, pop star Joe Jonas will be part of the supporting cast in his first feature role.
Filming for Devotion, which, according to the “Deadline” web site, has a $90 million budget, began in Savannah last month and has filmed in the Bloomingdale area, as well.
But, prior to the start of any filming, a massive replica of the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Leyte was constructed on a back runway at the Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport to serve as a backdrop for various action sequences.
Producers chose the Statesboro airport over several other possible locations around the country and one in Mexico.
Although Brown perished in the incident, Hudner survived the war and retired from the Navy after 26 years of service, passing away in 2017 at 93.
The two men even have ships named for them. The USS Jesse L. Brown was launched in 1972, while the USS Thomas Hudner was commissioned in 2018.