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About The Characters
The real-life Lafayette Escadrille was commanded by French Captain Georges Thenault, who had a handful of Americans assigned to him as pilots: Kiffin Rockwell, James McConnell, Norman Prince, Victor Chapman, Laurence Rumsey, Bert Hall, William Thaw and Elliot Cowdin. These men were soon joined by additional pilots, creating a core group of 38. Some of the most famous names include James Norman Hall (coauthor of the classic novel Mutiny on the Bounty), the legendary Frank Luke, and Raoul Lufbery, a Frenchman born in America who became the squadron's first ace. Eventually, some 265 young Americans served as pilots for the French, as the Escadrille expanded into the Lafayette Flying Corps. FLYBOYS focuses on the group of young Americans who served from 1916 to 1918, and combines many of the colorful real-life characters in this story about an original and diverse group of heroes.

"They were all very young and innocent," says Bill. "Most of them were barely out of college and some were teenagers. If they lived more than six weeks they were considered a veteran. We didn't want 35-year olds playing these kids, so casting our actors was the culmination of a lot of thought.”

Bill and Devlin chose to make the film independently so they could get the best actors for the roles, rather than have studio pressures for name actors and stars. "We wanted to hire great actors, whether they were famous like Jean Reno and James Franco, or if they were new stars who we've never seen before, like Jennifer Decker," says Devlin. "We wanted audiences to be immersed in the story, in the film, and often big names affect that. This is a movie about the characters, not the actors playing these characters. The one thing our actors have in common is that they bring humanity to the part, they pull you in."

James Franco portrays Blaine Rawlings, the Texan farm boy who finds himself flying for the French. "I jumped at the opportunity to play a character who embodies a lot of strength in a classic kind of film," says Franco. "Frankly, nowadays, a lot of the roles I see around are these weak, scummy young guys, and that is not as appealing to me. This was a big, romantic, dynamic film. I wanted to be a part of it."

"This is a huge movie," says Martin Henderson, who portrays Cassidy, a character loosely based on the American-born ace Raoul Lufbery. "It has strong characters and says a lot about relationships and love and friendship and death. Yet, it's also an action movie with planes diving across the skies, shooting at each other, going down in flames and crashing into each other." As the veteran of the group, Cassidy is at first rigid and unwelcoming to the new pilots. Filmmakers discovered that often veteran fighter pilots would not even speak to the new pilots until they had been there for a month or so. "There was just the assumption they'd be dead, so why get to know somebody who's not going to be around?" says Devlin. "They were hesitant to make friends because it was so painful to lose them."

"For all our characters, the war in the air is sobering and it's not what they were expecting," says Bill. "That's what I've consistently read in the letters home from these men. Yet, their experience is infused with this sense of adventure and romance. Some of these letters were full of, 'Gosh, I can't believe I'm here and this is so great. And flying is so great. I had a couple of accidents last week, but no problem. So don't worry about me.' Then, a few days later, he's dead."

Ingenious, daring, resourceful, reckless and determined, the young Americans of the Escadrille were a rare breed, and the actors playing them were in awe of what they learned. "What those men did was at another level," says Abdul Salis, who portrays fighter Eugene Skinner, based on Eugene Bullard, the first African-American com

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