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About The Production
Before filming could begin, the cast and crew had to become acquainted with their subject matter. While the true stories of the Lafayette Escadrille boast all the elements of an epic motion picture, the logistics of staging an authentically detailed view of aerial combat made film re-creations difficult and dangerous, if not impossible, until now.

"One of the things that filmmakers could never really do in any movies that dealt with early aerial combat was to have the airplanes fly as close as they really did," says Devlin. "Almost as many pilots in World War I were killed by collision as by bullets, and that kind of close proximity we haven't been able to show in films before, because to film it would be too dangerous. Now, with digital technology we can do it. We can do the moves the pilots did. We can show how close they got to each other. We can make you feel like you're really in those battles."

To prepare for their roles cast members took a series of aviation classes to familiarize themselves with the aircraft and equipment, and like the real-life pilots, the transition was abrupt. "I forced them into training in planes just like their characters," says Bill. "I've also talked to them about the realities of flying aerobatics and the manner in which pilots conduct themselves when they are not flying, how they talk about their hands, and things to expect in the air. Then we took them up, each of them, for two or three flights a day and filmed them in a real, open-cockpit aerobatic airplane, flown by our chief pilot Nigel Lamb. He's an 8- time British National Aerobatic Champion. I had him do everything: rolls, loops, spins.”

Like their characters, the actors began not knowing much about airplanes and learned as they went along. Their lessons were designed to prepare the actors to fly and add authenticity to their characters.

"They're not just sticking us in front of a green screen," says Winchester. "They're going to take us up and scare the crap out of us. The entire time, they're going to be filming us, so that's part of the excitement. We'll be going through those stunts and those aerobatics and also acting up there. Only thing is, I will be gripping the seat, scared to death, so it'll be perfect on screen."

Other actors were more open to the flight experiences, such as Martin Henderson: "I remember being in primary school and drawing pictures of biplanes and like a lot of young boys, at one point, I wanted to be an Air Force fighter pilot," he says. "Now, I get to realize that in make-believe." Henderson has also trained to pilot twin-engine planes for an Australian television series. "That gave me a level of comfort with being around the planes and the scenes we were actually gonna have to film up there in the air."

The openness of the cockpit was another revelation to most. "It's surprising how insecure you are," says co-star Christien Anholt. "You're doing loops, going upside down, and you've only got a seat belt, no parachute. There's nothing around you, protecting you." Bill was aware that the experience was a necessity to get his actors ready for the film's many stunts. "Frankly, I don't think any of them are going to know what it's like until they get in the seat of an open-cockpit biplane and get up in the sky and get turned around upside down a few times." It wasn't all thrills, either: Bill had to tell the actors, "If you're gonna throw up, thrown up over the side so it looks real."

Devlin and Bill believe that fellow actors and pilots Franco, Henderson and Ellison gave the rest of the cast a confidence boost. "I think they still have a little bit of nerves about the fact that they're in these fragile airplanes doing wild gyrations in the sky, but they're all willing to do it," says Devlin. "Tony casting David Ellison, who is an exp

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