Archive for May 16th, 2011

16
May
11

top gun, the 25th anniversary

poster

The date is May the 16th 1986, and Paramount Pictures releases the #1 smash hit of the Summer, “TOP GUN”.  This was an exceptionally exciting time because this was the first movie I worked on, and I drove from LA to Phoenix, Arizona on opening day to watch it in my favorite theater, The Cine Capri.  I find it so hard to believe that less than a year earlier I was a produce clerk at Bayless Markets and then all of a sudden my big dream of working in the movies was a reality.  It was a fast year to say the least and the whole experience of watching the movie and then seeing all of our names in the credits was very surreal!!!  I’m sure Doug, AKA Deg3D is going through this fantasy land experience as we speak with his starting in  Hollywood less than 6 months ago!!!  Go get em DEG!!!!

Writing this post brings back a lot of fun flashbacks and at the same time makes me realize I’m a lot older than I feel, HAAA! Anyways, Top Gun is the story of the best of the best Navy pilots that are hand picked to become even better pilots by training at Top Gun in Miramar, California. During a brief encounter with a Soviet Mig, Cruise and Edwards become legendary by making pretty close contact with the Soviet pilots.  Both men get awarded the chance to train at Top Gun.  A love story begins between Cruise and Navy advisor,  McGillis. and falls apart when drama unfolds as friends are lost.  Cruise has to cope with the fact that he feels responsible for his gunner’s death, and he is unable to operate as a pilot while carrying this heavy burden…Crisis arises at sea and Cruise has to pull himself together to help save his fellow airmen in an all out battle with the Soviets.  In the end victory is ours, love is rekindled and the sun sets on one awesome film!

The movie was the first big hit of the summer and became a world wide blockbuster that launched so many careers into super stardom.  Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan, Kelly McGillis, and Anthony Edwards to mention a few.  The Cold War was a big topic in the 80’s and this movie brought it to the forefront.  Full of action, drama, romance, and some incredible aerial sequences that still stand as a milestone to this day.  Director Tony Scott and his crew put together a beautiful film with its awesome color and pacing.  The score by Harold Faltermeyer and the songs by Kenny Loggins,  Berlin, Cheap Trick, Loverboy, and the classics by Jerry Lee Lewis and the righteous Brothers made for a perfect soundtrack full of top ten hits, and many of the hits produced some very cool music videos.  “Take my breath away” was the breakout hit by Berlin with beautiful vocals by lead singer Terri Nunn; the band was on their last years as a group, and they also had songs featured in “Space Balls”, and “Innerspace”.

The live action was being filmed in San Diego and Nevada, with the above deck sequences being filmed aboard the USS Enterprise CV-65 and interiors aboard the USS Ranger CV-61.  In the Bay area, the behind the scenes folks responsible for the visuals were gearing up for the second leg of the film. The VFX team did some amazing visual work that tied together beautifully with the live action Aeriel scenes. The master minds behind the FX was Special Effects supervisor, Gary Gutierrez, and Director of Photography, Rick Fichter.  The two had worked together previously on “The Right Stuff”, and the work they did on that film showed off their talents at creating incredibly real aircraft miniatures in flight that rivaled actual footage of the real planes.  USFX based out of San Francisco was the VFX house that would be used to build all the F-14’s and F-5 models for the flat spin and explosion scenes.  Chief Model Maker David Sosalla was running the crew, and we were working together at Apogee in Van Nuys, CA.  David was finishing up a project he had going in Southern CA before he could break free to go to the bay for Top Gun.  David would often borrow me from my Boss, Grant McCune, to run molds and to build little parts for him and when the time came for the big move up North, Dave asked If I would like to come too!!!!  YEAH!!!!  Everyday a new adventure would take place at Apogee and I was off to work on my first big movie.  This was about mid November when we started working on the planes and we were in a warehouse over looking the bay.  The building was freezing and the ventilation system was a fan in an open window.  After the icy introduction we were off and running on getting all of the planes built.  There were three sizes of the F-14’s, two nine foot planes, a bunch of 6 footers fashioned off of some ducted fan RC models by Larry Wolfe of Jet Hanger Hobbies, and then what seemed to be hundreds of 1/32 scale kits.  The F-5 soviet jets were also ducted fan models recast for the film.  The models were built at a frantic pace and everyday loads of them would be trucked off to the mountain top location in Oakland.  The models, once there, would be thrown off 80 foot manlift’s, spun on wires, blown up, shot at, and burned on a daily basis.  I went on location once to see these incredible events and within an hour I saw three of the jets miss the drop net and disintegrate into millions of tiny pieces!!!  The hill top was terribly cold and horribly windy and there was no shade nor shelter to stop the weather that cursed and beat everyone to death.  The filming schedule for our part of the film was relatively short and we wrapped out at noon on Christmas Eve.

This was one of those life changing times and filled with so many memories and new friends.  Long gone are the days of miniature crews and FX being done this way, and I am so glad that I was allowed to share in the fun of these golden times.  On film everything looked so incredible and the crew had really outdone themselves with these incredible visuals.  It was a real treat to work with Gary Gutierrez and I’ll always be a fan.  His work on “The Right Stuff” still stands as some of my favorite movie magic.  Working with David Sosalla and Rick Fichter would go on for many years to come and they were always great fun to do shows with.  Below are the names of the talented crew that put all of these FX together, and it would be so cool to catch up with everyone again.  With all that said, Happy 25th Anniversary to TOP GUN and to all of those that made it happen!

Special Effects by
Peter Cairo
….
special effects
Steven C. Foster
….
special effects (as Steve Foster)
Gary Gutierrez
….
supervisor of special photographic effects
Allen Hall
….
special effects coordinator
Robert G. Willard
….
special effects
Marvin Gardner
….
special effects assistant (uncredited)
Jamie Hyneman
….
special effects crew (uncredited)
Mike Menzel
….
special effects technician (uncredited)

Visual Effects by
David Carothers
….
model maker: USFX
Samuel Comstock
….
animator: USFX (as Sam Comstock)
Stuart Cudlitz
….
model maker: USFX
John Eaves
….
model maker: USFX
Rick Fichter
….
director of photography: USFX
Whitney Green
….
production manager: USFX
William Groshelle
….
animation supervisor: USFX
Donald Hansard Sr.
….
process coordinator (as Don Hansard Sr.)
Don Hansard
….
process engineer (as Don Hansard Jr.)
Marghi McMahon
….
model maker: USFX (as Marghe McMahon)
Ted Moehnke
….
pyrotechnician: USFX
Earle Murphy
….
model maker: USFX
Kjell Ness
….
assistant model maker: USFX
Allessandro Palladini
….
assistant model maker: USFX
Mitchell Romanauski
….
assistant model maker: USFX
Steve Sanders
….
model maker: USFX (as Steven Sanders)
David Sosalla
….
model department supervisor: USFX
Wes Takahashi,

from the film, the old Paramount logo

the story

the title

the beautiful opening images on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise

F-14 launch

CV-65

incredible LIVE action areial scenes, no CGI here

awesome

encounter with a Mig

Filmed like George Miller's Mad Max trilogy only in the air. awesome shots and incredible lighting

Edwards and Cruise

Val Kilmer

the wooing of McGillis

romance is in the air

the boys are always in trouble and have to get their do from Tom Skerrit

A very young Meg Ryan

death on the high seas

Tony Scott's incredible lighting added so much to the mood and feel of the film as seen in this spectacular image

a row of Tomcats at Miramar

more of Scott's magic

the greatest shot in the world. the tail mounted camera as the F-14 launches from the deck and rolls into battle

a victorious return

the boys are a back and the sunsets with the end of 1986's Top Gun!!!

the VFX maestro, Gary Gutierrez

the world famous Rick Fichter

the F-5 at USFX, hey I have hair in this pic!!!!

David Sosalla

Mitch Romanauski and Steve Sanders work on one of the 6 foot F-14's

Stave sanders on the set

launching missiles

the F-14 takes a bow

the falling F-5

one of the VFX cameras equiped with the shaking drill addition for those bumpy looking shots

off the man lift

3

2

1

getting ready for the wire rigged flat spin

1/12th scale F-104 cockpit models were used!

ready, set,,,,,

GO!!!!!!

Mitch, Earle, and Gary discuss the shot




May 2011
M T W T F S S
« Apr   Jun »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 217 other followers