LAAFB personnel go Hollywood in new 'Transformers' movie
By Alicia Garges , Space and Missile Systems Center Public Affairs
/ Published July 24, 2007
LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
This summer, you might be seeing a few familiar faces on a movie screen at your local multiplex. Besides some of Hollywood's biggest stars, you might catch a glimpse of some real-life Airmen in a summer blockbuster. Approximately 600 Airmen, including a number from Los Angeles Air Force Base, were used as extras in the "Transformers" movie.
Based on a 1980's toy line of vehicles that transform into robots, the movie was directed by Michael Bay of Pearl Harbor and Armageddon fame; produced by Steven Spielberg; and stars Shia LaBeouf, Jon Voight, Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson. In the film, good and evil robots bring their battle to Earth in search of the "All Spark" device. The film made more than $263 million in its first 17 days of release.
According to Air Force officials, the movie "presented an opportunity for us to highlight our capabilities to a worldwide audience. Besides showcasing sophisticated U.S. Air Force aircraft in the movie, we also helped develop one of the main characters -- a combat controller who displays our core values of integrity, service before self and excellence in all we do."
Although the film is science fiction, Air Force officials believed the film's director would depict a credible and realistic view of the military. It's one of the first major films to depict all the Armed Forces working together in a joint environment.
Military personnel extras portrayed members of all military services, as well as, civilians and government agents. A few had small speaking roles. In addition to manpower, real F-22As and CV-22S aircraft and real military installations played a prominent role in the film's production. Most of the military scenes depicting a joint base in Qatar were filmed on Holloman AFB and the Army's White Sand's Missile Range -- both located in New Mexico. Additional location shooting took place at Kirtland AFB, N.M., and Edwards AFB, Calif., the Hoover Dam and studios in Los Angeles. LAAFB personnel participated in scenes filmed here.
On June 14, 2006, 154 Airmen showed up for an open casting call held here on base. Filming took place during June and July 2006.
Lt. Col. Craig Plummer, Space and Missile Systems Center, portrayed the director of the Operations Center. Following a scene where the evil "Decepticons" robots hack into computer systems aboard Air Force One, his character informs the Secretary of Defense, played by Jon Voight, "Air Force One has landed."
"I have a new respect of how much work goes into getting the exact scene desired, Colonel Plummer said. "Overall a great experience and meeting Michael Bay was a real treat."
Second Lt. Travis Broadnax, 61st Air Base Wing, portrayed a Marine vault guard. In a Pentagon scene, the secretary of defense is handed a briefcase and goes into a secured room. Lieutenant Broadnax is seen guarding the door. He worked with Jon Voight and Megan Fox, who played a computer expert in the film.
"Jon Voight asked me, 'you look real, are you real?' I said I'm as real as they get, Jon. Truth is I was six years as an enlisted Marine Corps Infantry," Lieutenant Broadnax said.
Being a prior enlisted Marine, he was able to bring in his old uniform to wear and he was able to provide expertise on proper Marine Corps procedures. His suggestions were incorporated into the film, he said.
First Lt. Chris Mendoza, GPS Wing, wanted to be in the film because he was a fan of the toys in the 1980s and knew all the Transformers names and what vehicle they transform into. He played a military member working on top secret super computers. He can be seen scrambling in the background behind Jon Voight's character after the Decepticons hack into the Pentagon computer system a second time.
When asked about what surprised them the most about movie production, they all agreed, the long hours spent filming a very short film sequence.
"Twelve hours of work turns into about five minutes or less of screen time," Colonel Plummer said.
According to Lieutenant Broadnax, of the 10 hours he was on set, he really only worked for one hour total.
If the opportunity came up to be an extra again, they all agreed they would do it again. Colonel Plummer landed another speaking role in the upcoming "Iron Man" movie. The film, starring Terrance Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. is due out in May 2008. The Air Force is also providing support for this production.