: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Liam NeesonDirector
: Peter Berg Genre
: Action, AdventureSynopsis
: Peter Berg (Hancock) produces and directs Battleship, an epic action-adventure that unfolds across the seas, in the skies and over land as our planet fights for survival against a superior force. Based on Hasbro's classic naval combat game, Battleship stars Taylor Kitsch as Hopper, a Naval officer assigned to the USS John Paul Jones; Brooklyn Decker as Sam, a physical therapist and Hopper's fiancée; Alexander Skarsgård as Hopper's older brother, Commanding Officer Stone of the USS Samson; Rihanna as Lt. Raikes, Hopper's crewmate and a weapons specialist on the USS John Paul Jones, and international superstar Liam Neeson as Hopper and Stone's superior (and Sam's father), Admiral Shane.
Berg directs this epic action-adventure also produced by Scott Stuber (Couples Retreat), Sarah Aubrey (The Kingdom), Brian Goldner and Bennett Schneir of Hasbro (the Transformers franchise), along with Duncan Henderson (Master and Commander) and Jeffrey Silver (300). The film is written by Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber (Red).Release Date
: April 18th, 2012Old Gray Lady: Lensing on a Real Battleship
Filming on the massive set pieces of Battleship commenced on location in Oahu, with the project marking Peter Berg's second directorial effort in Hawaii. The state had previously doubled for the Brazilian jungle in his 2003 action hit, The Rundown.
While there were many reasons for choosing Hawaii as the film's backdrop, Scott Stuber cites its storied history in the annals of WWII, where battleships were instrumental to the Allies' efforts in the Pacific battle theater, as well as the poignancy of this location that so changed the course of mankind. He explains: "We set our story at Pearl Harbor so we could honor these historical references. We also cast actual WWII Navy veterans, and we brought back the iconic WWII battleship, USS Missouri, and gave it a key role." The producer reflects on the poignancy of Japan and America's modern-day partnership. "Every year, the RIMPAC exercises serve as a reminder of how far we've come. Now, in Battleship, to watch American and Japanese sailors working closely together to fight a common enemy was quite a powerful visual for all involved in the production." A Football Field at Sea
The massive crew shot a great deal of footage on U.S. Navy ships at sea over an extended period of time. Amazingly, the production was afforded access to five different destroyers during the film's production, allowing them the opportunity to observe ships at sea and in port, as well as a glimpse into the lives of the young men and women who serve their country.
Producer Duncan Henderson (along with his longtime colleague, co-producer Todd Arnow) brought a couple hundred members of the cast and crew out on the high seas for more than a week of filming at the immediate outset of the shooting schedule. Discussing the decision, Duncan Henderson shares: "We scouted in Australia's Gold Coast, but we went with Hawaii. That added so much realism. We talked about completely working in a tank because of this particular water work. But, once we were in Hawaii, we could go out on the ocean, and that opened up the picture because Peter Berg would not have been able to get that look just by working in a tank. Plus, we got amazing footage."
The scenes on the Pacific, a mile or so offshore on Oahu's leeward (or dry) side of the island, included the crucial moment when Hopper and his crew (including Raikes and Beast)-while manning a Navy rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB)-circle a mysterious piece of floating debris to ascertain its origins. The sequences marked more time in which the production would film on the open seas. Indeed, their RIMPAC experience happened prior to the official start of production, their work on USS Missouri was during production and an embedded shoot for two days at sea on the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln occurred during postproduction.
Duncan Henderson and Todd Arnow have helped create 10 feature films together during the past two decades, with several of them stunning epics set on water (including Poseidon, The Perfect Storm and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World). So, the men were hardly wet behind the ears when it came to the challenge of filming key moments of the story that were set on ocean waters that are several hundred feet deep. They proposed something that they had never tried before
and it was a big ask.
That idea was to rent a massive barge that was almost the length of a football field and sail it into the ocean. This way, Berg and cinematographer Tobias Schliessler could stage the scenes at one end of the vessel as it faced out into the open waters. On this side of the barge, Oscar®-winning special-effects supervisor Burt Dalton-constructed a 70-ton gimbal that simulated the part of the aliens' broken ship drifting in the ocean.
On the opposite end of the vessel, the crew was able to house the tons of vehicles and equipment needed to facilitate the week's work. The floating soundstage anchored offshore for the entire week, with cast and personnel shuttled daily out to the barge via a network of boats which ran like a flotilla of water taxis all day long.
Discussing the ingenious idea, Duncan Henderson relays: "This approach was unique because we were using the front edge of the barge as our stage space and everything else at the other end was there to support the shoot. There was also a little bit of luck involved. We didn't have big ocean swells and we didn't have rain, probably because we shot in Hawaii during the driest part of its seasons."
Once they completed their water work, the company landed at Pearl Harbor, the historic working naval base where 12,000 sailors live and work alongside another 8,000 air force personnel at the adjoining Hickam Air Force Base. Pearl Harbor is visited by thousands annually who pay their respects to USS Arizona (BB-39) Memorial. One of the battleships bombed by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, the Arizona's remains reside at the bottom of the harbor. It is also the final resting place of the 1,177 sailors who perished on the vessel, whose attack provoked America's entry into WWII. Brief History of USS Missouri
While USS Arizona did not play a part in the film, one of her sister ships, USS Missouri (now a floating museum called the Battleship Missouri Memorial), served as a key location for the company over a weeklong stretch in early September 2010. Production was so massive that the popular and busy tourist attraction was shut down for four of the seven days the company used the ship as a backdrop.
Nicknamed "Mighty Mo," the Missouri is an Iowa-class battleship and the last such vessel ever built by the U.S. Navy. Named for the home state of President Harry S. Truman, the Missouri was built at the Brooklyn Navy yard in 1941, launched on January 29, 1944, and commissioned into battle on June 11, 1944.
The ship weighs 45,000 tons, stretches for 887.2 feet in length (a few feet shy of the Titanic) and originally housed 2,700 officers and sailors. The vessel was reactivated in 1984, years after her prior service in Korea in the 1950s. To modernise her, the Navy refitted the Missouri with contemporary armament and electronics, with housing capacity reduced to 1,851 sailors. She saw her final action in the Gulf War of 1991.
Arriving at Pearl Harbor on December 29, 1944, USS Missouri was engaged in some great battles off the shores of Japan in the latter months of WWII. On April 11, 1945 (the day before Truman became president), a low-flying kamikase, although fired upon, crashed on Missouri's starboard side, just below her main deck level. Flames ignited a gasoline fire in gun mount No. 3.
The battleship suffered only superficial damage, and the fire was quickly extinguished. The remains of the pilot were recovered on board the ship. Out of respect for the fallen Japanese flyer, the Missouri's captain, William Callaghan, commissioned a funeral at sea with military honors. Indeed, William Callaghan recognised his heroic, but failed, efforts, even as one of the enemy. The dent in the side of the ship remains to this day and is one of the intriguing tourist attractions on the vessel.
Barely four months later, USS Missouri made history when the Japanese surrendered to Allied forces (led by Adm. Chester Nimitz and Army General Douglas MacArthur) in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. Production had not yet started on the Missouri Memorial when the U.S. government and Hawaii held a commemorative ceremony on September 2, 2010, marking the 65th anniversary of the end of WWII.
Decommissioned on March 31, 1992, USS Missouri served for a brief period in the Navy's reserve fleet stationed in Bremerton, Washington. In 1998, the Navy donated the vessel to USS Missouri Memorial Association in Honolulu, where she sits today, a floating museum anchored on Ford Island, adjacent to the naval base on Battleship Row. Her presence in Pearl Harbor, across the waters from USS Arizona Memorial, is a fitting resting place for the "Mighty Mo." Massive bookends, the pair of battleships represents the beginning and end of America's involvement in the Second World War. Taking Her Out in the Pacific
Following $18 million worth of maintenance and preservation work in the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, the Missouri returned on January 7, 2010, to her home pier near USS Arizona Memorial. Sporting a refurbished hull, fresh coat of paint, and state-of-the-art cathodic protection and humidity detection technologies, the ship is now fortified against corrosion for decades to come (thus far, more than three million visitors have paid their respects to the "Mighty Mo" since it opened as a museum in 1998).
While production would not commence for another eight months, taking the Missouri out for a spin was way too good of an opportunity to pass up. Filming for the movie "unofficially" began on January 8, 2010, less than 24 hours after the Missouri returned from dry dock. At 9:25 a.m. that day, the Missouri shoved off once again for preliminary filming on Battleship. Peter Berg and the production team worked with the nonprofit USS Missouri Memorial Association to take advantage of the ship's narrow window of availability after its return from dry-dock and before reopening to visitors.
Towed by tugboats, the battleship was maneuvered well outside Pearl Harbor, coasting approximately two miles offshore of Waikiki Beach. Her historic, albeit brief, "voyage" out to sea was an image not seen since the ship's arrival in Hawaii in 1998. Many surmised it would mark the gray lady's final sail.
"Taking the Missouri out to sea for filming was a case of being in the right place at the right time," states Keith Demello, who works with MMA, the nonprofit organisation that oversees the legendary ship. "It took a great deal of effort by all parties to make it happen. Mr. Berg's scout of Pearl Harbor in preparation for filming happened to coincide with the Missouri being in dry dock for the first time in 17 years. The fact that the Missouri was going to be 'underway' at all was unique."
"USS Missouri plays a very big role in the movie," reflects Sarah Aubrey about the gargantuan battleship, which made history yet again in conjunction with the film production. "First, our ability to get a battleship in the movie was thrilling. Especially this battleship, the Missouri, which is where the Japanese surrendered in World War II. Yet, we had the opportunity, while it was moving from dry dock to its permanent berth, to take it out on to the open ocean. Because the engines are now disabled, it was towed."
Sarah Aubrey adds: "The men who were aboard the ship that day were some who had fought on the Missouri, worked on that ship, had repaired it and kept it in such glorious working shape all these years. You could tell how overjoyed they were, so excited having never thought they would see the 'Mighty Mo' on the ocean again. We felt extraordinarily lucky that we were able to be part of that as well."
"When the filmmakers saw the Missouri, they realised that she's this grand old dame who is very much loved by the people who run and maintain her," affirms the film's veteran location manager, Michael Meehan, another longtime Duncan Henderson associate. "So, they decided to bring her into the movie." Michael Meehan marvels: "We were standing at Pearl Harbor, then looking out over the harbor to the deck of the Missouri. In one visual element, you see the beginning and end of World War II."
Adds Duncan Henderson: "It was a great honor being on this ship. Just the size of the Missouri itself is daunting. The production value we got working on any of the Navy ships was tremendous, and being in Hawaii was just visually rewarding."
For the producers from Hasbro, it was truly a dream come true. Explains Schneir: "We found an answer to the question we'd been asking ourselves during development: 'How do you make a movie called Battleship when there are no more battleships in the military?' We wanted to use a battleship as the hero ship that saves the world. We then learned that USS Missouri, which is now a floating museum, could be repurposed and repositioned into active service.
"We added the Missouri as a critical plot element and character in the movie," Schneir continues. "We were on the Missouri for two weeks shooting in September. But, before production even began, in January 2010, we were able to tow USS Missouri off of its dry-dock and into open water...with great anxiety from the Navy and the studio. Yet, it went off without a hitch. We had fabulous weather that day, perfect conditions, and we were able to get shots of the Missouri out in open water, which ILM later used to create some of the amazing visuals in the third act of the movie." A Cast of Thousands: Players and Locations
It was crucial to the cast and crew that the action-adventure honor the generation of sailors that set the precedent for the decades of freedom we have enjoyed. Scott Stuber reflects: "We have a big movie with aliens, stuff being blown up and all those things that make for a true summer blockbuster. But thematically, we want to also pay homage to our heroes and what they achieved." Working with "Old Salts"
It was a unique opportunity for the cast not only to set foot on a true battleship, but also one with such an illustrious history. Alexander Skarsgård shares: "It was amazing. When we shot our scenes, we had a bunch of veterans who were on the Missouri in World War II. To be on that ship with those guys and hear their stories was a humbling experience."
"Filming on the Missouri was incredible," echoes Taylor Kitsch. "We talked to Norman McClafferty, who was part of the 'Old Salts' speech scene with my character. He was on USS Oklahoma [BB-37], but he won a coin toss and was transferred before the bombings. Seeing him relive that, then working with us on the Missouri, was incredible. As an actor, I felt lucky to share those moments with these men."
"I was aboard the Oklahoma, and the only reason I'm sitting here today is because of a flip of a coin," says 90-something Norman McClafferty. The Navy veteran, who is retired in Hawaii, answered a casting call from extras casting coordinator Judith Bouley to play one of the 3,000 extras in Battleship (most of whom turned out to be current or retired Navy personnel).
Peter Berg was looking to cast WWII Navy veterans, the "Old Salts," to be featured in one of the film's key scenes in which our heroes are feted on board USS Missouri. At the casting call, Norman McClafferty came with an old photo showing the career sailor with John Wayne and Burgess Meredith. It turns out Norman McClafferty had a small role opposite Wayne in Otto Preminger's 1965 epic In Harm's Way, filmed partly in Hawaii. The photo nabbed him not only screen time, but also a role with dialogue. About his time on the ill-fated USS Oklahoma, he says: "Two of us wanted off the ship...that was in July before the attack in '41. You know the rest of the story. I was the lucky one."
Norman McClafferty, who served on USS Oklahoma from 1939 to 1941, recalls the morning of December 7, 1941. He was then based on Palmyra Island, halfway between Hawaii and American Samoa, serving as a supply officer: "We were sitting there until the morning of the attack, when the CO called us together and told us the Japanese were attacking Pearl Harbor and concentrating on Battleship Row. The Oklahoma and the Arizona were sister ships, exactly the same frame. I figured the Oklahoma's weathered a lot of storms; it'll weather this one. But sadly, it didn't. The Oklahoma capsized in just eight minutes."
On December 7, 2007 (the 66th anniversary of the attack), a $1.2 million memorial was dedicated to the 429 fallen sailors of USS Oklahoma on the grounds of Pearl Harbor on a walkway that leads visitors to the Battleship Missouri Memorial. The names of those who lost their lives when the ship rolled over at its mooring on Battleship Row and sunk-her masts and superstructure jammed into the mud on the bottom of Pearl Harbor-are engraved in black granite on 429 individual white marble columns, each of which is seven feet tall and weighs 120 pounds.
Norman McClafferty was one of approximately a dozen real Navy veterans cast in the action-adventure, some of whom served on USS Missouri (such as TOBIAS LANCON, who served in the Korean War from 1952 to 1955). Like the film's cast, Peter Berg's military technical advisor, retired USN Capt. Rick Hoffman, was honored to meet these other veterans populating the scenes on the floating museum.
The captain enjoyed his time on the "Mighty Mo." Hoffman says: "What an incredible experience. World War II destroyers weighed about 1,800 tons; World War II cruisers, about 12,000 tons; and our current destroyers, about 9,000 tons. But a World War II battleship was about 64,000 tons! It sports three 16-inch gun turrets.
"It has a huge historical significance," adds the Navy veteran. "It was brought back into service, along with three others of the same class, and participated in Vietnam shore bombardments, then stayed on board through the first Gulf War. To go aboard that bit of history and then to have the production bring aboard people who'd served there or on similar ships in World War II-listening to their stories as they walked around the ship themselves-was just extraordinary." Shooting on a USN Destroyer
In addition to the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the company also had the privilege of filming for a week on board an active USN destroyer. USS Hopper (the coincidence to Kitsch's character's name is purely that) was launched in January 1996, and in September 2010, it was moored at Pearl Harbor and undergoing maintenance.
Of the sophisticated ship that Taylor Kitsch was allowed to tour, Hoffman relates: "Hopper portrays John Paul Jones. The crew and officers of the ship graciously allowed us to have a great deal of access to their flight deck, main deck, the bridge and forecastle. This is an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer. It's also called an Aegis guided-missile destroyer, or Aegis destroyer. It's got phased-array radar for anti-air warfare, is 505 feet long, about 9,000 to 9,500 tons, and houses 260 young men and women who go to sea in harm's way-doing everything from ballistic missile defense to chasing pirates off of Somalia."
"The Navy's been incredibly cooperative," adds location manager Meehan of the access provided to Pearl Harbor, the RIMPAC exercises and its fleet of vessels. "We requested a destroyer, and the Navy got us the Hopper, the only destroyer that was not out at sea. What makes her unique is that she's the only one in the Navy named after a woman." Admiral Grace "Amazing Grace" Murray Hopper was, according to Meehan, "a pioneer in computers, and she brought that knowledge to the Navy." Lensing the RIMPAC Soccer Match
Access to the base, the piers and the ships were thanks to Capt. Rick Kitchens, the U.S. Navy's commander of Pearl Harbor during the film's location shoot in September 2010. Rick Kitchens' official title is Joint Base Commander at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the recently merged single base comprised of what was Naval Station Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base. On his watch, Rick Kitchens is responsible for the port that is home to 11 ships and 18 submarines or, as he calls them, "one-third of our nation's submarine attack force." The captain reflects: "To be able to be Pearl Harbor's commanding officer, with its history and fame...has been a thrill."
While insuring a smooth and productive experience for the company during its three-week stay at the U.S. naval base (in addition to the prep time prior to the shooting schedule), Rick Kitchens scored extra points for the RIMPAC soccer game Peter Berg staged during the shoot's time at Pearl Harbor. It was 2010, and World Cup fever abounded.
For Battleship's soccer game sequence (which pits members of the U.S. Navy against Japanese sailors), Peter Berg chose a field on the Pearl Harbor grounds that overlooks two ship-mooring docks. "I felt like we should open the movie with soccer, which would give it an international flavor. We found a local team made up of Japanese and American players. Originally, it was going to be a football game, but we were fed up with shooting that," the Friday Night Lights director laughs. "Then we found out there really is a RIMPAC Cup, a tournament of all the countries participating in RIMPAC."
While Bouley had brought several hundred people to play fans watching along the sidelines, Peter Berg had an unexpected surprise: Several hundred additional extras came along. They were American and Japanese sailors whose ships had coincidentally pulled into port at the naval base the night before the scenes were filmed. They were now in Berg's camera frame, just outside the soccer field's fences. So, the filmmaker requested that the troops from each ship come out on deck to cheer on their respective soccer teams when goals were scored. They happily obliged.
Location manager Meehan states: "I asked the Navy if we could put some ships at Bravo Pier. However, that particular pier does not have enough power to sustain a destroyer. So, the question was 'Would there be a destroyer available, and if so, could we put it where we wanted?' Through the diligence of several people in the Navy, they realized that this particular ship, USS Shoup [DDG 86, another relatively new destroyer, launched in 2000] was coming into port."
"It was good fortune that those ships were moored at those particular piers," Capt. Rick Kitchens recalls. "In fact, the Japanese ship, JDS Kirishima [DDG 174], is actually the ship that was in the RIMPAC scenes out on the Pacific. The ship was at Pearl Harbor for some missile testing that they were coordinating with the U.S. Navy."
For those surprised to see a Japanese naval ship docked at Pearl Harbor, Capt. Rick Kitchens explains: "We have a defense treaty with Japan. We're far removed from the World War II days of being enemies. We are now integral to each other's defense around the Pacific. We have mutual defense treaties, and the Japanese have been coming here for years and are exceptionally respectful. And they always have the most beautiful ships. As a career sailor, I admire that." Filming at Punchbowl and Kualoa Ranch
It was truly a different era 70 years ago during World War II, when the two current allies were bitter enemies who suffered the deaths of thousands. Many of the American casualties are interred in Hawaii at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as Punchbowl Cemetery.
Built in 1948, this cemetery is located in the Pu'owaina Crater (Punchbowl), thus the name most associated with the sacred burial ground. In ancient days, this crater was known as the "Hill of Sacrifice." The cemetery is a memorial to the sacrifices by the men and women in the U.S. Armed Services, especially those who died in the Pacific theater. The resting grounds were dedicated on September 2, 1949, and 776 casualties from the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor were among the first to be buried here.
Majestically situated on the hills above the capital city, the cemetery includes the Honolulu Memorial, which was erected by the American Battle Monuments Commission in 1964. It was built to honor sacrifices and achievements of American armed forces in the Pacific during WWII, Korea and Vietnam. The impressive memorial sits high on the wall of the crater overlooking the cemetery. In addition to a chapel, the most striking element of the memorial is a monumental staircase leading from the crater floor. The walls flanking it include a total of 28,778 names representing those who lost their lives.
"Punchbowl is one of the most profound cemeteries I've ever been in," Meehan states. The film's key sequence, fittingly lensed on September 11, 2010, features Adm. Shane bestowing medals upon our story's heroes. Like the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the location shoot added gravitas to the production's efforts.
"It's almost a shame to call it a cemetery," Meehan continues about the impressive site, which he saw on his first location scout when flying over the island. "It's like a shrine. Where else in the world could you see a beautiful setting in a cinder cone? It's deeply moving, a wide-open place where your voice drops. This is a place of respect."
Hoffman remembers that morning as being quite a touching one. He tells: "The sun was coming up as we started to assemble several hundred extras for the day's work, most of whom were active duty and in their own uniforms. One of the extras who was portraying a Japanese naval officer, an officer with the Air Force Reserve, asked if he could sing the National Anthem before the shoot and Peter Berg agreed. After Peter greeted the cast and crew, the assembled crowd was witness to a beautiful rendition of the anthem, in one of the most somber settings in the world. It was profoundly moving and a wonderful honor to be a part of that day.
Before the company set sail for Baton Rouge for two months of soundstage work, they spent time at one final key location in Hawaii: Kualoa Ranch, one of the island's most popular sites for Hollywood productions. It was at Kualoa that Peter Berg staged the explosive scenes with Decker, Gadson and Linklater, who come upon the aliens erecting a communications tower in a place called "ground zero" in the screenplay.
Kualoa Ranch is a sprawling 4,000-acre landscape on the windward side of Oahu and contains one-stop shopping for location managers. Its diverse terrain consists of verdant rain forests, lush valleys, jagged mountain peaks and sparkling white-sand beaches. Just 25 miles from Waikiki, the working cattle ranch has hosted diverse projects over the years, from TV's Lost and Hawaii Five-0 to the films Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor and Godzilla, among dozens of other titles.
The hallowed site, once the province of island royalty and one of the most sacred places on Oahu, has been hosting Hollywood for the past 45 years. The first film to use the ranch as a location, coincidentally, was the aforementioned 1965 WWII drama, In Harm's Way. The ranch was purchased privately in 1850, with family descendants still on-site, and the owners operate daily tours of the facility for the paying public.
"Kualoa Ranch is probably one of the most astonishing views of greenery and mountains in Hawaii," says local locations manager Laura Sode-Matteson. "It's such a film-friendly location. Shooting at the ranch gives you the jungle and the remoteness that you want, but you still have the support and infrastructure of Oahu, with its hotels, restaurants and easy access."
Laura Sode-Matteson states the requirements from Peter Berg were "a mountain ridge untouched by civilisation." The Hawaiian native notes: "We found upper-road locations where you can see all of Kane'ohe Bay, the largest sheltered body of water in the main islands. It's a spectacular view and so green because of the rain. But Hakipu'u is a part of the ranch that isn't filmed as much; logistically, it's more challenging. It was perfect because when we were on the hill, you could look back to the ocean as if it was Pearl Harbor with the ships on the water. So, when the destroyers come to attack, it's believable, because it's right there in the valley looking out to the ocean."
For her part, Laura Sode-Matteson achieved something never before done in the years this state has been used as a location: She closed down one of the three main highways for half of a day. The breathtaking views offered from a certain vantage point outside of downtown Honolulu-as the highway stretches toward Kane'ohe Bay on the eastern shores of Oahu-were too much to pass up. She confirms: "We shut down the H-3 in the opposite direction so it didn't impact the traffic as much as people might have thought." Working in Louisiana
On the third week in October 2010, the filmmakers bid aloha to two months in Hawaii and headed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where they had scheduled the next two months of interior ship work on four separate soundstages at the Raleigh Studios at the Celtic Media Centre. The new media facility-which opened in 2007 with 150,000 square feet of space divided among eight soundstages-sits less than 10 miles east of downtown Baton Rouge, along the banks of the Mississippi. The choice location also afforded the team access to yet another historic naval ship.
USS Kidd (DD-661), now a museum on the Mississippi, is a Fletcher-class destroyer launched in 1943 and named for the first Navy flag officer to die during WWII, Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd. He perished on the bridge of his flagship USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. After its service in the Korean War and subsequent use as a training facility, USS Kidd was never modernised and is the only destroyer to retain its WWII appearance. The Isaac C. Kidd's special mooring in the Mississippi was designed to cope with the annual change in river depth, which can be up to 40 feet. For half of the year she floats in the river; the other half of the year, she is dry-docked.
As Baton Rouge is far from any Navy base, Peter Berg had Captain Hoffman find sailors from Mayport Naval Station, in Jacksonville, Florida, to capture necessary realism for these scenes. "I was in Mayport between Hawaii and Baton Rouge and saw my former ship, USS Hue City, in dry dock," remembers Hoffman. "A few calls to the Captain, and we got some volunteers to come over and help us. They took some of their hard-earned leave to share in this adventure."
Also providing needed sailors to the Baton Rouge shoot were USS Carney (DDG 64) and USS The Sullivans (DDG 68). As the flow of the day's filming made it appropriate, many of these sailors found themselves with dialogue that was added to the scenes.. All Hands on Deck: Building the Vessel Sets
Months before the company arrived in Louisiana, production designer Neil Spisak's art department and construction laborers were busy constructing several set pieces that portrayed the interior workings of USS John Paul Jones. In sum, Neil Spisak's set designs consumed four of the eight stages that reside at Raleigh Studios.
"Of course, you always want to do as much on the real ships as possible," notes the designer, who joins Peter Berg for the second time after their work together on Hancock. "Frankly, no matter how great a set you can build, there's still an edge to being in a real place that gives you a reality that is different than a set. Still, we established as much of the character of the real ships as we could in the sets we built."
In researching naval vessels, Neil Spisak toured one of the Navy's newer destroyers, USS Chung-Hoon, with his supervising art director. This seasoned movie veteran, William Ladd Skinner, proved extremely knowledgeable in the world of massive ships. "He's done a lot of water work and military-themed films before," Neil Spisak says. "He had a good eye for what he needed to teach me about Navy ships."
William Skinner's Hollywood tour of duty dates back to 1975 and includes the first two Pirates of the Caribbean films and the submarine sets for the WWII thriller U-571, the latter on which he served as the film's production designer. William Skinner was a huge asset to Neil Spisak's team (as were several other key associates, including set decorator Larry Dias, assistant art director Mark Taylor and construction coordinator Robert A Blackburn).
Neil Spisak re-created an existing steel structure in the studio's Stage 5. He says: "We took liberties with the ship's interiors to make them feel familiar. I toured an engine room, which was a brilliant white. We took liberty with that in terms of the gray colors used. That way, when we wanted the engine room to be really bright, we could light it. But when we wanted it to be moody, we darkened it to have the right feel."
The ship's engine room set was a replica of the engine rooms found on modern destroyers, which house jet engines built by Rolls Royce and propulsion and electrical power systems designed by GE. In addition to modifying the space for filming, there were a few other modifications to enhance the story. Though the jet engines are normally contained in fire-proof, sound-proof, heat-resistant modules, these boxes were removed to reveal the gleaming machinery and give the full effect of the modern warship's propulsion systems.
William Skinner explains: "These are General Electric and Rolls-Royce turbo jets. There are two propellers on these destroyers, and they're each powered from an engine room-one room on port side and one on starboard. Each drive shaft is driven by two of these jet engines. So there are four jet engines that power the propulsion of the movement of the ship. The larger one is the port side, and that's the one we based our design on."
"Everything that you see in that set are things that would be in a destroyer's engine room," Neil Spisak emphasizes. "However, we've broadened things slightly to give room for the action, which is this brutal fight between the character of Beast and one of the alien thugs. A real engine room is a five-level space, but we've contained ours because our action plays mostly on one level."
Regarding another key set design, Neil Spisak states: "The captain would be placed either in the Combat Information Center (CIC) or the bridge." Therefore, the designer erected this space adjacent to the engine room on Stage 5. "Dramatically, you need to see what's playing out on the open seas, so the bridge on these ships became rather important. The challenge of how to accomplish the bridges, both in the alien army and in the human navy, was pretty daunting."
William Skinner adds that the CIC operates in conjunction with the officers stationed on the destroyer's bridge: "The destroyer fights from the CIC, which is the heartbeat of the ship. It's below deck and is the ship's nerve center. Sailors can control all defenses and all offensive maneuvering or weapons firing from this place. The battle against the aliens is conducted from the CIC in concert with the bridge. With Battleship, more than any other film in recent years, you'll see how a destroyer works and how a battleship works. We took great pride in our designs for these realistic sets."
Moving along to the bridge, the production designer reflects upon the use of a motion-control mechanism called a gimbal: "The bridges were part of the biggest action sequences, and that required the entire bridge be on a platform that moved. This gimbal allowed us to slant the bridge, tilt it, and make it roll with the ocean waves. It was an expensive piece of equipment, so we discussed how to repurpose a single bridge set."
Neil Spisak's solution was to build one massive bridge set. Completely engulfed in green screen, it consumed the entire working space of Stage 7 at the studio. The set would be refitted to play three different ships' bridges in the film: that of USS Sampson (commanded by CO Stone), the Japanese ship Myoko (Capt. Nagata's perch) and USS John Paul Jones (ultimately captained by Hopper).
In designing a single set, Neil Spisak states: "Construction had to work closely with effects because the gimbal is a moving platform. Therefore, everything that was attached to it had to be steel and welded so that it would all stay in place and be safe. And, the gimbal was built to accommodate the set, not the other way around. The bridge set matches a real destroyer's bridge."
The gimbal's design fell to veteran SFX supervisor Burt Dalton, who marks his third project with Peter Berg after serving in the same capacity on The Rundown and The Kingdom. Burt Dalton's SFX team customised the gimbal based on the requirements of the bridge set and the script's action. To replicate the ship's pitching and rolling movements on the high seas, this gimbal-with its pivoted support that allows the rotation of an object about a single axis-was crafted. The massive steel structure weighed 150,000 lbs. and measured 70 ft. by 30 ft. and stood less than eight feet off the ground.
"It's all computer-controlled...built extremely stout so we could do whatever we wanted, from subtle to radical movements," the SFX supervisor explains. "It was also a different design than we'd used before. We needed it very low to the ground, only eight feet off the ground. We couldn't get much lower and not have the green screen reflect up into the glass and on people's faces. So, we built an inverted 'V' system, one axis down on the ground, and the other axis cupped into it."
Burt Dalton states that a gimbal "lends realism for the actors as the ship sways like it would on the ocean. But, there were two or three instances where we really needed to use it as a gimbal, when the ship is being rocked by explosions, like when the aliens break out all the windows during their attack on the Sampson. We then blew out all the windows and violently shook the set. In those moments, we could dive it down and slam it to a stop and make people tumble forward on deck. When the ship's supposed to be sinking, we could also dip it at strong angles."