One of the Korean War’s Most Moving Stories Now Set for a Hollywood Movie

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Ensign Jesse L. Brown, USN In the cockpit of an F4U-4 Corsair fighter, circa 1950. He was the first African-American Naval Aviator to see combat. Brown was shot down over North Korea. (National Archives)
Ensign Jesse L. Brown, USN In the cockpit of an F4U-4 Corsair fighter, circa 1950. He was the first African-American Naval Aviator to see combat. Brown was shot down over North Korea. (National Archives)

Hollywood hasn’t made a Korean War movie in decades, but one of the era’s most moving stories inspired a movie that’s now in production.

Based on Adam Makos’ bestselling book “Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice,” the movie chronicles the close friendship between Navy aviators Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner and their heroism during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

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Jonathan Majors, currently starring in “Da 5 Bloods” and “Lovecraft Country,” stars as Brown, and Glen Powell, soon to be seen as Hangman in “Top Gun: Maverick,” plays Hudner. The film is directed by J.D. Dillard and has been on location in Savannah, Georgia, this spring.

The two aviators were close friends before Brown was shot down on Dec. 4, 1950, while providing air cover for the Marines pinned down at Chosin Reservoir. Hudner was flying overhead and crashed his own plane in a rescue attempt to save Brown.

Brown didn’t survive that day, but Hudner later received the Medal of Honor for his actions as he tried to save his friend and fellow aviator.

“Devotion” is the working title for the movie, and it’s being produced by Black Label Media for Sony Pictures. Black Label knows how to make war movies and tell stories of heroism. Over the past few years, they’ve brought us the Afghanistan war movie “12 Strong,” firefighter drama “Only the Brave” and both “Sicario” movies.

Glen Powell plays “Hangman” in "Top Gun: Maverick." (Paramount Pictures, Skydance and Jerry Bruckheimer Films)

Powell found the book and brought it to the producers, and the film originally was scheduled to begin production last spring before it was delayed by the COVID pandemic.

At a Paramount Pictures event in January 2020 that kicked off promotion for “Top Gun: Maverick” and its soon-to-be delayed June release, Powell was incredibly excited about the script and heading off to make a film that would bring the Korean War back into the spotlight.

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The virus had other plans and a lot of projects fell apart for good during the shutdown, so it’s a relief to hear that this one stayed on track. The producers promise that a full complement of vintage aircraft were used in the production, so here’s hoping we get a portrayal of air combat that doesn’t rely too much on computer graphics.

Brown was the first Black aviator in the Navy, so he’d be a historic figure even if this wasn’t such a compelling story of friendship and heroism. We almost certainly won’t see this movie before 2022, but this is one worth watching for as we ease our way back to the movies this summer and fall.

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