“Masters of the Air,” announced as an Apple TV+ production over 18 months ago, has finally, officially begun filming, according to an Instagram post from director Cary Fukunaga.
The very expensive production is rumored to have a $250 million budget for its 10 episodes, and filming the kind of big-scale war action featured here was impossible during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fukunaga should be considered an expert on coronavirus delays. He directed “No Time to Die,” the upcoming James Bond movie that was the first big title delayed in spring 2020. The movie first went to Thanksgiving 2020, then to April 2021 and now it’s landed on Oct. 8, 2021. Let’s hope that one holds.
Based on Donald L. Miller's 2006 history, "Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany," the series was developed originally for HBO as the third program in a trilogy with “Band of Brothers” (2001) and “The Pacific” (2010). HBO execs supposedly balked at the price tag, and Apple swooped in to make the financial commitment.
The series was written by John Orloff and Graham Yost, who both worked on “Band of Brothers.” Yost has since found success as a writer and producer for “Justified” and “The Americans.”
Fukunaga posted a photo on his Instagram to celebrate the end of the first week of filming. The production is codenamed “Whirlwind,” and the image appears to feature lead actor Austin Butler, who first made an impression as Charles Manson follower Tex Watson in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Butler recently completed filming the lead role in Baz Luhrman’s upcoming biography of Army veteran Elvis Presley.
Butler is playing real-life pilot Major Gale Cleven, who served with the 100th Bomb Group and was commander of the 350th Bomb Squadron during World War II. Spoiler: Cleven was shot down over Germany in 1943, but he survived the war and lived to the age of 87.
Capturing or creating realistic air combat is perhaps the greatest challenge in war movies, harder than naval battles and infinitely more difficult than tank action. “Masters of the Air” represents a huge swing for the producers, so fingers crossed that this one connects.
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