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‘Devotion’ now playing at Statesboro theater
Action scenes filmed in 2021 at Bulloch airport
In this file photo from March, 2021, a simulated aircraft carrier anchors the sprawling Statesboro set of the filming of the Korean War-era movie “Devotion" at the Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport. The film, which is being shot at area venues, including the airport, will feature the true-life story of two friends and wingmen in the same fighter squadron during the Korean War. The local filming is expected to be onging through April. - photo by EDDIE LEDBETTER/staff

For about four months in the spring of 2021, the back runway of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport was transformed into the set of a major motion picture and lots of local residents are hoping they made the final cut as extras.

“Devotion,” the true life, Korean War story of Jesse L. Brown and Thomas Hudner, was just released nationwide and is now playing at the Statesboro AMC Classic 12 theater. Early reviews suggest the movie may be a small hit, with a 77% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Most of the cast and crew of the $90-million picture were in Statesboro at some point during February to May of 2021 to film scenes on a set built out at the airport. In fact, prior to the start of any filming, a massive replica of the flight deck of an aircraft carrier was constructed at the airport to serve as a backdrop for various action sequences.

Producers said they chose the Statesboro airport over several other possible locations around the country and one in Mexico. Bulloch County Commission Chairman Roy Thompson said at the time the county received a “substantial” monthly rental fee for the use of the airport runway.

Also, dozens of local residents joined the film crew as extras, serving as sailors and other personnel needed to fill in the background of many scenes. Working for the scale wage of $12 per hour, some were on set at the airport 10 to 12 hours a day for more than two weeks.

But none knew at the time if they might catch a glimpse of themselves on the big screen.

Devotion is the true story of aviators Brown and Hudner. Brown was the first African American to complete the Navy’s basic flight training program for pilot qualification and to be designated a naval aviator. Hudner was a white New Englander who decided to become a Navy pilot rather than attend Harvard University.

The two became friends and wingmen in the same fighter squadron.

In December 1950, Ensign Brown took off from the aircraft carrier USS Leyte in a Vought F4U-4 Corsair for a mission the Chosin Reservoir area of North Korea. Antiaircraft fire struck the Corsair and Brown crash-landed his plane on the side of a mountain in the snow.

Flying over the crash site, then Lieutenant Hudner saw Brown had not gotten out of the cockpit and decided to emergency crash land his plane next to Brown to see if he could help his friend.

The movie, which is based on a 2014 book of the same name by Adam Makos, tells the story of Brown and Hudner that, while tragic, is ultimately uplifting.

Devotion stars Jonathan Majors, who is known for the HBO series “Lovecraft Country,” as Brown, and Glen Powell, who played a rival of Tom Cruise’s character in “Top Gun: Maverick,” as Hudner. Also, pop star Joe Jonas is part of the supporting cast in his first feature role.


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