Attendees Give Standing Ovations To WWI Film
by ANN Correspondent Pete Tobin
Film director Tony Bill struggled for the better part of a
decade to independently raise the finances needed for his most
personal film to date, "Flyboys."
Starring James Franco, this film is a daring action/adventure
about American pilots flying for France in the Lafayette Escadrille
at the start of World War I. On July 27, Bill elected to premier
his picture not to a film-friendly audience in Hollywood, but to an
invitation-only audience of pilots including such aviation
luminaries such as Bob Hoover and Sean Tucker at the EAA's Oshkosh
AirVenture air show.
The one audience in the whole world that would be populated with
men and women uniquely educated in the events surrounding and
aircraft flown by the Lafayette Escadrille. They responded to the
film with not one, but two standing ovations.
Tony Bill and his production staff would seem to have a hit on
The fast paced "Flyboys" seamlessly weaves computer generated
aircraft and actual human carrying planes into tale that is so well
cut that most of the pilots in the theater didn't notice that
aircraft they were looking at obviously had brakes in a time when
aircraft manufactures weren't concerned with safety issues like
brakes on the wheels.
"We tried to be 100% accurate when it comes to what you see on
the screen," says Bill. "All of our Nieuport 17's are perfect
reproductions of Nieuport 17's as far as what is visible. Yes, it
would be impossible to fly these aircraft with (spinning) rotary
engines. Rotary engines are basically dangerous. Our Nieuports have
"There are other discrepancies," Bill adds. "The Lafayette
Escadrille didn't fly Nieuports against the (German) DR-1 until six
months after our story takes place. We went ahead and used them
because anyone (in the audience) can tell the difference between a
bi-plane and a tri-plane. This move is not a history lesson. It's
not a documentary. It's a dramatic movie."
Several aerobatic pilots did comment that computer generated
aircraft in the film fly very realistically and move exactly with
the visible movements of the aircraft's control surfaces.
Four aircraft had to be built specifically for this production
and were featured with eight other previously existing planes, all
of which helped to create this gorgeous movie that left highly
skilled pilots cheering.
"Outstanding! I thought it (Flyboys) was great!" Proclaimed
aeronautical legend Bob Hoover.
Bill introduced "Flyboys" by gratefully acknowledged efforts of
and people involved in trying to make his film as historically
accurate as possible... then made the generous choice of using his
opportunity of being at the podium to focus on the accomplishments
of another film-maker, Brian J. Terwilliger and his film "One Six
Bill (above) began his film career as an actor appearing first
as Frank Sinatra's younger brother in "Come Blow Your Horn" in
1963. Later acting performances include roles in "Ice Station
Zebra" in 1968 and "Shampoo" in 1975. Bill began producing in
the early 70's his producer credits include "The Sting" in 1973
staring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. His directorial debut
was the 1980 film "My Bodyguard."
Bill's aeronautical credits are equally impressive. He
began flying gliders outside of San Diego roughly 50 years ago and
took up powered-aircraft aerobatics some 20 years ago. Bill
competed in several national meets in a Pitts. He presently
owns a Siai-Marchetti.