Boeing Frontiers
November 2003
Volume 02, Issue 07
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Randy NevilleWhen Hollywood producers contacted Boeing Integrated Defense Systems F/A-22 Test Pilot Randy Neville to be a technical adviser for the movie "The Hulk," little did he know he would end up playing a part in the movie as well.

In the film, you can spot Neville as a fighter pilot who tries to avoid the Hulk's wrath after the Hulk jumps onto his F/A- 22 and attempts to enter the cockpit during a chase scene. "Because an F/A-22 cockpit mockup is part of the movie, I was hired initially to make sure it looked realistic," Neville said.

The chance to act came as a surprise.

While he was consulting with the producers about the F/A-22 mockup, the movie crew was preparing for the fighter pilot scene. After final accuracy adjustments were made to the mockup, director Ang Lee asked Neville to jump inside the cockpit and listen for cues. "The director called all the shots and I was instructed to convey various movements and emotions while the camera rolled," Neville said.

Heavy-duty, hydraulic stilts supported the 800-pound F/A-22 mockup that provided pseudo-precision movement 15 feet above the ground, and simulated the turns and turbulence of a real aircraft.

Lighting, audio and visual equipment were scattered below and around Neville, while an army of people used 30-foot camera booms to film him. The crew captured numerous angles as the novice actor carefully heeded the director's instructions that were communicated through his helmet earphones.

"Randy, the Hulk has just jumped on the airplane, act scared!"

"Randy, the hulk is entering the cockpit, look intense!"

"OK, now Randy, look surprised!" Before filming this scene, stage crews set up a blue screen background around the mockup so that digitally enhanced images and special effects, such as the Hulk climbing on the F/A-22, could be inserted into the movie during postproduction.

Randy Neville Quote"When I was having dialogue or showing some type of emotion, there was no one to interact with. I was basically interacting with the blue screens, not with the Hulk itself," Neville said. "But in that scene, a lot of commotion was going on and the scenery and other details were all added afterwards."

Neville was fascinated by the moviemaking process and tricks of the trade. He recalled that during some of the shots, a lighting specialist was hunched beside the cockpit with a black cloth draped over him to avoid showing his own reflection during filming.

It took two 16-hour days to film the cockpit scene. The result was approximately two minutes of footage used in the movie. That's common, Neville said, because movie crews film a lot and edit only what they need.

When Neville came on the set, major scenes already had been filmed and were in post-production. Therefore, he wasn't able to mingle with stars Jennifer Connelly and Sam Elliott, who had moved on to other projects.

During Neville's first day of consulting, he met with the set designer to make the mockup look realistic. Neville examined the exterior appearance and evaluated the details in the cockpit and instrument layout.

"Understandably, they were not exactly on the dot, and there were a couple things notably in error that took away from the design of a real, operational F/A-22 aircraft," Neville said. "But all they had to go on were a couple photographs that were cleared for public release."

After the initial assessment of the mockup, Neville began listing modifications. He wanted to see changes to the canopy, so the crew went to the F/A-22 canopy supplier and had a real one made to improve the optical quality. He wanted to see a more stealthy finish on the F/A-22 exterior, so they buffed and polished it. He also noticed the shoulder straps were 30 years out-of-date, so they fixed that, too.

As for the displays on the instrument panel, the display designers were able to project images on the monitor as if the radar was eyeing a target. Display designers studied a public release video and recreated this high-tech visual add-on. Producers wanted everything about the F/A-22 to look realistic, even if it was a brief glance. "I thought they were very conscientious about the realism," Neville said.

After all of the consulting and filming, Neville and the movie crew found themselves swapping stories about their professions. Neville got some inside scoop on camera tricks and movie secrets, and shared with the movie crew his experiences as a real-life F/A-22 test pilot.

"It was truly an amazing experience to be in this movie, as well as to witness the making of it and see how the special effects were treated," said Neville, who's flown 180 test flights in the F/A-22, which equals a little more than 360 hours of flying time—the most anyone has attained so far in the F/A-22. "This was one of the most unique experiences of my life, and I'm so glad I had the chance to be part of it."

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