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Heaven and Earth--Thoughts on the Production

Rarely have we worked as hard during a shoot as we did on Heaven & Earth. We were responsible for scene-setting and proper military look for a full 20 years of turbulent Vietnamese history. Oliver Stone had cast and performances to worry about and he relied on us to get everything else right by advising his Department Heads. It was an overwhelming task for all concerned and we soon found ourselves pitching in to change uniforms or equipment from one period look to another. Some mornings it was hard to remember what period we were dealing with and any sudden change in the shooting schedule meant an all-nighter getting ready or a scramble on the set to get people in the right gear with the right weapons.

Fortunately our training paid dividends in this area. Once we had the Euro/American and Vietnamese units built and functioning, we employed them behind the scenes to help us with major changes. They worked well together and I think being used in this manner made them all feel as if they played a major role in making the film. Warriors Inc. XO Mike Stokey didn't necessarily feel that way and threatened mutiny if he had to change one more helmet cover and camouflage band or re-rig another set of load-bearing equipment.

This project marked our continuing belief that the enemy on film must be trained as well as the hero forces. We learned that a well-trained enemy unit only makes the good guys look better and more heroic. We continue to advocate this extra training to this day in projects that merit the time and expense. This project marked yet another in a long series of films we’ve done with Tommy Lee Jones. He's a great actor and a staunch advocate of our methods. We were also blessed to cement our relationship with top Stunt Coordinator Phil Neilson that continues to this day.

One of the most extraordinary events in the shooting schedule was the blockading of a section of downtown Bangkok where we shot the fall of Saigon sequences. If you've ever experienced or heard about Bangkok traffic, you know what an ordeal that was. On top of that, Oliver decided he wanted to recreate a little known event from that time in which all the animals from the Saigon zoo escaped as the North Vietnamese Army stormed into the capitol. We wound up having to help chase down a full-grown Bengal tiger.