Flying for 'Pearl Harbor'

Ex-Juneau resident pilots a Japanese bomber for Disney's blockbuster war movie

Posted: Friday, June 01, 2001

In the climactic bombing scene of the recently released movie "Pearl Harbor," audiences see Japanese planes swoop across the American base, diving toward the water, strafing ships.

They don't see Bruce Lockwood, 49, a former Juneau resident who pilots one of the Japanese Zeros in Disney's summer blockbuster. Lockwood spent six weeks filming in Hawaii, recreating the disastrous attack of December 7, 1941, that drew America into World War II.

"For me it was an emotional experience," Lockwood said. "Here I am, an American pilot in an authentic Japanese Zero, looking at the Arizona memorial and ... flashing back to what it would have been like to be a Japanese fighter pilot 60-some years ago."

Lockwood moved to Juneau in 1964 and graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in 1970. He learned to fly several years later, before leaving the state in 1983.

Today he runs a restoration facility for the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, Calif. His work there led to the "Pearl Harbor" job.

"I had restored or been the project manager for two of the three Zeros that were used in the movie," Lockwood said. "So I flew one of them and had another good friend fly the other."

In all, Lockwood made 75 flights over 55 hours of flight time. Shots were split into four sections - strafing ships, running between buildings and chasing airplanes, aerial shots of planes flying across the island of Hawaii, and backdrops for ground activity.

"It was probably the most dynamic flying experience I've ever had," Lockwood said.

In addition to flying, the pilots worked with the film's actors - including Academy Award winner Ben Affleck - in an attempt to convey the reality behind the scenes.

"They sent a lot of the actors out to just sit in the airplanes to get a feel of what the airplane was like," Lockwood said. "The actors then wanted to talk to us - 'What's it like to fly the airplane?' They wanted to gather this data so they could reenact it out."

The shoot was necessarily a dangerous one, Lockwood added.

"It was hard because what they're doing is Hollywood and it's movies, (but) what we're doing is real. It was easy to get killed at any given second if you weren't paying attention," he said.

Particularly difficult were shots that required the Zeros to fly between two ships set "maybe 75 to 100 feet apart."

"It leaves little or no margin for error," Lockwood said. "You only have 25 feet of clear air on either side of your wings."

During one take, the planes swooped so low that the cameramen jumped off the barge they were filming on, afraid of being hit.

Director Michael Bay "was looking through a lens and he actually threw the lens and dove on the ground," Lockwood said, chuckling at the memory.

"We just tried to do what they wanted to make it as spectacular as it could be," Lockwood added. "I hope the movie does well. I think a lot of people put a lot of heart and soul into it."

Genevieve Gagne-Hawes can be reached at

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