WWII-era sea plane breaks up during USS Indianapolis movie shoot

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The promotional poster for the upcoming film, USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage. (Courtesy of Hannibal Classics)

The promotional poster for the upcoming film, USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage. (Courtesy of Hannibal Classics)

A movie about one of the great maritime disasters of World War II had a little disaster of its own.

A WWII-era Navy sea plane broke up during shooting for an upcoming movie about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis near the end of WWII.

A PBY aircraft used to stage the rescue of survivors was being used for the shoot started leaking as it was floating on the surface of the water, said Elizabeth Wolfe, spokeswoman for the film “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage.”

The film crew had to evacuate the plane for safety reasons. The crew attempted to salvage the aircraft by bringing it on to a barge, and during that process the plane broke up.

“It was an old plane and it certainly has paid its dues,” Wolfe said of the flying boat. “Everybody was very sad about it but it was what it was.”

The production crew had most of the shots they needed for the film and will green-screen the rest, Wolfe said

The movie, which seems to be part “Jaws,” part “Open Water,” will focus on the men of Indianapolis who waged a harrowing fight survival for days in shark infested waters.

The heavy cruiser was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, taking about 300 sailors to the bottom. The survivors then battled sharks and exposure for five days. Ultimately only 317 survived after being rescued by PBY seaplanes.

The movie stars actor Nicolas Cage, known for such films as “Con Air” and “The Rock,” as Capt. Charles McVay. McVay is a tragic figure who the Navy tried to blame for the tragedy. He was convicted of dereliction of duty hazarding his ship at a court-martial but the sentence was ultimately squashed by Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz.

McVay retired as a rear admiral. He later committed suicide in 1968 at age 70.

The movie’s promotional poster shows Cage in O-6 officer dress whites superimposed, inexplicably, over the iconic image of the battleship Arizona burning during the Pearl Harbor attack. (The Indianapolis was sunk in 1945 after delivering several major components for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.)

Cage will be joined by actor Matt Lanter, whose grandfather was among the survivors off the Indianapolis. His notable work includes starring as the voice of Anakin Skywalker in the animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”

The film also stars Tom Sizemore, remembered for his stirring portrayal of convoy leader Lt. Col. Danny McKnight in the film “Black Hawk Down,” and the gruff Sgt. Horvath in “Saving Private Ryan.”

The story of the Indianapolis has made the big screen before, including an inaccurate but dramatic retelling of the ordeal by actor Robert Shaw in the movie “Jaws.”

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