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About The Production (Continued)
Kick the Dust: Costumes of the Film

Costume designer Jenny Gering, known for her stunning '80s-era work on TV's The Americans, looked to vintage designs to handcraft the American Made wardrobe. What early '80s Southern dude would be period-appropriate without a pair of tight-fitting jeans? Cruise as Seal would be no exception, and complete with cowboy boots, leather-lapel jackets and form-fitting shirts with Western snap buttons, he was ready to go. As well, Barry's sideburns and omnipresent beeper completed the sign of the times.

As Barry's household income rises, he insists that Lucy dress the part of well-to-do woman. While she resists it along the way, Lucy starts out in simple girl-next-door clothes and graduates to more flashy dresses, designer sunglasses and beautiful jewelry.

The eccentric pilots (dubbed the "Snowbirds") that Barry hires to help him with runs in and out of Central and South America were similarly dressed as cowboys. Their costumes were rounded out with expected eccentricities, including a boa constrictor, acoustic guitar and iguana in tow. "The Snowbirds were so much fun to design," laughs Gering. "There's Bill Cooper as a wild surfer guy in short shorts and Hawaiian shirts that reminded me of a crazy, fun uncle or cousin. Then there's Snowbird Pete, who can wear a pair of Wranglers very well."

As were her colleagues, the costumer was swept up in the incredible fast pace of the production. "It was a huge challenge making things work on the fly but also a lot of fun," she reflects. "Tom and Doug were not afraid to bring comedic elements into the wardrobe, which will work well for the story."

During his downtime, Gleeson ventured into some vintage shops in Atlanta. There, he found a few wardrobe pieces, including a blue blazer that he wears in the film and a version of the same blazer that was handmade by the costume department. Says the Irish performer: "Thanks to everyone in costumes because it was a tough road for them. Schafer kept changing, and therefore so did his clothes."

With his cut-out tank top, denim cutoffs and barely washed mullet, Jones was a particularly fun character for Gering to dress. Says the designer: "Caleb is like a tall skinny child. He has no inhibitions at all, and I loved that."

In addition to costuming the key cast, Gering and her team had fun flirting with the different decades and dressing hundreds of extras in vintage duds.

America's Finest: Automobiles and Planes


Surprisingly, locating vintage cars dating from the film's era proved quite the challenge. The job would fall to picture car coordinator TIM WOODS and he searched high and low, everywhere from Craigslist to eBay, and was instrumental in getting the word out in the Atlanta area.

Of course, the cars could not have any modern upgrades. While Woods had a couple of classic car vendors he knew would deliver such memorable vehicles, he was particularly interested in a Trans Am reminiscent of the legendary one seen in 1977's Smokey and the Bandit. For this pivotal, intimate scene involving Barry and Lucy, the filmmakers had to choose between a black Trans Am with a T-top and one without. In the end, the car with the bigger back seat and no T-top won out.

In order to shine on screen, these 30-year-old (plus) vintage cars were repainted and had extensive tune-ups. Crew were wowed by the mint condition of several of the classic cars featured, such as a 1970 Corvette Stingray (in marina blue with black interior), a 1982 Cadillac Seville (in two-tone blue) that Barry gifts to Lucy and a 1984 Mercedes 450 SL (in cream).

Other cars include Judy Downing's Pinto, JB's green Gremlin, the Snowbirds' VW bus, McCall's brown Ford LTD and all of the period-correct law-enforcement vehicles.

In addition to the main picture cars found by Woods, extras casting also encouraged the background players to bring their own vintage vehicles on the days they filmed. Some of these early automobile gems are also displayed proudly in the film by their owners.


Pilots who are extremely passionate about the crafts they captain, Liman and Cruise felt as strongly about the airplanes in the film as they did the story itself. The director remains impressed with his star's ability to handle numerous vessels. "Tom does all his own flying in the movie, and he even flew one of the airplanes to Colombia himself," notes Liman. "These are small airplanes. People might think, 'What's the big deal flying an airplane to Colombia?' But this is the kind of flying Barry did in real life. These are 10-hour flights in a teeny little plane. While Barry would bring extra fuel with him, Tom would make fuel stops along the way. He had to leapfrog." Liman pauses, smiling, "I didn't do that; I took Delta."

FREDERIC NORTH served as aerial coordinator, and his expertise for aviation has been showcased in more than 100 films. Says North: "This is a relatively new experience: to have a lead actor who has the skill set that Tom has and the passion to want to do as much of the work himself as possible. Tom was well aware that Barry flew low, and he was absolutely ready to accept that challenge."

For American Made, North had to locate vintage aircraft of all shapes, sizes and capabilities-ones made between 1967 and 1975. During filming, Cruise as Seal flew both the Aerostar 600 (six-seater) and a Cessna 414. Copilot Liman was always by his side.

The mother of all the aircrafts featured in American Made was the 1954 C-123 cargo plane, aka "The Fat Lady," which was brought in from the Air Heritage Museum in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. This aircraft was named "Thunder Pig" and weighs 37,000 lbs. when fully loaded; her top speed is 220 knots.

The "Thunder Pig" has been retired from active duty since 1981 but does appear in films from time to time-showing off her 110-foot wingspan and 75-foot-long body. As well, Barry's Snowbirds' planes are a Comanche, Bonanza and a Cessna 150.

Spinelli explains their importance to the story: "Barry made a lot of home videos, and there are a number of VHS tapes of his family. But he also recorded a lot of his drug drops, and he made a lot of how-to videos on exactly how you drop cocaine out of an airplane…and coordinate that with people on the ground."

For one intimate scene in particular, a hydraulic rig was built on stage of Barry's Cessna, where he and Lucy engage in zero-gravity sex. A body of a plane was tumbled around at a fast speed until the g-force kicked in for a realistic weightless scenario.


The filmmakers were stunned by cinematographer Cesar Charlone's work on the masterpiece City of God and knew his gritty and realistic style would be a massive asset. Says Davison: "Since much of the story is set there, to have Cesar, who is a South American cinematographer, as part of our core team was essential."

Roth admits that Charlone "was a wild card for us. None of us had worked with him or even met him. He's this magical wizard who is constantly shooting, and that adds to the pace and energy of the movie."

Charlone made his movie magic using the Alexa XT and the Alexa M cameras as his tools. The Alexa M has a tiny camera body and is tethered to the hardware of the gear by a 40-foot cable. This allowed for the camera to have freedom of movement in a documentary style, which Liman preferred for the tone of the story. As it is free to roam, this camera also works well in small environments.

The DP could see his frame by wearing Zeiss Cinemizer OLED glasses that show what the camera is seeing, so there was no need for the bulk of a video viewing monitor.

During post-production, the colorist gave a distinct look and feel to the different years the film covers-from when Barry is beginning his journey through his fully evolved life of a criminal. For flying sequences, Charlone put compression on lenses and foreground so it looks as if the airplanes are moving at a much faster clip than they actually are.

Capturing Authenticity: Lensing in Colombia

To film the parts of the story that take place in Central and South America, production arrived in scenic Colombia during August 2015. In addition to Liman and Cruise, the producers and screenwriter Spinelli shot alongside Wright, Gleeson and Alejandro Edda, all of whom had worked in Atlanta prior.

To round out the cast, Colombian actors Mauricio Mejia, FREDY YATE ESCOBAR, Emilio Sera and DANIEL LUGO joined the production in South America. Mejia, who portrays Pablo Escobar, marks his third time portraying the iconic drug lord, as he had played Escobar in two different Colombian TV series. Yates has a small role in Narcos, while Sera is primarily known for his work in theater. Lugo is a seasoned thespian, also well-known for his roles in Colombian TV series.

Liman walks us through the rationale of lensing in the nation: "We had to shoot all over the country and on very remote airstrips. Colombia doubled for where the drug cartels' airstrips were, and it has such amazing and varied terrain that we were able to double other locations where the story also takes place. Events happen everywhere from Panama and Nicaragua to Costa Rica, and we found airstrips and environments that exactly matched the ones in those countries. We ended up traveling all around Colombia in an armada of small airplanes."

Regarding behind-the-scenes heads of departments, DP Charlone, production designer Weil, costume designer Gering, stunt coordinator ROB ALONZO, props master KRIS PECK and on-set dresser ROB MALLARD flew in from Atlanta for this portion of the shoot. The Colombian production company, Dynamo, headed by ANDRES CALDERON, was responsible for hiring the rest of the crew-many of whom had worked on The 33, as well as Narcos.

It was Liman and Cruise's desire to teach as much filmmaking knowledge as possible to the hardworking Colombian crew, many of whom live in Bogota. Each of the American department heads embraced the opportunity to share the tools of their craft.

The areas where filming took place included Medellin, the birthplace of the Medellin Cartel, and Santa Marta, which is considered to be the oldest city in all of South America and is close to the northernmost tip of South America on the Caribbean. Filming also took place in such rural areas as the farming town of Orihueca in Magdalena, as well as Santa Fe de Antioquia. Both locales have remote airstrips, the first doubling for various places in Central America and the other was one of the actual airstrips used by the Medellin Cartel.

Notably, Colombia is made up of "departments," which in the U.S. would be considered states. Production filmed in two of the 32 departments: Antioquia, of which Medellin is the capital, and Magdalena, of which Santa Marta is the capital.

Cruise, a professional pilot, made his entrance into Medellin, the second largest city in Colombia, in late August. He flew the Aerostar into the Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport, which is located in the middle of the city. In order to make the flight into Medellin-as the Aerostar is a VFR (Visual Flight Rules) plane-Cruise boarded the plane in Barranquilla, Colombia, and a local pilot, knowledgeable of the route, flew with him.

On August 24, Cruise, Liman, North and his aerial team flew the Aerostar to the Amazon basin of the country. Under the security of the Colombian Army, and with Cruise in the pilot's seat, they were able to film the luscious scenery-featuring the headwaters of the Amazon River and its surrounding jungles. Cruise, his bodyguard and Liman ended the day camping overnight in the area.

Official principal photography in the country began on August 26, in Medellin, with the first scene shot at the Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport-as Seal first lands in Colombia. The latter part of the day was spent filming at the grand art deco Palacio Municipal, Colombia's second oldest museum, which houses many works of artist Fernando Botero. This picturesque building doubled for Noriega's offices in Panama.

The following day, production moved to an area of Medellin referred to as El Poblado, a high-end part of the city with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. It was there that they were able to lens in the house once owned by Rodriguez Gacha-known by the nickname "El Mexicano." Gacha, alongside the Ochoa brothers and Pablo Escobar, was part of the notorious Medellin Cartel.

For the festivities thrown by Jorge Ochoa, played by Edda, production filmed at Casa Catahuanga, located in Llano Grande, Colombia, about an hour's drive north of Medellin (near the international airport). This all-day party involved a bullfight, a giant crocodile, stallions, singing and dancing-all to celebrate Seal's birthday, and to introduce Lucy to his South American friends. More than 100 extras worked that day, adding to the atmosphere of excess and debauchery that made up the Medellin Cartel's world back in 1981.

For the scene in which Barry is freed from a Colombian jail, production filmed in downtown Medellín on a Saturday-in order to utilize the exterior of the Minister Hall of Justice. Additionally, in the scene in which Cruise and Gleeson walked across the plaza to the street and get into a cab, production hired more than 300 Colombian extras- dressing them in the style of the bustling early '80s. Meanwhile, unable to close the entire large boulevard in front of the building, the Medellin of 2015 carried on in conjunction, with many watching the filming.

On August 31, production moved to Santa Marta, located on the Caribbean Sea-now considered a beach holiday destination for Colombians. The cast and crew were based in the suburb of El Rodadero, where many new beach resorts have opened.

When it came to filming in this hot, humid part of Colombia, the local Santa Marta airport was used, doubling for both Nicaragua and Panama. Production also took over the front portion of the Magdalena government office building in downtown Santa Marta, where one of the rooms served as an office in Managua. In addition, the governor of Magdalena's beachside house became Escobar's hacienda, and an airstrip located amidst a banana plantation near the town of Orihueca doubled for Haiti and Nicaragua.

Given that it is a period film, VFX supervisor JUSTIN BALL was constantly taking photos of the areas near the sets to use for post-production. His mission was to capture as much of the landscape as possible so that it could be woven in during post.


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