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Les chevaliers du ciel (2005) Poster

Trivia

The flight sequences from the film were all filmed with actual planes and aerial photography, without the use of CGI. In order to capture the high-speed maneuvers, a specially-designed camera was attached to a Mirage 2000 aircraft which then tailed the 'star planes' as they flew, for only another Mirage 2000 could actually fly at speeds that matched the planes being filmed. The traditional film camera, which was specially constructed with lenses facing forward, backward, to the side, and downward, was installed inside an empty fuel pod and built by Dassault, the aircraft consortium which constructed the Mirage 2000. Using a digital HD camera had been considered early on, but because of its size, it was simply too large to be squeezed into the tank. Because of space requirements, the pod camera could only hold 4 minutes of film, which had to be specially shielded from the elements and sealed in an airtight compartment to prevent the pressure and temperature differences at altitude from damaging it. In addition, the camera could not be controlled by hand, as it was located within the tank, nor could it be controlled electronically by wire, as the tank had to be easily detachable from the plane so it could be swapped from one Mirage 2000 to another on refueling to prevent the daily shooting schedule from falling behind. Thus, a special radio control system was devised, so that the pilot of the Mirage 2000 could activate the camera at will. However, this too had many problems to work out, as the radio frequency could not interfere with the regular operations of the aircraft, nor could it possibly jam air-to-ground communications. Finally, however, a proper system was devised to allow the camera to be activated remotely. For tracking shots where using the Mirage 2000 camera was not practical, a Lear jet was flown in from Southern California in the United States, and used for about a week at great expense. Due to all these concerns and complications, director Gérard Pirès and his aerial-photography team had to carefully plan each shot with storyboards, something the director normally does not do. However, he said in a question and answer session after the film's screening on at the City of Lights - City of Angels Los Angeles Film Festival on April 7th, 2006 that the time limitations on the film actually did not hinder production, as they required thought and economy towards the shots being attempted, and also as the Mirage 2000 plane itself had to refuel every 45 minutes. The director took great pride in the fact that he was able to use this camera to capture the incredible look and feeling of flight, without resorting to using the computer to manipulate his images.
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Because of the strict rules prohibiting jet aircraft (and in particular, fighter jets) from flying over Paris airspace, director Gérard Pirès got permission to shoot the film's climactic final sequences over Paris on only a single day, Bastille Day (July 14th), with an additional rehearsal day on July 12th. Because of bad weather, the July 12th rehearsal had to be canceled, thus forcing the crew to rehearse and film everything over a critical few hours on the 14th. Although all of the most important shots were achieved on the 14th, a small propeller plane was brought in for some additional footage of the ground later on, and the film was sped up by 4 times to match that shot by the Mirage 2000 camera perfectly. In addition, all of the footage shot from the ground of the planes during the final sequences was filmed on Bastille Day, the only time in the entire year that the French government proudly displays its military forces in the capital. The military parade shown in the film is the largest in France held on Bastille Day, and it is held on the Avenue Champs-Élysées, near the Arc de Triomphe.
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Working in cooperation with the French Air Force, director Gérard Pirès was able to get some of France's top gun pilots to do the aeronautic dogfights that were used in the film. Initially at the start of the shoot, the Air Force had some particular rules regarding the minimum distances the aircraft could be together or be above the ground, but by the end of principle photography, the daring pilots got permission to bend the normal safety rules, thus allowing them to do maneuvers normally never seen (or possible) outside of actual combat. By the final days of filming, the initial minimum distance the pilots could fly above the ground (500 feet) had dropped to a tiny 10 feet, and the distance between the planes in the air (a varying range, usually of several hundred feet) had been reduced to a minuscule 3 feet, thus allowing some amazing shots that could otherwise never have been pulled off.
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The acrobatic performance seen before Capitaine Marchelli's hearing is performed by the Indian Air Force acrobatic team "SURYA KIRAN". They emit Indian flag-coloured smoke during the performance.
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Early in the film, one pilot does a barrel roll over the other jet, in what is presumably a homage to the same stunt performed by Chuck Yeager in the John Wayne vehicle Jet Pilot (1957).
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This is the last movie Pires directed before his bike accident, in which he had his throat cut by a chain and ended up severely injured. He retired from directing afterwards.
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