It may not rank up there with The Fugitive’s train wreck or True Lies’ Harrier-jet rescue, but surely one of the most memorable moments in Disney’s Crimson Tide is the submarine’s dramatic dawn departure from Pearl Harbor — if only for the ingenuity it took to film it.
In March, while editing Tide, which stars Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman, director Tony Scott had just about given up on capturing authentic submarine footage for his Simpson-Bruckheimer thriller — especially after the Navy brass refused to cooperate because of the mutiny in the movie’s plot. Then Scott received a tip: The USS Alabama — serendipitously, the same nuclear sub featured in the film — was scheduled to ship out from Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor that very week. Since there’s no law against photographing naval vessels, Scott and company flew overnight to Pearl. When the Alabama put to sea the next morning, the director and his camera crew chased it from a yacht and a helicopter for six miles.
”The captain got on the P.A. and told us to get out of his way,” Scott recalls. ”Then he tried to outrun us. He finally submerged, which was just what we wanted him to do.” The luck of catching the actual Alabama (from among a fleet of 15 Trident subs) was ”voodoo,” says producer Don Simpson. And if the production hadn’t caught the Alabama in the act? ”We could have done a computer-generated shot using a model, which would have cost a quarter of a million,” adds Jerry Bruckheimer, ”but Tony wasn’t going to do that. He would have found a sub one way or another. It might have been a Korean sub. He would have gone over to Russia to get a sub. There was just no denying him that shot.”