Belleville pilot has short-lived Hollywood experience

Sunday, January 11, 2004

BELLEVILLE, Ill. -- During his two-week experience, Walt Hubert of Belleville learned that there is a lot of "hurry up and wait" in the movie business, but Hollywood also had its perks.

"The food was great," Hubert said. "We ate with the big boys. They served breakfast and lunch, and dinner if we were working late. If everyone was busy, they brought around trays of sandwiches. Late at night, they came out and set up a truck with a cappuccino machine."

In early October, Hubert and Curt Lindauer disassembled Hubert's replica World War I biplane, packed it into a truck and drove to California.

The S.E.5a (Scout Experimental) biplane, built by Hubert and Don Hickman, was used in "The Aviator," a movie about Howard Hughes starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Hubert and Lindauer even got jobs as extras, playing pilots. The part of the movie being filmed was a re-creation of when Hughes was the producer of the famous film about World War I pilots, "Hell's Angels."

Hubert and Lindauer hobnobbed with movie stars for a couple of weeks and averaged about $100 a day in movie extra pay.

What they saw, filmed and participated in will probably be four or five minutes of the film, Hubert said.

"I've traveled all over the world, but I've never been in a movie before," he said.

Actually, he can't be sure of that until the movie is released, which is set for next December. Until the film is edited, no one is sure which scenes will stay and which will go.

"I don't even know if we'll even be in the movie," he said.

The shooting Hubert was in took place outside Santa Clarita, Calif., about 20 miles north of Los Angeles. The movie people created their own dirt airfield up in the mountains.

Hubert said there were a lot of people to pay attention to details. During one scene, he was sitting at a table in the background with other extras, probably 100 feet away from the shooting. But he got chased away because he didn't have the correct shoes.

"We never shot one scene we didn't do seven times -- minimum," Hubert said. "I was always in the airplane, so I only had to be in costume from the waist up.

Unlike the other 11 planes brought in for the movie, Hubert's didn't have to be repainted.

Based on research he had done, Hubert convinced the movie people his plane was the original brown color the British used during World War I.

Hubert said the trip was fun and highly interesting but he's glad to be back home.

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