News: 'Avatar' Stars Bring Hollywood to Ike
Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Amy Kirk
"Hey, that was the 'Avatar' director who just walked by," exclaimed a Sailor to one of his shipmates in the hangar bay of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
It's not every day you get to see someone as legendary as Academy Award-winning director James Cameron just walk past you in the passage way as you are on your way to chow. However, Jan. 27, IKE Sailors were treated to a visit by the man whose storied career includes such movies as "Aliens," "The Terminator," "True Lies," and the top two highest-grossing films of all time, "Titanic" and "Avatar."
Cameron and his "Avatar" companions, producer Jon Landau, actors Michelle Rodriguez and Stephen Lang, and Jim Cameron's brother John Cameron, a former Marine and the movie's military consultant, toured both the IKE and USS Hue City and signed autographs for sailors on both ships.
"This is truly an once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Cameron. "To see you all in action is wonderful and what you are doing is amazing. For us this is a real adventure, but for you guys it's just a typical Wednesday."
For Yeoman Seaman Stephanie Grawcock meeting Cameron and actor Stephen Lang was especially rewarding.
"I got to see 'Avatar' while I was on leave with my Dad, who was also on leave from the Marine Corps," explained Grawcock, one of the winners of an essay contest for reserved seating at the "Avatar" screening. "It is the first time we have been able to do something together in about three years. We watched it twice, back-to-back, the same day."
Grawcock added that getting to meet actor Stephen Lang, who appeared in such films as "Gettysburg," "Gods and Generals," and "The Men Who Stare at Goats," was an added bonus because he just happens to be her father's favorite actor.
After the tour, Cameron and company took time to sign autographs, pose for photos and talk with IKE Sailors.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Galbraith, had the opportunity to explain to Cameron and the rest of the stars that on the day he went to see "Avatar" in Charlottesville, Va., the roof to the theater caved in from the weight of a recent snow storm. Although he was offered a refund ticket, he was not able to go back before the ship deployed Jan. 2.
Galbraith, along with hundreds of other Ike Sailors, got the opportunity to see the blockbuster film in IKE's hangar bay.
Mewbourne greeted the crowd and introduced the special guests by saying he could not think of a more fitting movie for the Sailors to see on the beginning of Ike's Operation Enduring Freedom mission.
"The 'Avatar' movie is about good triumphing over evil," said Mewbourne. "That is essentially what we are here to help the people of Afghanistan do — triumph over the Taliban and al-Qaida."
Mewbourne added that he appreciated Cameron allowing the ship to screen his movie, as it is the little things like watching a movie that helps Sailors feel closer to home.
Before the movie began, Cameron spoke to the crowd and praised them for the focus, dedication and commitment they show every day.
"All I can say after a day out here is I like Ike!" said Cameron, adding that Sailors had been thanking him all day for coming to visit.
"We are not here to be thanked," said Cameron. "We are here to thank you. I respect what you do and the commitment you have and the sacrifices you make away from your families."
Producer Jon Landau echoed Cameron's comments, saying just like in movie making where there are no small parts, he came to realize on the IKE that every person aboard has a critical role for fighting what our country believes in.
"I just have to say — Thank you, Thank you, Thank you," said Landau.
Actor Stephen Lang said he has been waiting five years for the opportunity to make another trip out to a carrier. Lang visited USS Carl Vinson while promoting his one-man show "Beyond Glory."
"I've seen the movie a lot," said Lang. "But no screening has been more gratifying than the one we are sharing with you."
Finally, Cameron commented on the critics who said "Avatar" was anti-military. He disagreed completely, saying the movie's main character is a strong-willed Marine who is courageous and dedicated and demonstrates he can adapt and overcome the odds to fight for what he believes in — just like the military today.
The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is currently deployed in the Persian Gulf as part of a routine rotation of U.S. maritime forces in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as conducting Maritime Security Operations in the region.
MSO sets the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO denies international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.
IKE CSG is made up of: Commander, Carrier Strike Group 8; the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, homeported in Norfolk; Carrier Air Wing Seven 7; Commander, Destroyer Squadron 28; the guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul, homeported in Norfolk; and the Mayport, Fla.-based ships, guided-missile cruiser USS Hue City and guided-missile destroyers USS Carney and USS Farragut.