Black Hawk Down is the classic modern military movie. An instant classic that is beloved by service members, veterans, and the public at large, the movie portrays the 1993 mission to capture Mohamed Farah Aidid and the ensuing Battle of Mogadishu.
Despite being an in depth look at what happens when everything goes wrong on a mission, Black Hawk Down is a pro-soldier movie showing the agony and heroism of modern combat – as well as the complete clusterf***s and how they impact the soldier on the ground.
But here are a half dozen things I bet you didn’t know about Black Hawk Down.
All of the actors went through intensive training courses based on who they were portraying.
Fearing that the actors wouldn’t seem authentic to audiences, the producers arranged for all of the actors playing Rangers to go through a one-week Ranger “boot camp” at Fort Benning. But they got off easy.
The actors portraying Delta Force commandos, the best of the best, took an intensive two-week course from the 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg.
Ron Eldard and the other actors playing the pilots of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment met with captured pilot Michael Durant.
“Only the dead have seen an end to war.”
The original quote was going to be from T.S. Elliot: “All our ignorance brings us closer to death.”
But producers went with “Only the dead have seen an end to war” and said it was a Plato quote. Nope. It was written by George Santayana in “The Life of Reason”. Whoops.
Luckily, we can blame it on Gen. Douglas MacArthur who used the quote and mistakenly attributed it to the Greek philosopher.
All of the fast rope scenes are real – the only animations are the crash sequences.
How do you make a military movie more realistic? You get the Department of Defense to provide you with a platoon of Army Rangers for all your fast-rope scenes. And that’s exactly what happened.
Of course, you also need to have real helicopters and pilots. So why not grab some of the veterans of the actual battle from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Even the Ranger “extras” were actual Rangers from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
The outpouring of patriotism after 9/11 added to the movies success
Released just three months after September 11, 2001, and before major combat operation began, the swell of national pride and patriotism bolstered audiences.
The movie was based on a book. The book was based on a newspaper series.
The script from the movie was adapted from the book “Black Hawk Down” by Mark Bowden, which itself was adapted from a 29-part series on the Battle of Mogadishu that Bowden did for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The helmets were a judgement call by director Ridley Scott.
Throughout the film, the Rangers all wear helmets with their last name written on them in Sharpie. While not factually true, Scott said it was needed to help the audience distinguish between characters because “they all look the same once the uniforms are on.”