In the 2017 film American Made, Tom Cruise’s audacious portrayal of pilot Barry Seal took a fatal turn while in production. Three pilots, Andrew Purwin, Jimmy Lee Garland, and Carlos Berl, flew a twin-engine Aerostar 600 in Colombia for the production. Two people died and Garland suffered serious injuries in the September 2015 crash. The families’ lawsuits questioned safety precautions and claimed carelessness.
Experienced but unaccustomed to the Aerostar, Berl expressed concerns about safety. Garland was a pilot-mechanic who doubled for Tom Cruise. Purwin had a contentious aviation history and was well-known for his daring antics. There was strong pressure to leave right away, and that’s when the weather-related crash happened.
Court cases followed, with allegations of coerced air travel, compromised aircraft, and false certifications. The claims were settled in 2019 for an undisclosed sum, underscoring the film’s devastating effect on the safety, screening, and regulatory procedures involved in film production.
Similar flying hazards were encountered in 1985 while filming Top Gun. Even with its revival on streaming services, American Made is still a powerful warning about the risks associated with great cinematic achievements.