Hawaii Film Blog

Monday, August 29, 2005

Hurricanes & Movies

OK, so the post right before this one was ill-timed. How was I supposed to know a huge hurricane was about to hit New Orleans? So much for a "golden age," unless of course Louisiana bounces back quickly, which is everyone's hope.

In any case, several New Orleans productions
have been disrupted by the 145mph Hurricane Katrina, including CBS's "Vampire Bats" starring Lucy Lawless, and Hilary Swank thriller "The Reaping."

Hawaii has similarly had productions disrupted by hurricanes, the most famous case being the disruption of "Jurassic Park" by Hurricane Iniki on Kauai in September 1992.

Steven Spielberg had decided to shoot the film in Hawaii instead of Mexico or Costa Rica. According to John Baxter's Steven Spielberg: The Unauthorized Biography, "Spielberg admitted this was less an aesthetic decision than a function of his age. He wanted to eat food that didn't give him dysentery, and to sleep each evening in a comfortable hotel."

Little did he know a 160mph hurricane would hit. The
production notes for "Jurassic Park" describe the tense situation:

The lush green resort-land near Lihue was an ideal setting for the Jurassic Park exteriors, but after three weeks of filming under the tropical sun, a real-life drama overshadowed the movie.

Hurricane Iniki was fast approaching Kauai, and the crew was asked by the hotel to pack their suitcases and fill their bathtubs with water in case of future power and water shortages. Next, they were instructed to pack a day bag and meet in the ballroom of the hotel on the basement level.

By 9:00 a.m. the storm was headed straight for the island. Kathy Kennedy recalls, "We started pulling all our supplies into the ballroom, and the camera crew was quickly packing their things in the trucks. But if you're going to be stranded with anyone, be stranded with a movie crew," says Kennedy. "We had generators for lights, and plenty of food and water. We were self-sustaining because we moved around on location all the time."

Although the company had scheduled one more day of filming, the sheer force of Iniki literally struck all the sets. There was no power or working phones on the island, so at dawn the next morning, Kennedy jogged two miles to the airport to explore their options.

"The destruction in the airport was unbelievable," she recalls. "All the windows were blown out in the terminals, and the buildings were full of palms, trees, sand and water. Every single helicopter had been tipped on its side."

Thanks to her relentless efforts among airport and military personnel in Lihue, Kennedy was able to hitch a ride to Honolulu on a Salvation Army plane and began organizing from a pay phone. Over the next 24 hours, she not only coordinated the safe return of the company, but also arranged for more than 20,000 pounds of relief supplies to be transported from Honolulu and Los Angeles into Kauai.

On the plus side, Hurricane Iniki provided some dramatic footage for the film. Spielberg and a camera operator went to the beach near their hotel to capture the crashing waves of Nawiliwili Bay. And, the hurricane did not deter the two JP sequels from returning years later to shoot on Kauai.

The other famous film-related victim of Hurricane Iniki was the Coco Palms Resort, where Elvis crooned in "Blue Hawaii." The hurricane shut the place down in 1992, but plans to rebuild it are progressing, with construction starting next year, and a re-opening slated for mid-2008.

Iniki certainly left a trail of devastation, but please remember that huge hurricanes aren't a regular thing in Hawaii. In general, we have
fabulous weather year-round.

>> "Jurassic Park" Production Notes
>> Hawaii Hurricane Devastates Kauai [Washington Post, 9/13/92]
>> Hawaii: Ready For Its Close-Up [Islands Magazine, 3/3/00]
>> Kauai and the silver screen [Chicago Tribune, 12/21/03]
>> Coco Palms plans move forward [AP/Hnl Star-Bulletin, 8/7/05]
>> Hurricanes rarely hit Hawaii [USA Today, 9/1/03]
>> USA Today: Hawaiian weather and travel

>> The Golden Age of Louisiana
>> Elvis Was Here

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