FORT IRWIN Barstow residents might recognize some of the scenery if they catch a screening of "G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra" when it opens this weekend.

When "G.I. JOE" director Stephen Sommers was looking for a place to portray a military test site he chose Fort Irwin, according to Fort Irwin deputy director of public affairs Ken Drylie. Drylie said a film crew shot several scenes at Fort Irwin's Bicycle Lake, a dry lake bed normally used as an airfield by the military, in March of 2008.

Drylie said the scene that was filmed involves the testing of a secret military weapon. During the scene an M1A1 Abrams tank that the "G.I. JOE" production company borrowed from the Army is disintegrated by the weapon. The production crew painted opposite sides of the tank in green and brown camouflage to create the illusion of two tanks for the scene.

"It was the perfect location for the scene," Drylie said. "They wanted something that looked like a desolate, secret military location and this was right on."

Drylie said the crew that drives the tank in the movie was composed of Fort Irwin soldiers, but that it was impossible to identify the soldiers because the group has already been reassigned in the 17 months since the scenes were filmed.

Several other Fort Irwin soldiers are featured driving four HUMVEEs and an expandable van during the scenes at Bicycle Lake, according to Drylie.

Fort Irwin media relations officer Etric Smith helped work with the soldiers and film crew during the filming. Smith said he found the technical side of the filming interesting.

"The crew had these vehicles with cameras mounted on them that followed the tank on both sides and filmed it as it moved," Smith said. "The props were great, too. The jet in the scene is completely just a prop even though there is a soldier sitting in it during the scene."

The filming didn't interfere with the normal operations on the base because it was done during a non-training phase, according to Smith.

Smith said although he didn't watch the G.I. JOE TV show as a kid, he owned G.I. JOE toys and is looking forward to seeing the movie.

"I am absolutely going to see the movie," Smith said. "It was filmed out here and involves the military. Plus, growing up as a kid G.I. JOE was just the man for little boys."

Hollywood Theaters at 1503 East Main Street and the Skyline Drive-In at 31175 Old State Highway 58 will begin showing "G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra" on Friday.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4126 or dheldreth@desertdispatch.com