Mystery behind fatal plane crash dogs ‘American Made’


The word which best describes the new movie ‘American Made’ isn’t “boffo.” It’s “manslaughter.”

No one in the future will recall the opening numbers for ‘American Made, a movie that’s supposedly about Barry Seal.  A typical industry headline:”Tom Cruise’s ‘American Made’ Flying Low With $17M Bow.

None of the interesting dish on the new Tom Cruise vehicle ‘American Made’ is about the movie itself, which turns out to be a pink cotton-candy confection featuring Tom Cruise, his sunglasses, and his ever-widening grin. All of this is accompanied by intense levels of frenetic activity designed to make the ingredients seem important.

Everything about the deadly plane crash during production of ‘AMERICAN MADE’ vibes hinky. The people involved in the deadly accident are not who they seem.

Instead of a “madcap 80’s romp, the logline for ‘American Made’ should be “Two men died making a frivolous movie.”

One week before ‘American Made’ opened, news broke that the estates of the two dead pilots, Alan Purwin and Carlos Berl, were blaming, at least partially, Cruise and director Liman for the crash.

Asked whether he had a comment on the lawsuit, Doug Liman responded, “No. Just that I’m a pilot and Tom Cruise is a pilot. I don’t know anything specific about the accident, because it didn’t happen during the filming. They were just moving one of the airplanes. I was just going to say that it’s just a reminder — something all pilots know — which is that flying is really dangerous. Not in commercial planes, by the way.”

They were just “plane movers.” Seems we’ve heard that one before.


Ankling out of harm’s way

Flying back to the production’s base in Medellin didn’t happen during filming? Because cameras weren’t rolling when the plane flew into a mountain? Liman, a highly-competent director, might have made an even better lawyer.  But the explanation is not likely to absolve the director from blame.

His star, Tom Cruise—who’s nowhere to be found—seems to have voted with his feet.

“Another big factor that has slowed American Made‘s turnstiles is that Cruise isn’t out there aggressively selling the movie in his standard globe-trotting style, “reported Deadline Hollywood.

“More specifically, there haven’t been any world premieres where Cruise is known to stroll the red carpet for two hours, speaking to fans and signing autographs.”

“Some industry journalists concluded Cruise is avoiding interviews due to the death of the two pilots during production, and the fact that their estates are suing the production.”


The deadly consequences of “Limania” 

‘American Made’ isn’t about Barry Seal. It merely uses his name for publicity value.   What the movie is really about is Tom Cruise, a happy-go-lucky adventurer with a big toothy grin.

His character should have been given a generic drug trafficker name, like “Bolivia Bob.”

Through the simple expedient of pretending Barry Seal’s drug trafficking career with the CIA never happened, Cruise and director Doug Liman concoct a weightless confection that adds nothing to American’s knowledge of government involvement in the blizzard of cocaine that defined the 1980’s.

It is a breathtakingly arrogant appropriation of American history.

Now that same arrogance—which film crews long ago dubbed “Limania”—has led to the loss of two lives. Working for him is the fact that, as he’s quick to mention, he’s got “ties” with the CIA.

The director is notorious for things like having made a tired film crew on ‘The Bourne Identity’ work overtime into the night to light a forest so he could play paintball.


A flurry of lawsuits

The crash has developed into a huge legal situation. The two insurance companies involved have each filed lawsuits. Both believe they can squirm out of liability for the crash. They claim that epic hanky-panky on the set— they leave the particulars vague—frees them from fiduciary responsibility.

One of the lawsuits  quotes startling emails written by one of the two dead pilots, Alan Purwin, who was, in effect, speaking from beyond the grave.  To an associate back in Hollywood, Purwin, one of Hollywood’s most accomplished helicopter stuntman, wrote “American Made was the most dangerous project I’ve ever encountered.”

“You can not imagine how difficult the air scenes with Tom Cruise and the whole air crew are,” he complained in another email. “Each time, it is only a very narrow ridge between one safe operation and an accident.”

“DL (Doug Liman) and TC (Tom Cruise) are adding entire scenes and aerial shots on the fly. Had to bring in Uni Safety to help wrangle them. In the last 48 hours, this has become the most insane s— I’ve ever dealt with,” the note said.  Purwin added that there was one instance that required tremendous skill to ensure ‘TC (Tom Cruise) Caesar and I wouldn’t be coming home in a box.’”


According to the lawsuit, Purwin also wrote, “You have no idea the exposure TC and the entire Aerial Team is realizing every time we get in the air. There’s a very ‘thin line’ between keeping all aerial activities safe and having an accident. Trust me on this!”


Families’ lawsuits blame Liman and Cruise

The lawsuits filed by the families of the two dead pilots accuse Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman of “negligence.”  In court records, the litigants accuse the production companies and other parties of behaving ‘unlawfully and carelessly.”

According to one local pilot, the weather conditions weren’t suitable for flying. He suggested that the pilots weren’t trained in how to fly in Colombia. I fly there regularly, and I would have stayed on the ground that day,” he said.  “You have to have experience to fly in Colombia. You cannot fly here like you fly in Miami, where there’s not a mountain anywhere. If you fly in South America, you have to be very trained in the conditions.”

An executive producer sent a complaint to the film’s insurance company before the accident, the lawsuits claim, directly criticizing Cruise and Liman’s on-set approach.

“Tom Cruise’s ‘insane’ and ‘dangerous’ demands caused death of pilot, family alleges” read a typical headline about the lawsuits filed by the estates of the deceased.

The lawsuits cite “Tom Cruise and Doug Liman’s “desire to film a high-risk, action-packed motion picture” as being partly responsible for the accident. Additional scenes were added on the fly, the suits charge. The pilots involved didn’t have proper training to handle the added scenes, some of which were shot in dangerous weather.

“The demands of filming in Colombia, together with Cruise’s and Liman’s enthusiasm for multiple takes of lavish flying sequences, added hours to every filming day and added days to the schedule,” the court papers said.


Mystery pilot Carlos Berl

Three people, all pilots, were aboard the doomed flight. But only two of them—Alan Purwin and Jimmy Garland—had a reason to be there.

The third pilot was Venezuelan (or Colombian, accounts differ) Carlos Berl, did not.

Carlos Berl had never before worked on a movie production. Carlos Berl had never before flown an unforgiving twin-engine Piper Aerostar 600.

The latest filings in his family’s lawsuit for negligence reveal some startling new information: Carlos Berl did not want to be there, and there are even indications that he may have been coerced.


Next: Who is Javier Diaz?

Daniel Hopsicker

Daniel Hopsicker is an investigative journalist and the author of two books on transnational crime, Welcome to Terrorland and Barry & the Boys.

2 Responses

  1. Howard T. Lewis III says:

    I think congress is still hooked on the stuff. That is why they call it dope. No 9-11 prosecutions, Fukushima spouts candy and more cocaine, and the British Empire sedition controlling all military communications, the Patent Office, and the U.S. Postal Service, while unlimited queen Lizard insider trading. Numb skull government. Your two books I bought autographed I would not trade for my Cadillac. I have all three. The Bush41 Ambassador to the UN oversaw the nuke demolition systems installed at the WTC I, II, and 7. A USSR team helped per US/USSR treaty, starting 1969 and before. If you have problems with this, it is because you do not have 50 full years experience with the process, R&D, and British royalty participation.

  2. hyil says:

    this movie is just a garbage white wash of a crime spree that destroyed a generation of inner city blacks and cursed us with the clintons 8 years,
    after ghw bush gifted the presidency to them for their silence in his iran contra prosecution.