Two years ago, two pilots—Alan Purwin and Carlos Berl—were killed while working on Tom Cruise’s upcoming film American Made, after their plane crashed in the mountains of Colombia. (A third, pilot Jimmy Lee Greenwood, survived, but was left without feeling in the lower half of his body.) Over the course of the last year, the families of the two men have been engaged in a set of wrongful death suits against the film’s producers—and each other—over accusations that negligence and recklessness on the film’s set contributed to the eventual crash, which reportedly happened during a flight transporting the crew members back to Medellin after production wrapped.
Neither Cruise himself, nor director Doug Liman, have ever been named in the suits, which instead target Imagine Entertainment, Vendian Entertainment, and Cross Creek Pictures. But court documents recently brought to light by The Blast suggest that the families do hold the men at least partly accountable, in a non-legal sense, for contributing to the culture of risk-taking on the set.
Specifically, the documents state that “the demands of filming in Colombia, together with Cruise’s and director Doug Liman’s enthusiasm for multiple takes of lavish flying sequences, added hours to every filming day and added days to the schedule.” They back that assertion up with an email purportedly sent by Purwin, a veteran film pilot who described the set as “the most dangerous project I’ve ever encountered,” noting, “There’s a very ‘thin line’ between keeping all aerial activities safe and having an accident. Trust me on this!” They also cite an executive producer on the film, who wrote, “DL [Director Liman] and TC [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.”
Again, Cruise and Liman aren’t being sued, and almost certainly won’t be. But the documents do seem like a clear attempt to suggest that there were patterns of over-work and unsafe behavior on the film that in part filtered down from them, and that those eventually contributed to the deaths of Purwin and Berl in the flight.