‘Devotion’: Jonathan Majors Cried His Eyes Out and Threw Up While Filming the Powerful Scenes for the War Drama

Many actors go through daunting experiences while filming for difficult roles. The recent war drama, Devotion, deals with heavy emotional issues while showcasing extremely intense flight sequences.

Jonathan Majors, who plays the lead role of Jesse Brown, ran the gamut of emotions when bringing his character to life. He thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity but also spent some days in tears and others throwing up. 

Filming ‘Devotion’ caused a rollercoaster of emotions for Jonathan Majors

Devotion touches on seriously heavy issues. Majors fully embraced his lead role as Jesse Brown. The story of a Black aviator is set during the Korean War and has plenty of adrenaline-pumping action sequences. The story’s main focus, however, is Brown’s perseverance to become a great aviator during a time when the color of his skin made it nearly impossible to be accepted in the field. 

The film vividly portrays the systemic racism that permeated our country during the 1950s. Majors delivers such a powerful performance as Brown that he couldn’t help but feel saddened by some of the film’s most emotionally disturbing scenes.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Majors recalled filming a particularly difficult scene. “I remember after that, I just sat in the locker room and just boo-hooed my eyes out,” he says. “You can’t shake it — you can’t just walk off from that. It costs you something.”

The moving war drama was based on a true story

Jonathan Majors speaks during a "Devotion" Q&A
Devotion star Jonathan Majors | Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Since Devotion was based on the true story of aviator Jesse Brown, director J.D. Dillard was determined to create an accurate portrayal rather than a cheesy, feel-good film that glossed over Brown’s uglier struggles. According to Deadline, Brown was the first Black aviator in the U.S. Navy. He was also the first Black aviator to fly into combat. 

Brown had overcome numerous obstacles to reach his goal of flying for the U.S. Navy, and things didn’t get any easier once he was a part of the Navy. He struggled to be accepted as a part of an all-white team of men when racism ran rampant.

The film had to capture the constantly conflicting emotions Brown was experiencing — his desire to live his dream as an aviator, the incredible pressure he put on himself, and the frustration he felt in developing trusting relationships with his team. 

The film focuses on the unlikely bond between Brown and Tom Hudner, his wingman and unexpected friend. But it wasn’t sunshine and rainbows right from the start. They were forced to work together, and being someone’s wingman necessitates a large degree of trust. According to District, the film accurately portrays the complexities in their relationship. 

Brown died after his aircraft crashed on a mountain in 1950. When his plane was gunned down, he entered into combat to support ground troops during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Hudner purposely crashed his aircraft in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue Brown. 

Glen Powell got his pilot’s license for ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

Glen Powell brilliantly plays Brown’s wingman, Hudner. However, Devotion wasn’t Powell’s first high-flying action film. He recently starred in this summer’s blockbuster, Top Gun: Maverick.

Powell had read the book, Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice on a fishing trip with his family. He was so enthralled by the story that he met with both Brown’s and Powell’s families, eventually teaming up with a production company to make the film. 

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To create authenticity for these kinds of roles, actors have to be familiar with the physical and emotional components of flying. Powell obtained his pilot’s license while filming Top Gun: Maverick. Majors also took lessons and plans to complete the last 10 hours of training he needs to obtain his license. 

Majors told Vanity Fair about the experience of flying with real pilots. He said that although he did throw up, the experience was completely worth it:

“When you pull Gs, you pull Gs … And I wanted to feel that. I wanted to push it because you’re playing Jesse Brown, and Jesse Brown’s a bad motherf****er. He’s a maverick. He’s a trailblazer. That’s who he is, and we have to take it there.”