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Glen Powell's Medal Of Honor Scene In Devotion Pays Tribute To Thomas Hudner

Warning: spoilers for "Devotion" below

"Devotion" from Sony Pictures Releasing premiered in theaters the day before Thanksgiving, bringing a little-known story from a so-called "Forgotten War" to a wide audience. Set just two years after the United States Navy desegregated in 1948, the film tells the story of Jesse LeRoy Brown, the first African-American naval aviator in US history. Told as a biopic, "Devotion" mainly centers on the friendship between Brown and his squad leader, Thomas Jerome Hunter Jr.

Brown is played by Jonathan Majors, who starred in "Lovecraft Country" and the upcoming "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," while Hudner is played by "Top Gun: Maverick" star Glen Powell, who also executive produces. Major and Powell both understood the gravity of the film they were making, since it deals with sensitive issues like race. Both actors wanted to handle the material respectfully, and both of them spent time with the pilots' family members–Powell came to view Hudner as a grandfather figure (Hudner passed away in 2017 at the age of 93). As Powell explained to Newsweek, he got permission from both families to tell the story, so long as he told it right.

As a result, the Hudner and Brown families both contributed to the production. In the Hudner family's case, they lent "Devotion" one of its most precious heirlooms.

Glen Powell wore Hudner's actual Medal of Honor, and Hudner's son was in the scene

As Glen Powell explained in an interview with "The Talk" (via YouTube), "Devotion" worked closely with both the Hudner and Brown families. For the scene when Hudner is awarded the Medal of Honor, the Hudner family lent the production Hudner's actual medal. Hudner's son, Thomas Jerome Hudner III, also appeared in the scene, standing behind Powell.

As the film portrays, then-Lieutenant Junior Grade Hudner received the Medal of Honor after attempting to rescue Brown during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, a major battle early in the Korean War that happened on December 4, 1950. Brown was shot down early in the battle and survived the crash. Fearing for his friend's life, Hudner crash-landed his own plane nearby and attempted to pull Brown out of the wreckage. Hudner then discovered that Brown's right leg was trapped and crushed under a damaged instrument panel. A rescue helicopter then landed nearby, and Hudner and the helicopter pilot spent hours trying to free Brown, hacking away at the plane wreckage with an axe and even attempting to amputate Brown's leg. With night approaching, they were forced to leave their friend and comrade behind. For the rest of his life, Hudner would say that he tried to rescue Brown because Brown would have done the same for anyone in their unit (via Naval History Heritage and Command). 

Glen Powell and company set out with the goal to tell Jesse Brown and Thomas Hudner's story to a broader audience. With the help of the families, they've succeeded.