Before he made his directorial debut with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, became famous with The Deer Hunter and infamous with Heaven’s Gate, Michael Cimino co-wrote two films: Silent Running (1972) and Magnum Force (1973). Fun trivia: in both films aircraft carriers play an important role.
Take for instance Silent Running. The producers looked for an affordable, spacious place to film what would be the interiors of a vast spaceship. They found it in a veteran of the Korean War, the mothballed aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge. As the film testifies, it was a brilliant solution and the film name of the spaceship was even christened Valley Forge.
Now let’s look at Magnum Force. Dirty Harry got rid of the last two of the vigilante CHiPs in a thrilling action sequence on two abandoned aircraft carriers. John Milius, who came up with the story and wrote the first draft, did state that his version didn’t have the ‘carrier chase’ on it, so that makes this scene Cimino’s brainchild.
Are we dealing with the same carriers here? Alas. The USS Valley Forge was docked in Long Beach near Los Angeles. The carriers on which Harry got rid of David Soul et al. were docked at Point Richmond near San Francisco. They were the USS Badoen Strait (also a Korean veteran) and the USS Rabaul. All three carriers were scrapped not long after filming ended.
I doubt if it was Cimino’s idea to shoot Silent Running in an abandoned aircraft carrier, but something tells me Cimino saw (visiting the set?) the potential of these large ships – both on and below deck – for a thrilling game of cat & mouse.