Filming for 'Indiana Jones' sequel has Dos Palos residents flying high

DOS PALOS -- Residents in this town of 5,000 are abuzz over their close encounter -- of the Steven Spielberg kind.

Crews with Paramount Pictures converged on Eagle Field in rural Dos Palos last week to shoot scenes for the blockbuster filmmaker's latest project, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," the fourth installment in the saga of the adventuresome archaeologist.

Mike Fantasia, a production supervisor connected with project, said 150 to 175 members of the film's staff arrived at Eagle Field prepared an establishing shot outside the administration building.

Actual shooting occurred Thursday, and by Friday, the crews had begun packing up their gear, Fantasia said.

Fantasia was tight-lipped about whether Spielberg or leading man Harrison Ford was there.

"I don't really speak about who's where," Fantasia said.

Why Dos Palos? He said the look of the World War II era airfield is what drew filmmakers to the location, because of its rural topography and old buildings.

Fantasia said Dos Palos residents probably will be able to recognize the old airfield when the film hits screens in May. "A lot of stuff ends up on the cutting-room floor, but anyone who knows Eagle Field will know that's where we were," he said.

Residents said word of Spielberg's possible presence spread faster through town than the boulder chasing Indy in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Eric Burris, 43, said he was excited about his hometown hosting the legendary filmmaker. He also hopes the film will help stir interest in Eagle Field.

"Everyone in town is talking about it," he said. "People forget about Eagle Field a lot."

Jim Kelley, a Dos Palos councilman and owner of Video Cottage, said he's been a fan of Spielberg's films for years, and wished he could have been on the set to ask for his autograph.

"It's big. I don't think he's had too many bad movies," he joked.

Shooting for the film also took place this week at Fresno's Chandler Executive Airport, which was decorated to resemble an old-time airstrip in Mexico. Thursday, Spielberg's Bombardier Global Express jet touched down at Merced Municipal Airport, according to Lloyd Partin, airport manager.

Eagle Field was built in 1942 as a flight school to help fill the War Department's need for pilots after the United States entered the World War II, according to the field's Web site. Some 5,000 pilots graduated from primary training there.