JD Dillard talks Devotion

JD Dillard, director of Devotion, attends the 2022 Chicago International Film Festival. Photo credit: Barry Brecheisen.

JD Dillard, the director of Devotion, spoke with Solzy at the Movies during the 2022 Chicago International Film Festival.

Devotion is an aerial war epic based on Adam Makos’ bestselling book of the same name. The film tells the story of two elite US Navy fighter pilots–Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) and Tom Hudner (Glen Powell)–during the Korean War. Their heroic sacrifices would ultimately go onto make them among the Navy’s most celebrated wingmen. In addition to Majors and Powell, the film also stars Christina Jackson, Thomas Sadoski, and Joe Jonas.

Devotion is now playing in theaters.

It’s so nice to meet you.

JD Dillard: Very nice to meet you.

I was one of the first people to see the film on the ground in Toronto in September.

JD Dillard: There you go.

What was it about this story that made you want to direct this film?

JD Dillard: Most obviously, it’s just my dad was a naval aviator 30 years behind Jesse. There are so many parts of my dad’s story that are almost taken from the pages of Jesse’s book. I wanted to find a way to not just honor the story of these two men and their families and folks around them, but also, in a way, kind of get to tell my dad’s story. It had become a really awesome combo experience of getting to tell the story.

Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) and Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) in Columbia Pictures’ DEVOTION. © 2022 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved

What was the most challenging aspect of the production?

JD Dillard: Probably shooting a big war movie at the height of the pandemic. That made things that are already normally difficult, just extra difficult. And then look, the aviation component is a massive part of it to where we’re sourcing planes that are 70-80 years old and we’re trying to make them do things like they did back then, while keeping everybody safe. I would say, lastly, kind of going back to the pandemic, it’s an incredibly intimate and, at times, sort of heartbreaking story. To do that sort of separated from your family, separated from the folks who spent the first half of the pandemic, coming out of that to tell this story definitely, definitely was heavy at times.

Finally, what do you hope people take away from the film?

JD Dillard: I hope they take away so many things. I hope they’re entertained. I hope they feel like this has shined light on something that they previously had not known. But look, I think Devotion at the end of the day, at least to me, is really a story about mutual understanding under the umbrella of allyship, really how difficult it is and how nuanced it is to really be there for someone. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for the other person. You really have to kind of tailor your help and tailor your support for the person in need and that goes both ways. You never want to help at the cost of agency and that’s been something really important for us to find in Devotion.

Thank you so much.

JD Dillard: Thank you. Really appreciate it.

Sony releases Devotion in theaters on November 23, 2022.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.