Excitement over the release of"Big Miracle"is high for many Alaskans who snagged a role in the film.
Especially for Bonnie Carroll because for her, it's personal. The movie portrays her own love story- one that was sparked in an unlikely way- when three gray whales became trapped under the ice of the Beaufort Sea in 1988.
"To have this amazing incredible love story that was so much a part of my personal life, now portrayed in a film has been an amazing gift," says Carroll.
During the rescue efforts, interest in the whales' plight went all the way to the White House.
Bonnie was working in the West Wing at the time when President Ronald Reagan asked her to find out how he could help the whales.
She reached out to Alaska National Guard Col. Tom Carroll in Prudhoe Bay. She says in that very first phone conversation, thousands of miles apart, they both felt a connection, and it soon turned into romance.
The love story is part of the movie and each is portrayed by Hollywood actors Dermot Mulroney and Vinessa Shaw, though the characters names were changed.
A historic phone call between Col. Carroll and President Reagan is in the film, but Bonnie says one phone call that was not included was a conversation she had with Col. Carroll, when he asked the president urge the Russians to use Soviet ice breakers to free the whales.
"I told him, you know the soviet embassy actually monitors the calls that we have that are not encrypted, so they've heard this call and if they can help, I'm sure we'll hear. He thought I was just crazy, and sure enough, two hours later, we got a cable into the White House situation room," says Bonnie.
The ice breakers were soon on their way.
The rescue effort was an on-going drama, that had a happy ending, when the whales were freed. But for Bonnie and Tom, the rescue efforts meant much more- it's what brought the couple together.
They married a year later.
Their love story was first told in the book "Freeing the Whales," which ended with the rescue.
The new edition of the book, which shares the same title as the movie, ends a few years later in 1992, when Tom was killed in a Juneau plane crash, then-Brig. Gen. Of the Alaska National Guard.
Bonnie says it was out of that tragedy, that she founded TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a national organization for all military surviving families.
She partnered with Universal Pictures to make the movie premier a benefit for TAPS in Washington, D.C.
"I like to think that my husband is looking down and smiling on this," says Bonnie.
Bonnie was cast as an extra in the movie. She plays a wedding guest at the end of the film, in the re-creation of her own wedding.