Lone Survivor, the movie based on Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell's best-selling memoir (Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10) about 2005 's Operation Red Wings mission in Afghanistan, finally opens nationwide this week.%embed1%
Before I did our previously published interviews with director Peter Berg and Marcus Luttrell, there was a press call with the film's actors. Mark Wahlberg stars as Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Luttrell in the film, with Taylor Kitsch as Lt. Michael Murphy, Emile Hirsch as Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz and Ben Foster as Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matt Axelson. Eric Bana plays Lt. Commander Erik Kristensen, who led a failed attempt to extract the four SEALs after the mission went wrong. Wahlberg, Hirsch, Kitsch and Bana answered questions from a large group of reporters. Most folks are looking for a twenty-five word quote they can highlight in a short piece, but the actors managed to get in some serious talk about their roles in the half-hour conference.
On dealing with the surviving families:
EMILE HIRSCH: “Danny Dietz’s mother, Cindy, she jokes with me and calls me her adopted son now and Dan Sr., Danny's father, says the same thing. Getting to know them and getting to visit with them and hear their thoughts and prayers about their son has been a really special experience.
TAYLOR KITSCH: A week before we hit camera, I got to meet Dan Murphy, Mike's father, and it's been an amazing relationship through to today. We email back and forth. He's been an amazing supporter from that first dinner. I finally met the rest of Murph's family at the premiere. I'm going to Long Island for a screening and it's going to be an amazing night. The whole family, a lot of Murph's long time friends, fire departments, police. It's going to be a special evening.
MARK WAHLBERG: Marcus doesn’t like me at all. I had the good fortune of meeting the guy I was playing and spending time with him. And having him be there throughout the entire process and help me with anything that I wanted or needed. He's a very, very special individual. We're all honored to know him and to see the kind of man that he is. And I'm certainly inspired to be a better man because of him.
On creating the stunts for the movie:
MARK: For the falls and all of that stuff, originally this was going to be a big budget movie, so you would have had cables and green screens. But we did the movie for a price and I think that’s why it feels so intimate and real and authentic. When the first stunt man went down the cliff, he landed at the bottom and he was right onto a stretcher and right to the hospital. The SEALs were there, so you had this immense pressure to stand up and be a man, so everybody was overly pumped. We just did what was required and, you know, there were bumps and bruises, but we wanted to make it feel real. It seems like it's all been done before, but something so simplistic as that is having such an impact because it's pretty damn real.
TAYLOR: Kevin Scott is the second unit stunt coordinator. He was amazing as well.
MARK: Because we had such a short amount of time, we would have two units going at all times. So if you were with second unit, our second unit director who was the stunt coordinator, you'd be doing a lot of action stuff with the falls or certain parts of the gun battle, and then I'd run back off to Pete and we'd be in the village doing that stuff. So we were kind of always all over the place. A lot of the times we were together, but then sometimes it would be like those three guys with my double. I'd be like, “Bye guys. You're going to get your ass kicked.” You knew what was going to happen, but every day was rough. But we all got to go home at the end of the day. We knew we were part of something special. It was never about one individual. It was really about telling those guys' stories.
On what it takes to be a SEAL:
MARK: I don’t want to sit on the bench. I want to be in the game and I always want the ball. So you would think that’s what it takes, but it's not a question of a physical ability. It really comes down to that mental toughness that I think sets those guys apart from a lot of other guys that can't get through the training and graduate.
ERIC: Marcus tells great stories of when he went through BUD/S, how you would look around the room and ID guys that you were completely convinced would get through just based on how they looked. They just looked like cage fighters or bodybuilders. And he said that it was the guy in the corner who you just thought, “What the hell is he even doing here? Did he come through the wrong door?” Those guys would get through and the guys that looked like they could take on the world were the ones crying after one or two days. So, as Mark was saying, it really is so much of a mental thing. I think that’s what is so fascinating about it, when you read about the BUD/S training and then the training that goes after that is that SEALs are just made of something else. Marcus' book did such a great job of making you realize how big that gap is between most of us and them.
EMILE: This is a film that it struck a chord with me on a very personal level. These are guys that are willing to put themselves on the front line and fight for their country. To me, it wasn’t a political film. It wasn’t a film that was going into any kind of detail about the wars or “Should we be here, should we not be here?” It wasn’t about that. This was about soldiers that were willing to give everything that they had and the type of courage it takes to do that.
Because no matter what your opinion is on any one conflict, there are conflicts that need to be settled. This is representative of the best guys that we have doing this for us. I think that guys like that deserve to be honored, to have their story told. We live in a world where there's 24/7 news cycle and it's so easy to have these guys be just another news story. I think this movie is an example of really taking the time to appreciate the sacrifices that they make.
On training to make the film:
EMILE: When we all first got there to the training with the SEALs, we were on the SWAT range in Albuquerque and first started working with the M4 rifle. The way that the SEALs had had it organized was that we were training with live fire rounds with these M4 rifles. So we were all blowing through over a thousand rounds a day of real bullets. I think that was kind of us just jumping into the deep end and working with targets. We had a lot of fun and quickly ramped up in intensity over about a week-and-a-half at this SWAT range. We all learned to trust each other really quickly because we had to. Everybody had to be really on point. These are obviously just incredibly dangerous weapons. Mark Semos, one of the SEALs who instructed us, said, “These weapons systems don’t just kill. They destroy things.” When they use the word destroy, they don’t use that word lightly.
MARK: I didn’t read the book before I made the movie only because I had read the screenplay first. I've been in situations many times where you’ve adapted a piece of material and you always feel like something has been left out. I thought Pete did a really good job writing the screenplay. I was completely immersed in the world and felt it, so I didn’t want to then go back and read the book and start complaining about, “Well, why isn't this in there? Why isn't that in there?” You could debate that for hours. I read the book after and I did feel like, “Well, why was this in there? Why wasn’t that in there?” But that’s how it goes.
I don’t like war, but I love soldiers, you know? They're not the guys who decide whether or not they're going in and they don’t really care. They have a job to do and they go and they do it. Would it be nice to live in a world without it? Absolutely. I don’t want any of these guys going over there and risking their lives, but that’s what they do and that’s why we made this tribute to all of them.