*Seldom is there such heart wrenching drama on the movie screen that makes the observer an emotional participant in every heartfelt, perilous action taking place as that of “Lone Survivor.”
The Film Strip spoke to Mark Wahlberg (Marcus Luttrell), Taylor Kitsch (Michael Murphy), Emile Hirsch (Danny Dietz), and Eric Bana (Erik Kristensen), stationed at the Mandarin Hotel in New York City, about portraying real SEALs.
One of the most amazing, unique scenes ever scripted was the rolling down that rocky cliff.
How does one prepare for something like that?
MARK WAHLBERG: This was originally supposed to be a big budget film. So we would have had cables and green screens for all the falls. But we ended up doing the movie for a smaller price, which is why I think it feels so intimate and real and authentic. The first man who went down the cliff, when we landed on the bottom, went right on a stretcher and to the hospital. The SEALs were there, so we had this immense pressure to stand up and be a man, so everyone was pumped. We did what was required, and got some bumps and because it’s real. It was rough, but we all got to go home at the end of the day. We knew we were doing something special and were a part of something special. It wasn’t about one individual; it was about telling the stories of all those guys.
Is it a lot of pressure playing real life characters?
TAYLOR KITSCH: On a lot of those days, you’re trying to compress it, because you get caught up pretty easily. Being opposite great actors always helps.
EMILE HIRSCH: Having the SEALs on set at all times really helped. They all have friends who have fallen. We would do scenes sometimes, and Mark, Taylor and I would do something, and you would see how real it was on the SEALs’ faces, and how emotionally affected they were. This wasn’t some action sequence to them. These were some of the hardest emotional moments of their lives.
Director Peter Berg said he treated you all like Navy SEALs. Do any of you think you could go through real SEAL training after this film?
MW: I’m 42-years-old. But as a man, I don’t want to sit on the bench; I want to be in the game. It’s not a question of physical ability. It really comes down to that mental toughness that I think sets those guys apart from other guys who can’t get through the training. So I don’t know if I could do it.
ERIC BANA: Marcus tells great stories of what he went through when he was serving. He would look around the room and ID guys that he was convinced wouldn’t get through, just based on how they looked. They often looked like cage fighters or body builders. But there would always be a guy in the corner who he thought, what is he doing here? But those guys would get through it, and the guys who looked like they could take on the world were the ones who were crying after one or two days. Like Marc [Luttrell] was saying, it was so much a mental thing. What’s so fascinating when you read about the training is that the guys who succeed are made of something else. Marcus’ book did such a great job of making you realize how big the gap is between most of us and them.
EH: Marcus also made a really interesting point to us that if the government could find out what makes a Navy SEAL a Navy SEAL, there would be millions of dollars saved on this training. There’s no way of really knowing what exactly makes a SEAL. You’re bringing in the toughest guys, and they still don’t know. It’s a unique type of training, but it filters the SEALs from the non-SEALs.
When did you first hear about this story?
EB: I was a fan of Marcus’ book, as I had read it several years ago. When I heard it was being adapted, they called me and asked if I would consider playing Lieutenant Kristensen, and I said yes right away. Not only was I a fan of Marcus’ book, I also have a fascination with the Special Forces community in general. I think they’re an amazing group of people, and they perform an amazing function. I knew going into this that this would feel very differently to make. It will still feel different five to ten years from now, from the other movies we make. This doesn’t come along every day. I think we all felt that in this one.
MW: When I first heard about the idea, I selfishly thought as an actor, wow, what a great opportunity to play a showy part. Then when I read it, I realized what it really entailed. Then my objective changed, and it was never about me after that again. It was really about the guys we were portraying. Everyone in front of, and behind, the camera felt the same thing. It was a unique set of circumstances that I have never experienced as an actor. Even when watching the film, I don’t think about what we did. I think about what happened to those guys. I also think about what Marcus was able to endure and survive, in order to tell the story of his brothers. It was a very special thing, and I think we’re all proud to be a part of it. We were embraced by the SEALs and the whole military community because it was everyone’s intention going in to tell their story. We paid tribute to not only them, but also everyone who’s ever walked into a recruiting office, their loved ones and anyone who’s ever suffered loss.
Apart from combat, what else struck you about their lives as a SEAL?
MW: It was interesting to hear Marcus and the other SEALs talk about when they go home to their families, and they can’t discuss what they do. They would have to shut off what they just came from. They would be on a special op, and all of a sudden, they would be home. They would take their kids to school, and help their wives make dinner.
Can you talk about the training?
EH: We had to go through the training with the SEALs. We were at the SWAT range in Albuquerque, and we were working with the M4 rifle. The way that the SEALs had it organized was that we were training with live fire rounds. So we were all blowing through about 1,000 rounds of live bullets a day. We were working with targets, and it was a lot of fun, but we were quickly ramping up in intensity. Everyone had to be on point with these obviously dangerous weapons. One of the SEALs training us said, ‘These weapons don’t just kill; they destroy things.’ They don’t use the word destroy lightly.
Syndicated entertainment reporter Marie Moore covers film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected].